Jordan: [00:00:11] What’s up, Michael?
Mike: [00:00:13] Hello, Jordan.
Jordan: [00:00:15] How are you, man?
Mike: [00:00:16] I’m great. How are you?
Jordan: [00:00:18] I’m doing well. Having some coffee, sitting across the table from Rico. We’re doing this podcast remotely, so…
Mike: [00:00:26] We are remote. I’m in Minnesota, Jordan is in Manhattan and this is the episode that almost did not happen because I’m about to drive up north, help my grandma move from her place in Northern Minnesota.
But an episode a week — that’s what we do. So, we put the pedal to the metal and here we are.
Jordan: [00:00:45] I gotta bear the load to that responsibility a little bit, though, just because we were supposed to do it yesterday and I texted you and I was like, “bro, can we postpone this?” And you were very generous and gracious, you were like, “yeah, we’ll postpone it until tomorrow.” And then we fought through. We didn’t want to do it today, but we’re getting it done.
You excited to do some moving with your grandmother?
Mike: [00:01:05] Yeah, I’m excited to do some golfing during the part of the trip when I’m not moving, but I’m excited to do some moving, too. Carrying heavy boxes.
Jordan: [00:01:13] Do you still have your clubs? Whose clubs are you using?
Mike: [00:01:17] I do. I do have golf clubs here.
Jordan: [00:01:19] Got it. Okay. Are you just gonna do it by yourself?
Mike: [00:01:22] No, my dad golfs. So, we’re going to get out early Thursday morning and, then after golfing, go carry heavy boxes around. Do whatever I’m told.
Jordan: [00:01:35] Is he good?
Mike: [00:01:37] He’s solid. Yeah.
I mean, he doesn’t get out a ton, so he’s probably the same player he’s been for 10 or 20 years.
Jordan: [00:01:45] Got it. Who wins, you or him?
Mike: [00:01:48] My dad’s slightly better than me at golf.
Jordan: [00:01:51] You’re thinking about getting into it, though. You’re thinking about diving deep into the golf world.
Mike: [00:01:56] I wouldn’t say that. You know what I am thinking about? I’m thinking about the fact that golfing is the one thing I do where I’m in nature and I literally don’t touch my phone for four straight hours.
Jordan: [00:02:09] Wow. Is that deliberate? You’re like, “I’m not going to touch it,” or it’s like, you just don’t have it with you?
Mike: [00:02:12] There’s no temptation. There’s no desire. I mean, it’s a fun game, especially if you have friends that play, but the bigger part of it is being outside, getting UV, it’s a nice day, grass, and it’s even better to play barefoot.
Jordan: [00:02:30] Do you play barefoot?
Mike: [00:02:32] We used to when I was a caddy back in fifth and sixth and seventh grade. On Monday nights, it was employee golf night. So, from 5:00 PM on the employees could play and we’d go out there barefoot and play until the sun was down.
Jordan: [00:02:46] That’s awesome. That’s super cool.
Mike: [00:02:48] Yeah, but the episode that almost didn’t happen is currently happening.
Jordan: [00:02:54] What’s this one called again? 10 things we wish we knew?
Mike: [00:02:58] 10 things we wish we knew when we started, when we became personal trainers back when.
Jordan: [00:03:06] “10 things we wish we knew before we started this whole thing…”
Mike: [00:03:10] “that we’re doing.”
Jordan: [00:03:14] Sounds like such a Michael Scott thing; “before we started this thing that we’re doing now, today.”
Mike: [00:03:20] Well, the beauty of our strengths and weaknesses is that when this episode’s over, you’re going to think of a brilliant title and then text it to me and that will be the title. I think it’ll be something along those lines, though.
Jordan: [00:03:32] Yeah, that makes sense. What are we going to start off with?
Mike: [00:03:37] Was that it for the chitchat? We’re just getting straight down to business?
Jordan: [00:03:40] Well, first and foremost, I thought it was a 45 minute-er, but anything else you want to talk about?
Mike: [00:03:50] Is there anything else interesting in our lives that we haven’t talked about together already, or that we feel like talking about again for our lovely listeners?
Jordan: [00:04:03] Not right now. I’m getting my ass beat in jujitsu every day. That’s very top of mind for me.
Mike: [00:04:11] Your elbows are wrecked.
Jordan: [00:04:12] Oh yeah. Which I didn’t expect. It’s not because anyone’s breaking them, it’s just because there’s so much grip work in jujitsu. You’re holding onto the Gi and you’re holding on for the entire time. It’s just nonstop grip strength.
And it’s so funny, my coach has to keep reminding me. He’s like “breathe, breathe,” because you know, like with lifting, take a big breath in, hold your breath, squeeze, max lift. And then with jujitsu, if you do that, you’re going to tire yourself out so fast. So, it’s like, throughout this whole time, it’s this really interesting juxtaposition between having to be very strong and very controlling of your opponent, but also having to be relaxed at the same time.
It’s almost like a sprinter, you know? You watch a high-level sprinter going down the hundred meter, whatever it is. And their face is jiggling because they’re so good at relaxing those muscles and only tensing the muscles that they need to tense. That’s sort of what I think about in terms of it must be like, because when I sprint my neck muscles, my cheek muscles, everything is super tensed up.
It takes a lot of skill and practice to figure out which muscles to tense, which muscles to relax, how to be on and off at the same time.
Mike: [00:05:30] But it sounds like you’re getting better at it.
Jordan: [00:05:33] Yeah, I’m enjoying it. I love it. It’s a very productive way for me to start my day. Not just in terms of I’m actually being productive, but in terms of, for my mental and emotional wellbeing. And I spoke about this on social media recently about how I needed to take a break from Instagram. I took like the longest time away from posting on Instagram that I’ve taken since I started posting three times a day with Gary four years ago.
I needed to silence the noise that’s constantly coming in. So, it’s nice to have that morning battle, right? Sort of like how with golf, you’re not looking at your phone for the entire hour, not looking at my phone. Just so intensely focused on something else that it’s literally impossible to think about the other stuff.
Mike: [00:06:28] Yeah. And the thing about combat sports in general is you have to be on. Like, it’s something that, in the way our society is formed, in the way that we have laws and most of us live in very civilized places, you don’t go to that gear most of the time, but you have to there. And so, it’s not even like not looking at technology alone, it’s like not looking at technology plus unlocking a set of qualities and characteristics and hormones and whatever else that you don’t usually tap into.
Jordan: [00:07:05] You know, you were talking about with golf it’s nice to walk around barefoot. And I sort of put those two in the same category where it’s like walking around barefoot and fighting, they’re just both so innate and primal in us.
It’s just two things that I see are so good to have in a controlled environment, right? Where it’s like, obviously you don’t want to be walking barefoot on glass and obviously you don’t want to be getting in random fights whenever you’re walking down the street, but making time to walk outside with your shoes off — and not in the middle of New York City, is preferably a good idea — like, I think learning how to defend yourself, taking mixed martial arts classes or jujitsu or boxing or whatever it is, just, there’s something about it that just feels really, really good to do those types of things.
Mike: [00:07:57] Yeah. And obviously, the reason to train martial arts is not to pick fights, it’s to be properly prepared in an absolute worst-case-scenario situation.
Jordan: [00:08:12] That’s exactly right. So, you’re not scared walking down the street. So, you are confident in your ability to defend yourself and your family. 100%.
Mike: [00:08:21] And I think that’s obvious to 99.9% of people, but just for a little clarification, if anyone, you know, misinterpreted something you were saying,
Jordan: [00:08:29] I think the only person who thinks that learning martial arts as a way to pick on people or to beat people up is like that one asshole in elementary school, who’s like, they’re going to karate, just so that they can — like that one kid that’s just super bad and annoying. Everyone else understands, “guys, this is self-defense. It’s not ‘how to attack people.'”
Mike: [00:08:54] Well, should we, should we get into our nice list here?
We’re hitting 5 out of 10 of the things that we wish we knew when we started/common mistakes or things that are really good to know early on in your journey as a coach, a trainer, or an online trainer, or really at any point in your journey, these are going to be extremely useful.
Jordan: [00:09:19] Yeah, let’s do it. Let’s dive in. What’s number one?
Mike: [00:09:22] The number one is: email list.
And I believe that this is a mistake that, I would say it’s a mistake that you suffered the consequences of more than I did. Because I didn’t have an email list linked up to my website right away, but I didn’t have something happen that made me deeply regret it.
Jordan: [00:09:44] How long did it take you to get your email list up from when you started your website?
Mike: [00:09:50] At least the year. For at least one year I was sending copy/paste. Someone would sign up for the “email list” and I would take their email, copy/paste a message in welcoming them, and attach the PDF that they signed up for to the email, and if they had any questions, I was like, “just hit reply to this email,” and then I saved their email address in an Excel file.
Jordan: [00:10:19] Wait, so where would they sign up? What would happen? They would email you?
Mike: [00:10:24] No, I had some kind of sign-up form on my website, but it wasn’t linked to MailChimp or any kind of email service provider. I just kept my email list manually and I would email each of them individually.
Jordan: [00:10:42] Was that like a plugin on WordPress or something?
Mike: [00:10:47] That’s exactly what that was.
Jordan: [00:10:49] Yeah. Got it. Yeah, I had that too. I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know how to use it.
But yeah, for everyone listening, I’ve told this story before, so I’ll make it as brief as I can.
Basically, when I first started doing stuff online, the main person I was mimicking was Eric Cressey. He was my main model of who I wanted to be like, what kind of a business I wanted to run, what type of a person I wanted to emulate — both in his morals and his ethics, his work ethic, his influence, his intelligence, all of that.
And so, all that I really knew was that he had a website that I loved reading his articles on. And that was it. So, I had my website and I would write articles and everybody that I spoke to in the industry was saying, “you need to get an email list. You need to get an email list.” And in my mind, I was like, “it doesn’t matter if I have an email list, because if people really want to see my information, they’ll just go to my website.”
It was just a very ignorant, shortsighted, egotistical way of thinking, as opposed to being like, “you know what? Okay, these people are telling me to get an email list. Maybe there’s a reason that I don’t fully understand yet.”
And so, for the better part of a year and a half-two years, I just was writing and writing and writing and writing, not getting any email list, and then one day, an article I wrote six months prior went viral. So, I wrote an article on how to stay full in a calorie deficit and when I published it, nothing happened. I was really disappointed because I put a lot of time into this article. And six months later, someone from Lifehacker reshared the article on Twitter and it went bonkers.
It went crazy. It got 24,000 people visiting my site that day, which was huge, especially at that point in time. And I remember getting a text message from Roger Lawson being like, “bro, you must be getting so many people on your email list.” And I was like, “dude, I don’t have an email list.” And he was just like, “Whoa…”
Roger is arguably the most positive, optimistic person ever, so to see him be like, “Ohhhh,” it was not a good feeling. And then I immediately set up my email list.
So, I think it’s worth discussing the purpose of an email list or one of the main benefits of an email list, just so you really understand it. And one of the reasons people talk about email lists is — the main one is they talk about selling. But I don’t want to talk about selling right now.
The main thing that I think is very important for your email list is: if you think it’s important to have insurance, then you already think it’s important to have an email list. And the way I look at it is: God forbid something bad ever happens to you, you have insurance specifically for that.
It might be very unlikely, but you always have that just in case. Car insurance, life insurance, home insurance, renter’s insurance, whatever it is.
On social media — and it’s way more likely for stuff to happen on social media than it really is to yourself. Whether it’s changes in the algorithm, they take your page down for whatever reason, people start using a different platform, whatever. And if you think that’s not going to happen, I mean, that’s what’s happened. It was on Facebook, then it was Instagram, now it’s going to TikTok. People are changing platforms all the time and it will continue to happen.
But if you’ve ever noticed a decrease in your engagement on an individual platform, then you’ve already shown yourself why it’s important to have an email list. Because when you have an email list, you have all of those contacts at your disposal immediately. So, you can immediately write them an email and say, “Hey, follow me here.” “Hey, here’s a new piece of content.” “Hey, if you need help, I’m here to help you.” “Hey, I hope everything is all right.”
Whatever you want to send them, you can send them, but by having an email list, you have direct access to all of these contexts. Whereas on social media, you might not always have direct access to them.
So, your email list is, for lack of a better term, your insurance plan. And it’s incredibly, incredibly important.
Mike: [00:14:36] Absolutely right. You hit basically everything there.
Like, even if you don’t have a product to launch, even if you don’t want to be hard selling, even if you don’t want to be selling in general, even if you don’t think it will be a lot of people; the time and effort required to set it up more than justify, 100X justify that benefit right there.
And you actually listed a bunch of really good reasons that I hadn’t even thought of, such as getting kicked off a platform or getting banned for whatever reason, but just the algorithm changing or the popularity of a platform changing in and of itself is enough of a reason to want to have an email list.
And even if the algorithm doesn’t change and even if everything is just going smooth and dandy just how it is, think about the percentage of people who have liked a Facebook business page who actually see a given post that someone posts on Facebook compared to the percentage of people you send an email list who see at least that email and subject line in their inbox. Not even close. So many more people are seeing your email than people are seeing your Facebook posts.
Jordan: [00:15:51] Yeah. And I’ll say also as well, I think any content creator has been through this where you make a post and you think it’s literally the best post that’s ever been made in the history of the world and seven people like it and you get pissed.
You’re like, “what is going on? This post could change lives. Why is no one liking it?” Well, if you have an email list of several hundred, several thousand, however many people to send it to, now you can send them either that information in an email or send them a link to that post.
And here’s really where you can start to test whether or not it was actually a good piece of content:
If you send that email with a link to that piece of content to, I don’t know, 3000 people, and only seven more people like that post, it probably means your post is a piece of shit. Like, it wasn’t good, right? It wasn’t that good.
On the other hand, maybe you get a ton of people liking it and sharing it and you sending thousands of people there is what got it more engagement and got you more followers, got it shared a lot. That’s how I got my second video on Facebook to finally hit a million views: specifically because I would send people that link via email and I’d say, “Hey, go check this video out.”
That wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for me sending those emails. So, there’s so many reasons behind why it’s so important to have those people readily available for whenever you just want to send them something.
Mike: [00:17:09] Yeah. Number two?
Jordan: [00:17:11] You know, I was just going to say as well: I remember you sent an email — it might have been a year ago now.
What was that subject?
Mike: [00:17:20] I think it was like, “Hey, how are you?”
Jordan: [00:17:23] Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking of.
I think so many people, especially in the marketing and fitness and industry world, they talk about email lists for selling, but they don’t talk about it from the perspective of just connecting, engaging. “Hey, how are you?”
I got a text message from a pizza place that I buy pizza from down the street in the area that I live in Manhattan. And they sent me a text being like, “Hey, it’s so and so from this pizzeria,” and I don’t even know how they got my number, but clearly like they somehow are storing numbers from people calling them and ordering pizza, and they’re like, “Hey, just checking in. Hope you’re well. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to reach out.” I was like, I’m 100% going to buy pizza from them again. And you can do the same thing via email.
I loved that email that you sent. You got like thousands of replies, people being like, “Hey Mike, thanks for reaching out!”
it’s nice. It’s really nice. And it’s way more personal than making a post to everybody. Yeah, it’s nice to make a post on Instagram or whatever, and say like, “Hey, I’m here for you,” but to get something in your inbox from someone saying like, “Hey, how are you? I’m here for you.” It’s way more personal.
Mike: [00:18:37] Yeah, absolutely. BUT, you have to follow up and do all of that micro one-on-one, work. All of that like, you know, if the pizza place says, “is there anything we can do?” And you reply and you ask them some kind of question or you ask their help, or in terms of fitness, if I ask “how’s it going,” and someone replies with a few sentences about how they’re really struggling and you know, this is an issue they’ve been having and ask a question and I just leave that alone, like…
Jordan: [00:19:05] Now it’s the opposite. Now it’s bad.
Mike: [00:19:07] Exactly. So, you have to be willing to put in the time and effort and energy to actually engage back, to give back. And that is what makes email valuable for connecting.
Jordan: [00:19:24] 100%.
Mike: [00:19:25] Connection needs to come from both sides.
Jordan: [00:19:28] Yup.
Want to go to number two?
Mike: [00:19:31] Number two is: you don’t need a big audience to build a big business.
Jordan: [00:19:37] Oh wow. That was perfectly placed. Did you do that on purpose?
Mike: [00:19:40] Yes, sir.
Jordan: [00:19:41] Man, that was great. Okay. Keep going.
Mike: [00:19:45] And then just a slight caveat to the point — which is something that you and I have been talking about recently — that we don’t think humans are necessarily meant to be famous.
Jordan: [00:19:57] Dude, this is so well-placed. I was literally just thinking about this. Keep going.
Mike: [00:20:37] So, I think people who listen to the podcast will know that we’ve spoken about this somewhat before, and it being that there are people who have tens, if not hundreds of thousands of followers, who are really struggling with their business. They’re struggling to do business, they’re struggling to get clients, they’re struggling to make a sustainable living, to make a living wage through that audience.
And then there are people with hardly any followers — like, we’re talking in the single thousands or the hundreds — or plenty of people who aren’t active on certain “popular” platforms like Facebook or Instagram who are doing amazing in their business.
And it’s a common misconception that audience size is correlated with business size or ability to grow your business to a certain point, and it’s just not true.
That’s it, it’s not.
And the scary part about me thinking it was true was that gets blended in with this because once you get started on this journey, “okay, I want to grow my audience,” for good reasons, initially, and most of the way for good reasons: “that gives me more reach,” “that lets me help more people,” “I feel like I’m putting out information that is actually beneficial to people, so I want to grow my audience as big as possible.”
That bleeds into: bigger and bigger audience gets intertwined with ego and then there’s a combination of motivations for why you’re posting — or why I was posting — and then there’s this — I’m nowhere near a level of “fame” or notoriety where this was ever a problem — but I think I have the foresight, at least for myself, to see a lot of the downside of being internationally very recognizable; going to airports, people know who you are.
The trade off, you know, whatever upside there is to that fame for the lack of privacy, just anyone having the ability to take shots at you for any reason at any time, the upsides or the potential upsides, if you can even call them that ,don’t outweigh the downsides.
Jordan: [00:23:44] Yeah. Yeah, I agree.
And this is something I’ve started to really notice within myself, recently. When I was just starting out, for example, I would look at Eric Cressey and I remember looking at his Facebook page and it had like a hundred thousand or so people on it. And I was like, “what?!?”
And I was like, “he has a hundred thousand people on his Facebook?!” Which, by the way, that was at a different time. That was when Facebook engagement was outrageous and if you had a hundred thousand people on your page, you were getting like 20-30-40-50,000 likes on something. You had a LOT of engagement.
And I remember just being like, “man, if I could ever get to a fraction of that, I’d be so happy,” because I assumed that that meant success. And of course, I think there is a relation. I think what it means is the more eyes you have on you — not always, but generally — the more opportunities you have in general. Including positive and negative opportunities. That’s what’s really important.
And I think if you don’t have a very large audience, it’s very easy to look at someone with a large audience and only think of the potential positives, but you completely ignore, or aren’t aware of the potential negatives that come with it. And that’s been a big thing for me recently, I’d say in the last six months or so, where as I’ve grown, it’s become increasingly anxiety producing at a point where, when I had 5,000 followers on Instagram, I was never anxious. Ever.
It was never a thought in my mind. Never thought of invasion of privacy, Like, it was the ignorance is bliss model, right? Where it’s just like, “I have 5,000 people,” and business was great, and it was fantastic. And I think we see this a lot where — and I know we’ve spoken about it before — I know people, personally, who have literally over a million followers who are struggling with their business. This is a very real thing. It gives you more opportunities, more potential possibilities, more things that might go right with more people, but I think whether you have a million people who follow you or a thousand people who follow you the most important determinant of your success is the quality of your content and how hard you work. That’s really it.
So, if you have a thousand people who follow you and you put out tremendous content, you’re going to be successful. If you have a million people who follow you and your content is awful — and we see this all the time, we see it on social media.
We see on social media people with huge followers, huge audiences who are putting out terrible content. And the comment section is just people tearing them apart. I would way rather have a thousand people who followed me and worked really hard to put out great content and had a very successful, fulfilling business than have way more people follow me and have a lot of the anxieties and potential issues that come with it.
And I think the reason this is so important to discuss is because if you fall into the trap of thinking, “well you need to get more followers,” to be very honest with you: if you have 500 followers on Instagram, imagine if you had 500 one-on-one clients. It’s impossible to do. Like, for me, I reached my limit around 75, one-on-one clients. That was my limit where I was actually able to do it properly. Any more than that, I was in a very bad place.
If you have 500 people following you and you’re putting out great content, you’re going to be great. You’re going to be fine. Maybe not, if you want to buy a private jet, but then again, if that’s your goal, you probably won’t be listening to this podcast.
It’s like, if you want to help people, you want to really have a great, meaningful, fulfilling fitness business, you don’t need hundreds of thousands or millions of followers. In fact, I think not having that might even be a greater benefit because I think it allows you to live a more balanced life, I think it forces you to do the right thing. Where, if you have so many people following you, it’s easier to fall into bad habits or to do the wrong thing either to make a quick buck or whatever it is. Whereas if you have a fewer number of followers, it’s easier to just do the right thing because you know that doing the right thing with that smaller number of people is going to lead to a greater outcome than doing the wrong thing with that smaller number of people.
Whereas if you have a larger number of people, maybe it’s easier to justify doing the wrong thing because you’re like, “ah, well, so what if X number of people don’t like it?”
I think having a smaller audience that really, really trusts you is significantly better than having a bigger audience of people who don’t really trust you.
Mike: [00:28:36] Yeah. It’s the “thousand true fans.” An article, I think on wired.com that, that I read before I’d even started my business in 2011 or 2012.
There’s so much more, too. What comes to my mind is platform specificity, meaning I think there is a difference between growing a bigger and bigger audience in a place where you don’t get direct feedback on your work. Because, for me, and for a lot of people I’ve spoken to and seemingly from watching others, this seems to affect almost everyone. It’s very difficult not to let the feedback that you anticipate receiving on your work impact the work that you do.
Which means, to an extent, we cater to our expectation of our audience’s reaction. And that is much more prevalent in places where we get a comment as soon as we upload. Which is one reason, you know, one of many reasons, but as one reason, that podcast or long form article or even email list, where there isn’t a comment section on display with engagement and the ability to like comments, mechanisms created by social to promote more engagement, more debate within the comments section — places where that doesn’t exist, there’s probably less downside to getting a bigger audience, but it’s still gonna be there to an extent.
Jordan: [00:30:32] Yeah. I think that the biggest thing to take from this is: in the same way that often our clients will get really caught up with the number on the scale even though it’s really not the end all, be all, there are so many other factors that play a huge role in whether or not they’re happy, whether they’re successful, whether or not they’re increasing their confidence, their overall health, the scale is a form of data and a good thing to track, but it’s not the end all, be all.
I see a lot of fitness professionals treating the number of followers like many of our clients treat the scale. In the opposite direction, where they want to see the weight going up, they want to see the number going up, right? Where it’s like, if the number isn’t going up at the rate you want, then you must be failing.
That’s just not true. You’re looking at the wrong data point.
Mike: [00:31:36] You always make such good comparisons back to the fitness world. And with this one, you can think of number of followers as scale weight and then you can think of quality of followers as body composition, right?
If the number on the scale tells a bit of a story, but isn’t all that matters because there’s so much else going on. My mind goes to a conference that we both attended many years ago, where a younger woman with a really big audience, who’s attractive, was asking why she wasn’t getting coaching clients from her audience.
And the direct response was like, “well, the majority of the people following you on Instagram seem to be men following you because of what you’re posting.” And that number of followers versus quality of followers, which also bleeds into type of content that someone is making is super important because you can have a million people following you for one reason, but that reason isn’t necessarily that they want your expertise around programming even if you have amazing expertise around programming. Or you could have 1500 people following for another reason and a substantially higher percentage of them want to be clients of yours.
Jordan: [00:33:00] You know, it’s funny. I think I’ve told you this before.
I didn’t see the actual study, but I remember hearing it, so it could be wrong, but it sounds accurate to me. I remember I heard about a study that found that people care less about how much sex they’re having and care more about how much sex their friends think they’re having.
So oftentimes the sex that they’re having, how much they’re having, the quality of sex they’re having is less important to people than what they think others perceive them to be having. And I think I see this play out in social media and business.
Mike: [00:33:43] Do you think that’s amongst single individuals or individuals in relationships?
Jordan: [00:33:48] I would actually think probably both. My first initial thought went to mainly single people, especially single men, single younger men wanting to make people think that they’re having more, but also I think in relationships, too, where people maybe aren’t having very much sex in their relationship, but they speak in a certain way to their friends to make it seem as though like, “Oh yeah. We’re always doing it,” just to make it seem as though their relationship is great.
But I think this also plays out in social media where you see a lot of people who are less focused on how well their business is actually doing and more focused on how well people think their business is doing.
So, you see people focused way less on how many people they’re actually helping with their coaching program and far more on, well, how many likes are they getting on social media posts? You should probably care way less about the number of likes and far more about how well your online coaching or in person coaching clients are doing.
That’s a greater marker of your success than what is perceived on your Instagram or TikTok or whatever it is. So, I think it’s just something to be aware of.
Mike: [00:35:00] Yeah, absolutely. And just to play devil’s advocate against everything we just said: at a certain point of fame perception equals reality.
Meaning you’re going to get real money from companies to do stuff when they see giant follower numbers. But we’ve talked about values on here before, we’ve talked about, “how much money is enough?” and “can you ever get enough?” And, you know, once you’re playing that game, for me personally, that’s already in a place where the additional X dollars isn’t going to justify the downside of having this life where millions of people know who I am.
Jordan: [00:35:48] Yup, 100%. Absolutely agree.
Mike: [00:35:52] Number three, something that we wish we would have known when we first started: hashtags are NOT stupid.
Jordan: [00:36:02] You know, I remember when Instagram first came out and people were hashtagging. And it became a thing where people would joke around with hashtags, like hashtag this hashtag that.
Do you remember that on Facebook? People started using joking hashtags as part of their content, myself included, because I didn’t know what they did. I just thought it was some trend that people were doing. I didn’t know that they actually had a purpose very similar to that of search engine optimization.
But at that point in time, I just thought it was stupid and I would make fun of it. And I’d be like, “Oh, hashtag this, hashtag that,” and I didn’t understand the purpose behind hashtags until Gary explained it to, I think it was, both of us in Florida. Were you there? I think it was both of us. We were there.
We were both in Florida, I was coaching Gary. Gary always loved it when Mike would just randomly show up. Like, sometimes I’d be coaching Gary and Mike would just randomly show up wherever we were, and Gary would be like, “Michael! So good to see you!”
We were both coaching Gary and this is before I started posting consistently on Instagram. Actually, yes, 100% you were there because I have pictures of us on Instagram from that session. I remember when Gary said he was like, “you ought to start posting three times a day,” and then you and I went to that, IHOP and while we were waiting for the Uber to come, I took a picture of both of us sitting outside the IHOP and then I took a picture of myself in the car saying like, “Hey, I’m gonna start posting three times a day because Gary told me to.” And yeah, I vividly remember you were there.
And I remember asking Gary for ideas because he was like, “just post three times a day, every day.”
And this is interesting because whenever people know that we coach Gary, usually the first thing they’ll say is like, “wow, you must have learned so much, so many tactics and stuff for social media.” And the reality is no. It’s like, if you coach a lawyer, are you learning a lot about law?
Are you learning a lot about accounting from an accountant client? It’s like, no, it’s the same thing. But this is really the one tactic that I actually learned from Gary. This is like THE one. And he said post three times a day and he said, “make sure you use hashtags.” And I remember like doing a double take, my head jolting around and being like, “what do you mean use hashtags?”
I was like, “those are important??” He was like, he stopped. I think he was like right around where the Smith machine was, he was like, “yeah, they’re SUPER important.” I was like, “how do you use them?” And I remember he sat down, and he explained how they work. And basically, hashtags work in the same function as search engine optimization.
So, what that means is a hashtag — let’s say you type in the hashtag “fitness” into Instagram — the hashtag “#fitness” comes up and there’s 398 million posts for “fitness.”
So, now this is interesting because when you think of that, you first think, “wow, there’s 398 million. There’s so many. Maybe I want to use that hashtag because there’s so many.” But here’s the issue: it’s not just about how many people are doing it, it’s also about how many people are competing to be within that hashtag.
So now with 398 million, you know, like, “okay, there’s a lot of competition, I might not rank well for it at all.” So, you start looking around–
Mike: [00:39:37] And just to be clear, you’re saying you don’t just want to care about how many people are posting with that hashtag, you want to think about how many people are posting that hashtag and how many people are consuming that hashtag
Jordan: [00:39:57] Exactly. Right. That’s exactly right. So now when you plug in “fitness” and you’re looking down the list of all these other related tags, you have “#fitness,” “#fitnessinfographic,” “#fitnessmotivation,” “#fitnessjourney,” #fitnessgirl,” “#fitnessmodel,” “#fitnessinfo.”
Well, cool. So now “#fitness” has 398 million, “#fitnessinfographic” has 1.2 thousand. So, number one, you have a huge disparity in the number here. 398 million, unless you have a huge audience, you’re not going to rank well for it because there’s so much competition they’re going to rank more highly if you have a lot of engagement right off the bat.
“#fitnessinfographic” only has 1.2 thousand posts with it. It’s not that many, so you might rank very highly on it, but there aren’t really that many people searching or looking for “#fitnessinfographic.” So, you go a little bit further down, we see “#fitnessinfo.”
This has 10.2 thousand, right? So, it’s literally 10 times the “#fitnessinfographic” one, but it’s significantly lower than a lot of the other ones, which means that there are a considerable number of people searching for “#fitnessinfo”. So even if you don’t have a huge audience, then you can use the hashtag “#fitnessinfo,” probably rank relatively high on it, and start to get some followers because you’re going to rank highly on it.
If you have “#fitnessaddict,” “#fitnessaddict” has 40.2 million, probably not the best idea. But if you look at “#fitnessgoals2020,” that has 45.9 thousand. So now you see it has a lower number, it’s not as many people searching for it, but because there isn’t as much competition, you’ll rank more highly on it.
So, the whole purpose of me really explaining this is because I used to make fun of hashtags. I thought they were stupid. I thought they were a waste of time and that was purely from my ignorance. And it wasn’t until I actually started using them and studying them and learning them that I realized, “Oh, wow, these have a tremendous amount of power.”
And using them properly could be the difference between a thousand people following you, which isn’t bad or a hundred thousand people following you, which, I mean, you have to decide what is better for you as an individual. But if you want to grow your audience and you’re not using hashtags properly, you’re sort of half-assing them or you’re using the same ones over and over and over again, then you’re making a huge mistake.
Mike: [00:42:05] Great explanation on how they work. And just to be clear, you were searching “#fitness” and then kind of at the top, there’s a few options and you were clicking tags or hashtags, and then it was showing you how many posts about it?
Jordan: [00:42:19] If you go on Instagram right now and you do the search tab and you type in “#fitness,” then you’ll see “#fitness,” and then you’ll see all of the related ones underneath it and they have a small number right beneath each one that tells you how many posts they have.
Mike: [00:42:35] Beautiful.
Number four: patience.
And to be honest, I think that everyone could always have more patience, right? In all aspects, whether you’re chasing muscle gain, whether you want to lose body fat, whether you want to grow your business, have more clients, anything in life.
It can be easy at times to get frustrated or to get impatient. I would say, not to toot our own horns too hard, but I think you and I both did a decent job of having reasonable expectations with what growing a business would be like and kind of planning accordingly. Not expecting to “blow up” overnight –not to put words in your mouth, you can correct me here if you like.
But, many people who email us, who ask questions, who I talk to, have expectations to go from starting a business to having a full-time online coaching business that fully sustains and supports them and their family in like months or less than a year.
And wanting to get that speed of results, whether it’s with coaching clients, whether it’s with growing a decent audience online, one of the biggest mistakes anyone can make is to go at that with improper expectations and to go at that impatiently.
Jordan: [00:44:09] Yeah, I completely agree. We see this with our clients, our fitness clients, right? Where they’re like, “yeah, you know, I want to have a six pack,” or “I want to lose 50 pounds,” or whatever it is and it’s like, “okay, this is going to take a long time.”
Mike: [00:44:26] Our clients? I see it with myself. If I track for four days in a row, I’m like, “why am I not leaner?”
Jordan: [00:44:36] But I mean, it’s an interesting juxtaposition, right? It’s like — and I don’t even know if I’m using that word properly — but it’s an interesting, we’ll call it juxtaposition, even though it could very well be used incorrectly, but you have the aspect of knowing that it’s going to take a very long time coupled with the aspect of knowing that you have to work insanely hard every single day.
And so, you have to have that long-term patience with that short-term grit, we’ll call it, right? Where it’s like you have to go in every single day working really, really, really, really hard, just like going to the gym. It’s like you go to the gym, you work at a high intensity, you put in a lot of work, you sweat, your muscles are sore, you get up the next day, you do it over again, you hit your calories, you hit your protein, but you’re not going to look better in a week. It’s going to take two-three years, probably, for you to like, really be like, “wow, you look like you lift,” right?
It’s the same thing with building a business, where it’s like, all right, cool. You’re going to post on at least one, probably two or three different platforms every single day for a long time, you’re going to get an email list, you’re going to get a website, you’re going to do this, you’re going to interact with people, you’re going to give away stuff for free, you also have to, oh, by the way, study to be a better coach. Like, there’s so many things that you’re doing, working so hard every day that I think it’s very difficult for people to balance the working insanely hard and also having the patience and the perspective to know it’s going to take a long time.
And I think the major benefit that I had was that I didn’t know an online business was possible.
Actually, there were two major advantages: number one, I didn’t know an online business was possible. And I think the major advantage that both you and I had was that we started in an era in which long-form content was the ONLY form of content.
I mean, I guess there was Twitter. Twitter was there, so it wasn’t the only form, but we started, and we really mimicked, we modeled our business off of others who used long-form content. Our idea of a business was looking at those who were successful before us like, “all right, we gotta write a lot of articles.”
We looked at Lyle MacDonald, Martin Berkhan, Alan Aragon, Eric Cressey, Tony Gentilcore — who, by the way, still blogs every day, I think. Like, what an animal. I think, realistically, he’s gotta be the most consistent fitness content creator in the world. I think he still makes content every day for his website.
How crazy is that? It’s one thing to make an Instagram post every day, but to write a blog article every day? Are you kidding? And he’s got a kid. It’s like, are you kidding me? Tony Gentilcore, I doubt he listens to this, but if he does, man, that guy is incredible.
I think our major advantage here was, for me, number one, not knowing a business as possible. So I didn’t have the, the end goal of like, “I must make money today,” and then also just knowing, like, — man, I think we spoke about this on the last podcast, but long-form content is the game.
That’s where it is. That’s really where it is.
Mike: [00:47:49] It sure is.
Let me carry on with your juxtaposition, because the way — and you’re good at doing this — it’s something that people naturally struggle with: the way you reconcile “work super hard in the short term” with the fact that “you need to do that for one to three years,” is you set goals that are short, bite-sized, process-oriented. Your goals are not result-oriented. This is the difference between process and result-oriented goals, or you have another action-based versus…
Jordan: [00:48:23] Objective based.
Mike: [00:48:24] Yeah.
So, rather than for example, “lose 50 pounds,” which is a result that takes a very long time, the goal is, “try to improve my squat strength every week.” You go from 95 to 100 to 105 to 110, and you’re deriving positive emotions from moving closer to this goal. And the goal of getting stronger on your squat is correlated with your greater fitness-result goal, but it’s a goal that you can see progress being made in the short term. And it’s within your control.
Or, to go even more process-based, you could just say, “I’m going to squat three sets once a week.” Then even if you don’t go up that week, which is somewhat of a result in and of itself, then it’s just like, “I’m going to get to the gym three days a week for at least 30 minutes,” or whatever, but set the bar low enough and it’s something that’s within your control and then continue to check those boxes versus, “I’m starting a business. I want to have 20 clients.” And then when you’ve made 13 pieces of content and you still have zero clients, you’re like, “what am I even doing here?” Whereas if the goal was, “I’m going to make X pieces of content per day,” or per week, or however you want to set up that content calendar, you’re not going to quit because you are achieving the goal you set out for yourself.
Jordan: [00:49:52] Yep. Yeah. It’s so interesting, I think fitness professionals tend to do this for their clients almost naturally. It’s like, “listen, stop focusing so much on the numbers, start focusing more on the process, enjoy the process.”
Every fitness professional loves to write about, “enjoy the process. Enjoy the process. You should love it. Love the process.” Meanwhile, it’s like they lose two followers and they think like, “all right, well, I’m quitting. This is stupid.” It’s like, what are you doing?
Mike: [00:50:22] I wonder if, in their defense, a lot of fitness professionals have an element of just loving working out, whatever form of working out it is. So, when they’re like, “love the process,” they’re giving their client that advice from a place of someone whose favorite thing is to work out.
Jordan: [00:50:38] Absolutely.
Mike: [00:50:39] Whereas they might not like making content as much, and so it’s harder for them to take their own medicine with “enjoy the process.”
Jordan: [00:50:48] That’s like Gary. Gary always talks about “loving the process.”
It’s like, “yeah, but Gary, you love content more than literally anything ever. You love content. You love social media. You love talking to people like you love this,” but he hates fitness. He hates working out.
Mike: [00:51:06] So he outsourced it.
Jordan: [00:51:07] So he had to find a way to do it. Where it’s like, of course it’s easy for you to tell your clients to love fitness, love the process, when you love that.
But now you have to take your own advice and find a way.
One of the most cringy pieces of content that I ever see, the most cringy piece of content that I have to laugh at now because I’m never sure what makes someone think this is a good idea to post this style of content:
The angry post from a fitness coach saying, “if you’re really that upset with your results, then hire someone. Stop complaining.” And they’d get really angry, basically being like, “hire me, hire me. I’m the expert. Stop asking me for free.” And they get mad. It’s a very angry post. I’m like, “take your own advice, hire someone to keep you accountable.”
Whether it’s, maybe someone else who’s in the fitness industry who like, wants to get their stuff going, maybe it’s a younger person to maybe be a personal assistant. Maybe you can barter, like maybe they help you with organization and posting and then you help them with their fitness.
But you’ve got to hack it. You’ve got to hack away to be consistent and find a way to enjoy the process as much as possible. And hopefully, if this is a revelation, understanding that just saying, “enjoy the process,” isn’t really going to help your clients enjoy it anymore.
It’s sort of like when you’re talking to your partner and they’re really upset and you say, “hey, just calm down.”
It’s probably a really stupid thing to say to your partner. Like, “hey, relax.” Like, all right, well now the flood gates have opened and you’re going to Hell.
Mike: [00:52:42] “I AM RELAXED.”
Jordan: [00:52:43] “Enjoy the process.” “Thanks, asshole. I hate every minute of our workout, so I appreciate you telling me to enjoy it.” It doesn’t do anything.
It’d be like, “yeah, enjoy posting on social media.” It’s like, if you hate that, then you have to find ways to do it even if you don’t really love it or do something different altogether.
Mike: [00:53:05] I just got a text from Gary. I don’t know if I want to say what he said.
I think I can, though. It’s public that he sold his wine company, Empathy, and he just texted — we’re working out this evening — but he just texted saying he’s drank quite a bit of Empathy today.
So, this will be a fun leg day.
But yeah, the person yelling at their potential future client that you just described sounds like they could use some, you know, a little meditation maybe, because that, to me, that sounds like someone who just, you know, had one too many DMs of somebody being like, “this is just so hard.”
I don’t know, I’m trying to put myself in the mindset of someone who would post that. Or maybe it felt like a good marketing strategy.
Jordan: [00:54:04] “I’m really going to go at this from the anger perspective.”
Mike: [00:54:09] “Anger perspective.”
All right, we’re going to hit number five here because I have four hours in the car in my near future here.
So, number five, things that we wish we knew — in the words of Mr. Syatt Fitness himself: certifications are BS.
Jordan: [00:54:30] “And we’re going to put this one on Jordan.”
Mike: [00:54:33] Here’s the thing, you’re so good at black and white statements.
Yeah, we’re going to put this one on Jordan.
Here’s what I think: I think that certifications are complete BS from the perspective of getting even one additional client over the course of your career. Your clients do not care. And I think that’s what you mean.
Jordan: [00:55:01] Yeah. Keep going. That’s it. That’s it.
Mike: [00:55:05] And if there’s a certification that looks cool, that you’re interested in, that you’d like who’s teaching it, that you have heard really good things about the company, that is of a specific niche that you really want to learn more about and you feel like you can’t compile the free information that exists about that and so it makes more sense to spend some money and go for a seminar or go take a test, buy a book, take a test, whatever, and that’s going to be a way that you want to learn about it — cool. I think do it. But just know that no human that ever existed picked one coach over another because they were a CSCS versus an ABCQLG or whatever.
Like, the varying certifications don’t matter to potential future clients. And that’s not to say that you shouldn’t get certified. Education is unbelievably important and there are many ways to go about that. I think our first episode ever, we honed in on the importance of internship and having someone to learn from and get experience from early on as being massively beneficial.
Jordan: [00:56:16] I’m just looking for that ABCQLG certification.
Mike: [00:56:24] I couldn’t think of the other letters that the NSCA did instead of CSCS.
Jordan: [00:56:31] Yeah, I dunno. Oh, NASM, I think that’s another one.
But, I mean, the way I think about it is this: most coaches get a certification to say that they’re certified. That’s why they’re getting a certification. Most coaches are getting certified because they want to say like “I’m RKC,” “I’m ACE,” “I’m SFG,’ I’m CPT,” “I’m NSCA,” “I’m NASM,” and they just want to put all those letters after their name.
There are a few things more obnoxious than looking at someone’s Instagram profile or “about me” section on their website and the first paragraph is just all of the letters behind their name. It’s like, no one cares. Literally nobody cares. At all.
And here’s where I have issues with it, as well: From an education perspective, I also think they’re bullshit.
Mike: [00:57:27] Many certs aren’t that great.
Jordan: [00:57:29] Yeah. I mean, here’s the thing: you can learn, everything for free.
Mike: [00:57:36] Hang on. Devil’s advocate. Is coaching BS because all of the information that we’re going to give our client exists online?
Jordan: [00:57:45] No, absolutely not.
No. It’s not because of accountability, right?
Here’s where I think the issue is, though: people aren’t getting a certification for accountability, right? People will sign up for coaching often for accountability to say, “hey, I need you to do this.” When you go through the process of coaching and having a coach, usually you’re doing it so that for a long-term perspective, you have someone checking in with you, they can check up on you, they can change your macros, they can change your programming, if you get injured, they can change it, if COVID happens, they can give you body weight workouts. Coaching is there specifically because they can keep checking up on you.
Certifications, they’re mainly done as a way of just proving that you have X level of knowledge. And the reality is like, listen, if you want to learn how to kettlebell swing, sure, you could pay X thousands of dollars and go to an SFG or RKC certification…or look on YouTube.
And yes, you’ll probably get better instruction at an SFG or RKC certification, but then you have to think like, is that one on one instruction to learn how to kettlebell swing worth that much money, or what if you go to a local gym and you pay a coach for an hour? Or whatever it is, there are many options.
For me, I just think certifications are bullshit. People get really mad at me when I say that. And I think they get mad almost because of the sunk cost fallacy. They already have one, they’ve already paid the time, they’ve already paid the money.
And keep in mind — I have certifications.
I’ve paid money. I’ve spent time. It’s not like I’m talking from the perspective of, “I’ve never gotten a certification.” You just have to really think like, how much have you really benefited from the certification?
And if you’ve just taken so much from it and if you’ve just learned incredible amounts and it’s completely changed your life, then I love that, and I support you for it. But I just don’t think most coaches are finishing a certification being like, “Oh God, I’m so happy that I spent all of that money for this.”
Same thing with college degrees. I think some degrees are super important. If you want to be a doctor or a lawyer, obviously. But I mean, if you want to be a strength coach, you really don’t need to go to school and get an exercise science degree. I promise you that. Like, you just don’t. I just think most certifications are bullshit.
And coming from the perspective of someone who wants to save people money, it’s like, there are just so many better things to do.
Mike: [01:00:20] Yeah, that money is the runway to building their business. It’s savings, which is massively important.
I remember intentionally getting a question about meal timing wrong on a certification because I knew the textbook had something about higher frequency meals for burning fat and I was like, “nope.” But I was like, “okay, I’m going to select this because I know this is what they’re going for even though I know this isn’t correct.”
Jordan: [01:00:45] I remember Abel was studying for a certification and he showed me his certification book and it was explaining the different rep schemes and what different rep schemes were good for, whether it was for power or for strength or for hypertrophy.
And I was looking at it and I was like, “this is wrong.” And the order of events, they were saying like, “power should be done at the end of the workout and it should be this repetition range,” I’m like, “this is scientifically, factually, practically wrong.” And this is a very, very well-known certification. And that’s just where I have so much issue with it.
And listen, like, obviously I don’t have anything wrong with business, I just think most certifications are a business more than they are a practical option for coaches to improve their coaching ability and to improve their business.
If you want to improve your coaching ability, study from various sources and coach people. And if you want to improve your business, give people that information that you’ve learned for free. That’s really it. That’s the two ways to do it.
Sort of like, yeah, you can teach someone to deadlift in 20 steps or you could teach someone to deadlift in 2 steps. I’m going to go for the 2-step option. I’m going to try and be the most efficient. And if I could go back and not take the certifications that I took, I would.
That’s just looking from hindsight. It’s like, the time, the money, it’s like, it didn’t do anything for me. So, coming from the perspective of, “how can I save these people time and money?” Just like, I think they’re a fucking waste. You’d be better off studying and learning, going on Martin Berkhan’s website and reading everything.
Mike: [01:02:24] I was just going to say, you’ve learned more obsessively reading a handful of websites and applying that to clients than ANYTHING else.
Jordan: [01:02:30] Yes. Absolutely. Go to Martin Berkhan, go to Lyle McDonald, go to Allan Aragon, go to Eric Cressey, go to Tony Gentilcore, and there you go.
Like, that’s it. Go to those people. You will learn more than any certification could teach you. Without having to pay.
Mike: [01:02:48] Beautiful. Five down, five to go.
Hope you enjoyed this episode. We’re hitting the next five next week. It might be a better episode than this one, because 6 through 10 are the real, real deal.
So, great chat Jordan.
Jordan: [01:03:01] Have a wonderful day. We’ll talk to you soon.
Mike: [01:03:04] Bye everyone.