Jon Goodman: On many ways 'hustling' is BS
Transcript of the No-Bullshit Vegan podcast, episode 75
Jon Goodman on many ways "hustling" is B.S., and focusing on one thing to achieve success
Karina Inkster: You're listening to the No-Bullshit Vegan podcast, episode 75. Jonathan Goodman of the Personal Trainer Development Centre, the world's largest site for fitness professionals, is here to discuss why the concept of hustling is BS in certain contexts, the glorification of busy, and how to achieve success by focusing on one area of expertise, surrounding it with good enough to be dangerous skills in a handful of other specific realms.
I'm Karina, your go-to, no BS vegan fitness and nutrition coach. If you are a new listener, welcome. Thanks for joining me, and make sure that you get your hands on all the free resources I have for you on my website, karinainkster.com, including a 10 day how-to-go-vegan course, an eBook on how to fuel your training on a plant based diet, and more. That's all available for you at karinainkster.com.
Today I am super excited to be speaking with my business role model, Jonathan Goodman. We're not talking about veganism today (although we do touch on seitan at one point), but we are busting some BS. Jonathan Goodman is the creator of the Personal Trainer Development Center. Since 2011, he has supported fitness professionals by publishing over a million words, growing some of the largest online communities, publishing 11 books, and establishing the first ever certification for online trainers, The Online Trainer Academy.
He's been featured in most major business and fitness publications, including Men's Health, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Muscle and Fitness, Inc., and many more. He hosts The Online Trainer Show, which you can access on iTunes, Spotify, or YouTube. Originally from Toronto, John spends his winters exploring the world with his wife and son. As you'll hear in our discussion, his favourite vegan food is seitan.
Now, I'm going to use this opportunity to do a wee bit of shameless self promotion, because I feel like it fits in very well with what we're talking about today. Just last week, I graduated from level two of The Online Trainer Academy, created by John Goodman and The Personal Trainer Development Center. This was an intensive business development course, and it has taught me skills I'm going to use for years to come, which will benefit both my business, and most importantly of course, my clients. There are currently fewer than 40 of us certified level two coaches in the world. It feels incredible to be part of such a small group of highly qualified professionals. If you're ready to level up your fitness and plant based nutrition, check out my coaching options at karinainkster.com. I currently only have two spots available, and then my coaching practice is going to be full. If you're interested, make sure you get your application in ASAP, at karinainkster.com.
Let's get to my interview with John.
Karina Inkster: Hey John, thank you so much for joining me. Welcome to the show.
Jonathan Goodman: Thank you. I wanted to start by talking about how awesome you are. Can we do that?
Karina Inkster: You do not!
Jonathan Goodman: No, I do. I want to start like that. I feel like you are this really amazing polymyth; a combination of all of these seemingly unrelated things. It just somehow comes together beautifully: vegan super heroine, hella strong yet still writes accessible books about resistance band training, super smart, good at this internet marketing business development thing, and also plays the accordion.
Karina Inkster: That's the best description and the best compliment I've had for months. Well, thank you so much!
Jonathan Goodman: I love it. How do you set yourself apart in this world? You have to be interesting. You have to let your interests fly. You do that beautifully, which is super cool.
Karina Inkster: Thanks so much. I mean, when in doubt, just play accordion, right?
Jonathan Goodman: I tried once.
Karina Inkster: Did you actually?
Jonathan Goodman: I picked it up and hit the button. It went poorly.
Karina Inkster: You know, one of my friends the other day, just last week or the week before, said on Facebook that playing the accordion is like typing in two different languages, on two different keyboards simultaneously in the dark. That's fairly accurate.
I am super excited to speak with you. I have been following your work for many years and I feel like you're pretty much my main business role model. I shit you not. I have been following you for many years. The work that you put out is just next level: the caliber, the personality you put into it. It's fantastic. For me as a fitness coach, it has been huge in building my business, and in my ability to live in Powell River. I would not have been able to do that if I did not have a 100% online business. Literally, I live where I live because of your work. It's pretty amazing.
My husband and I made the decision to move here because of what it offers, the scenery, and the type of place we wanted the property. It's was a conscious decision, in that we both wanted to move there. The only reason we could do it is because we're both online. The only reason that is the case is because of your training and your knowledge. So it's been fantastic, and I'm very excited to speak with you. Of course, as we all know, we're not talking about veganism or diet necessarily today, but we are going to touch on things like fitness and entrepreneurship. I do have to mention though, you wrote that your favourite vegan meal is seitan. I need to know more about this. Is that a joke? Is that for real? Tell me about seitan.
Jonathan Goodman: Tell you about seitan. Well, I had no idea how to spell it. My assistant Bobby spelled it for me because she knew how. It’s “ S-E-I-T-A-N”. I have nothing against vegetarian or vegan food. I mean, if it's done right, it tastes great. This all originated when we went to a vegetarian restaurant in Toronto, in Kensington Market. Kensington Market is where you go for really interesting food. They've got a great vegetarian market. We went through, it was one of the best meals I've ever had, and it was vegetarian. I didn't believe it. I asked 'what the heck is this?' And they said that’s seitan. That's the story. That's the end.
Karina Inkster: Gotcha. So it is a “holy shit" moment of having a meal and finding out what it is.
Jonathan Goodman: It’s a “holy shit" moment. You know, I was brought up where a meal was meat, some sort of carbohydrate and some sort of vegetable, and that's more or less how we live now. When you're not exposed to something, it's not that you don't dislike it. You just don't know enough about it to think about it. This made me think: ok, you can do this vegetarian thing pretty legit. You can eat pretty well without having meat. That was the first time, so I always remember seitan. Then of course the name is pretty memorable.
Karina Inkster: Of course. That's awesome. What are you working on these days? What's interesting to you, what is happening in Jon’s world?
Jonathan Goodman: Jon’s world is Jon's company is growing. We run a company called The Personal Trainer Development Center that has a whole bunch of offshoots. It’s grown to the point where I have never spoken to some of the people who work for the company, which is a really interesting stage to be at. I think there are 24 people on the payroll. I might be wrong, give or take, but it's grown fully on me, which is really, really wild considering that I had no idea what business was. I was a personal trainer in a local gym in Toronto, wrote a book for other personal trainers, and everything kind of grew from there.
When I started this whole online business thing, entrepreneurship wasn't sexy. Basically, your parents didn't break to other parents that their kid was an entrepreneur. I mean, they said that they were unemployed and finding themselves. I had no idea what it was, and it wasn't in your face the same way that you could even make any kind of money online. For the first four or five years of business, I would tell people I have this company online. They would ask if I sold ads, and I’ve never actually hosted an advertisement in my life. So to be at this point now, it was really interesting. It wasn't anything that I desired, it just kind of happened naturally, which is cool. There are lots of things going on, and lots of things that I'm not even involved in, which is wild. We have The Online Trainer Academy, which is the leading curriculum for online fitness business, and you're in level two of that right now.
Karina Inkster: Yes, and it’s been awesome!
Jonathan Goodman: Then we have a podcast, which is relatively new, which has just been super fun for me. We started The Online Trainer Show. I feel like a lot of business podcasts are kind of boring. They’re very stoic. They try to sound too smart. They try to sound like they have everything figured out, but business is messy. Life is messy. There are ups, there are downs. You don't quite know what you're doing. Ours is different. It’s half comedy, half business. We don't pretend like we know what we're doing. Our joke is our theme song (sings to melody): “ this is The Online Trainer Show, Trainer Show, Trainer Show, we shouldn’t have a podcast”. The joke is we know online training, but we don't know podcasts. We're not going to pretend like we're expert podcasts. I'm still having a lot of fun with it. It's doing well, probably because it's just different. It's something that people have fun listening to, but there's just enough education that they can justify to themselves why they’re listening.
Karina Inkster: One hundred percent. Ren Jones, actually, is going to have his third appearance on this show. Later tonight, I'm speaking with him. He's hilarious. He's a character.
Jonathan Goodman: Ren is amazing. I have two co-hosts and then a podcast manager who shows up and tells us we're horrible. There are basically four of us on every podcast, but mainly it's the three of us. Then Amber shows up to tell us that we did a bad job, but what to do better. Ren is really like the host, the main host. He " slow jam-ed" the outro of one of the previous episodes. It was like, “ Oh yeah, babe. We want you to go and boogie on down to onlinetrainer.com/podcast to get those show notes.
Karina Inkster: I haven't heard that one. Is that a recent one? Or does he do that every time?
Jonathan Goodman: I don't remember which one, because we’re always a number ahead. I don't actually know. You know, we're four or five episodes ahead. I don't pay attention. I show up to record the thing and then I don't even think about it. Other people make things happen and do things on the internet to make it go live.
Karina Inkster: The magical elves behind the scenes, you know?
Jonathan Goodman: I don't know anything about any audio production. I don't know anything about how the internet works to get audio magically from one place, into space, and get down to another place. I don't know how that works. I just talk into a microphone. We didn't even have microphones for the first while, but now we have mics.
Karina Inkster: Moving up in the world, are we? Moving up in the podcasting world? That's awesome. I've listened to a few episodes, and it's been fantastic, especially what you just said: it's different, even though it's in the business realm, and it has personality. I feel like all of the content that your company puts out is very professional. It's very useful, hands-on, actionable, but it also has personality. I think that sets you apart.
Jonathan Goodman: We do talk about poop a little bit too much.
Karina Inkster: Is there such a thing? I don't know. I heard you talk about Calvin.
Jonathan Goodman: We talked about Calvin. We talked about Calvin pooping in the woods; Calvin is my three year old. I don't know. Maybe we talk about poop too much. Maybe not. I feel like poop is one of those things that are just universally funny. I do think it's one of those things that also democratizes us. Everybody poops, no matter who you are. You can just think of the Queen of England in her royal gown, looking all regal in the bathroom at Buckingham Palace. You know, doing the same thing as you and me, when we wake up in the morning.
Karina Inkster: The great unifier, huh?
Jonathan Goodman: You can wear whatever clothes you want, bro. I know what you do. We talk about poop a lot. I mean, it’s fun. We are humans. I think perhaps we all need a little bit more of that, and a little bit more innocence, and just unadulterated joy in what we do, and in the work we do and, and whip off these facades: we all know what's up.
Karina Inkster: That's a great way of putting it. This whole show is about bullshit busting in various forms. I feel like even though you don't call it bullshit busting in your words, I feel like you actually do a decent amount of it. (What you just did, for example: we all know what you do.) This is the legit truth, right? Ripping off the posturing, if you will, right? That's a form of bullshit busting. I feel like you've actually done that a lot over the years.
Jonathan Goodman: That was a great segue.
Karina Inkster: Thank you! I did not plan it that way, to going from poo to our topic now: I want to talk about the bullshit idea of hustling, which I've seen you talk about. There's a Forbes feature of you, called How Not To Hustle Your Way To Success, which I think is a brilliant title.
Jonathan Goodman: It's a great title. I did not come up with the title.
Karina Inkster: Well it’s awesome, and it's a great interview. Why is the term hustling? Why is the concept hustling BS for entrepreneurs, for anyone?
Jonathan Goodman: I don't think it's BS. I think it just needs to be taken in context. I think it's very important for people to really understand why they're doing what they're doing, what energizes them, and what they want to accomplish. There was that Forbes article; there was a full-page feature in Entrepreneur Magazine last year, on a project that we did as well that was a similar concept. It was a really profitable project that we had that we shut down, because we felt like it wasn't serving people the way that we wanted it to. It had nothing to do with the money. It turned out to be a great business decision, but it was half a million dollars a year profit that one day, we just decided: it’s not serving our people so we’re shutting it down.
You know what it comes from? I've had a lot of good guides over the years. As I kind of said at the beginning of this conversation, I found myself in a position that I never wanted for; I never knew to want for. I grew up in a reasonably affluent neighbourhood, to a great Jewish family. Every adult that I ever knew was a lawyer, doctor, dentist, accountant, teacher or a businessperson. Literally every adult: my mom's a teacher; my dad's a businessman. I have three siblings. They're a lawyer, a banker and a teacher. All of my friends are that: professionals. There just wasn't any thought. I never knew anybody who was an entrepreneur. I never knew anybody who forged their own path.
I was always going to be a doctor. When I was in university, I was going to go and do a PhD in muscle fitness. Yet I somehow found myself in this weird position of entrepreneur and I didn't fight it, but I have realized over the years that I'm just so gloriously unemployable that I think it was natural. I just don't listen well. I just think a lot of what other people say is not that well thought out a lot of the time, and they need to ask better questions, and make better decisions. They may say, “ oh, you should do this”, and I say, “ why? What’s the reason?” This is one of my favourite filters whenever putting through a decision. It’s called the ‘ fog filter’. Is what you're saying a fact, an opinion, or a guess?
Be honest. It doesn't really matter what it is, but what you will find (if you put yourself through what I call an objective filter, and I have a number of them that guide me), if you ask if it’s a fact, opinion, or guess; you will find that lot of things that you may act as if they're fact (pieces of advice, ways to do things), are actually guesses. A lot of things that other people tell you are actually opinions. It's not to say that that's a bad thing, but it's a pretty important data point that you need to take into consideration.
I found myself in this position where I owned a business that started to make some money. I wasn't getting rich, but started to make some money back in 2011. Back in 2015 or 2016, I was at an event called Mastermind Talks: a high end, entrepreneur, and business owner-founded event. It was pretty small. I met somebody who I've become very good friends with, and his name's Dandapani. He's a Hindu monk, who left the monastery after 10 years and now coaches entrepreneurs, stuff like that. We were in the lobby of a very fancy hotel, myself and a Hindu monk (which is funny in and of itself). We're like super rich businessmen waiting for prostitutes in the corner: it was that kind of hotel lobby. I'm sitting there with a monk, drinking his juice; I'm having a gin and tonic. I said, "You know, things are going pretty good. I'm making more money than I ever thought that I'd make. I never really desired that. I didn't enter this because I wanted to get rich. How do I know how much is too much?”
The answer that he gave me still guides me every single day. It's actually helped me control growth, which I think is really what it comes down to. It's not that you need to oppose hustle, oppose growth, it's that you need to control growth. That might mean that you can still go very fast. You can do so, but you can do it in a very controlled manner. What he said to me is "the question is not how much is too much since it's not really a question. It's not really a question that you can answer. What you need to know is you need to know what is it that energizes you? What is it that you do that really fits into the reason why you do it? How will you know when you’re being forced to make decisions that oppose your convictions and beliefs? Make as much money as you possibly can. The second that you start being forced into doing work that you know in your deepest heart is wrong for you to do, or you're forced into making decisions that go against really what you deeply….” You should work hard. It’s going to be hard, and it should suck sometimes. The second you get to those points, it's too much. That's helped me control growth, really.
Karina Inkster: Interesting. To me, the view of ‘hustle' that I have is kind of people who didn't make tough choices. They’re kind of busy for the sake of being busy. There's this glorification of said busy-ness, especially in the entrepreneurial world, right? What this monk is telling you is essentially don't let that guide your business or your life. I think it should be the other way around, right? Build your business around what you want your life to be.
Jonathan Goodman: I love the glorification of busy-ness and of hustle, because what you will find when you meet a lot of uber-successful people is that they are so unbelievably proud of how lazy they are. All of the work they do is to try to do less work.
Karina Inkster: That's a great way of putting it actually.
Jonathan Goodman: I'm so lazy. I love automation. I love the feeling of setting a dishwasher to go, knowing that the dishes are going to be washed and I don't have to do it. A lot of what I do in my business now is just design systems. This isn't any secret, right? Delegate, design systems, so that stuff works without you. You're going through that with hiring more people to support you in your business now, too. You should be proud to be lazy. You should be proud to take days off. You earn that. I'm setting myself up right now so that in January I can leave my business for two months, and learn Spanish in Mexico. I'm not there yet, but hopefully I'll be there by January. If you know you’re going to be gone for a week, things can't stop, and that week is coming up in a month, what would you do differently?
Karina Inkster: That's a great idea. I mean, I actually (for the first time ever last year) left my business for a full week, which isn't even that long, but you know, I'm earlier in the process of course. It was amazing. I just had someone else run everything: coaching, clients, online stuff, and I left for a week, for the first time ever.
Jonathan Goodman: Why not say, okay: now I'm going to do two weeks, and set a date. Once you set a date, you're going to do it. Stuff may not work out that well, but most things will. The interesting part is now that's become your new normal. Now that you've set stuff up so you don't have to be there for two weeks, now there's a whole bunch of stuff that you didn't have to do anymore. Which means when you come back, you can continue the process of working on building, and working on the business. I hired a personal assistant. I had an assistant for five or six years, she was out of town, and I wanted somebody local. I hired a personal assistant here a month ago. You know what the craziest thing is? I think I need a second one. That's how much stuff I was doing.
Karina Inkster: Yes. This was a one-man show.
Jonathan Goodman: I have been doing this for nine and a half years, and that's how much I was doing. I mean, it's really wild, once you start the process of unpacking it.
Karina Inkster: It reminds me of a book I read last year by Tony Crabbe, just called “ Busy.” He says: ‘ when’s the last time you met someone who explained how unbusy they are?' I want to be that person. I think you are closer in the trajectory there, but having a date like you said: January is going to happen. I'm going to take two months off. I'm going to be in Mexico, learning Spanish. I mean, what better motivator than having that already?
Jonathan Goodman: I haven't read that book, but one of my favourite essays of all time is called Lazy: A Manifesto. It's by somebody named Tim Kreider. It’s incredible. You can find the audio on YouTube because Tim Ferriss, who’s the guru of the 4-hour work week (but basically it means hustle). He did some Audible for a while (you buy up the audio rights of books for a short period of time). I don't know if he's still doing it, but that was one of the first books he bought: Tim Kreider's book of essays. I think it's called ‘ We Learn Nothing’.
Karina Inkster: It's one of my favourite books I read last year, actually.
Jonathan Goodman: That's fantastic. To help promote it, they put some of the material online for free, and that was the essay that they chose to do as the audio. It's brilliant. It's exactly like what you're saying. Celebrate that you're lazy.
Karina Inkster: It's basically like people nowadays, using busy as a proxy for productivity. I think that's part of what Kreider's point is as well, right? We don't often have clear indicators of productivity nowadays. We're not working in a factory, where we have output that we can visually see. We're knowledge workers. I think a lot of people turn to other methods of productivity, which basically just means doing a lot of shit visibly, and then bragging about it on social media.
Jonathan Goodman: There's that too, or not doing shit and doing the ' jump up and pretend I'm in a yoga pose picture’. You talk about bullshit busting, so let’s bust some more bullshit: this idea that most anything that really matters, that's impactful on our society, was created at a time when that person was not busy. Right. That's kind of how the brain works. You work really hard on a problem and you're basically never going to figure it out, but then you take some real time off, recharge, your brain keeps working on it, and you figure it out. That's like the “eureka" moment.
The most interesting thing is the scientific process works that way to everybody. Everybody thinks the scientific process is this incremental, study after study process. If you actually look into where real innovations come from in science, it's basically ‘eureka’ moments, and then post-reaction realizations. There actually was a study written about how there was a research paper written about how research papers are nonsense. It's so, so interesting when you really get into the psychology of it. We feel as humans that we have to post rationalize everything we do, and create nice sounding plausible narratives of whatever happened. It's never a nice, neat narrative. That's just not how we work. You can't bundle that up and sell it. If you're trying to learn something a lot of the time, the reason why a lot of education (and particularly distance education by providers who aren't experienced) educators; the reason why what they put together is not effective is they try to make it too clean. It's just simply not that, but you can't really sell it unless you make it "step by step by step, wrap this thing up in a ball and put a little bow on it”, but that isn’t how it is.
Karina Inkster: It's similar in anything, right? Our clients who are trying to improve their fitness, or their nutrition, or their quality of their lives: moderation and consistency do not sell, and hard work doesn't sell either because we all want a quick fix. What you just said about wrapping it all up and putting a bow on it, that shit sells. Hence the BS that's out there in the fitness world, in the business world (“hey! Create a six figure business in six weeks!”) You know, all kind of stuff. It’s rampant. I think that the concept of hustle though is generally: hard work, we agree that there's a place and a time for that, of course. What about someone who's just starting out? What about newbie entrepreneurs, or business owners? Is there some inherent need for them to “hustle" for a certain time to get things to a point where they can step away?
Jonathan Goodman: Yes, one hundred percent. I believe that you need to be selfish if you want to be selfless. I think that particularly at the beginning, you have to say no to a lot of things. You have to be perhaps a joke to a lot of things. You have to turn down family functions. You probably won't see friends as much. You have to do that at one point, in order to rise above the noise in whatever you're doing, whether that's build a physique that's out of the norm, whether that's build a business that rises above. It seems like this in fitness too, not just business. It seems like there's just this mass of people just fighting against this, this one point. They just can't seem to get over it. The reason for that is there's a lot of competition at the bottom.
In order to get through that, where there's actually less competition at the top (way fewer people doing a really good job, than there are doing a really crappy job!) Once you get through the noise of people doing a crappy job and find your voice and establish your vision, it's actually much smoother sailing. I'm not saying it's easy, but it's much smoother sailing. There's points that you hit: revenue, staffing points, points that you hit where you effectively have to blow everything up and start over again. 300,000 million, 3 million, 10 million, at those points you basically have to blow it up and start again. At one point, you have to do what others won't, if you ever want to have what others don't.
That means you will probably have to work a lot harder. You'll have to stay up late. When I was starting my website, I would train 10 to 12 clients a day, get home at nine o'clock at night, I'd work on my website until 2:00 AM, I'd wake up at 6AM, and do it again. That was a year and a half, and that was needed at the beginning to break through. You know, I didn't have a coach who told me what to do. I studied courses, I read books and then I just tried stuff. That's the reason why it took so long. I think that that's one of the central messages is: you have to try stuff. I think actually getting somebody who says "here's exactly how you do it”; that actually does more damage than good a lot of the time, very early on.
I think courses are great, which is why I teach courses. We don't teach business coaching, except for people who are very advanced. The reason for that is you don't know enough yet to make a decision on what direction you want to go. You haven't tried enough. You haven't done enough through which to put any decisions. You have no context, which means nobody else is going to have any context either, which means that you could easily find yourself spending a lot of money in a lot of time, going in the wrong direction. The worst thing that you can do early on is make decisions that are going to take you out of the game: investing a lot of money into a coach, for example. If this doesn't work, you're finished. That is the worst! The odds that it will work are tiny. It’s not even that person's fault that you hired, necessarily. You’re just not ready for them. You don’t have the context through which to put that decision.
Then the other thing that you'll find is that there's always an area where people kind of walk the line, that allows them to get a bit of an advantage. One of my favourites is this speaker that I that I met one time. She’s an influencer and a speaker. She pretended to have a booking agent. She didn’t. She just had a separate email that was for her "booking agent.” But it was her. What she found is that was that if she reached out to somebody to speak, and she connected them with a booking agent, she got five times more money, and they were five times more excited to book her. She was her booking agent. She gave herself a different name and a different email. The worst part about this, which is downright evil, is that she gave herself a generic, white guy name for her booking agent. She had also found that (probably unconsciously) people took her "booking agent" more seriously if a generic white guy spoke on her behalf (she was Chinese).
That just gives you an idea of how she got ahead. Not to say she wouldn't have otherwise. I mean, she's super smart, super talented, but she certainly earned a lot more and got a lot more opportunities that way. You’ll find that a lot of the time with people who got ahead, if you really get to know them (i.e.. if you feed them enough alcohol), they'll tell you about some of the stuff they did early on that's not quite against the rules, but skirted the rules. How else do you get ahead? How else do you get an advantage? You need some point of leverage in order to rise above the noise. Once you're above the noise, as long as you're good, you'll stay there and treat people well. That shouldn't have to be said, but it seems like it has to be said sometimes.
Karina Inkster: These days, unfortunately, that could be a whole other podcast episode. Speaking of getting ahead and doing things differently you have an interesting perception (construct, whatever you want to call it), around if you want to be unbelievably successful, if you want to be the 0.5%, then you have to focus on one area of expertise, but then you've got to surround that with good enough skills in a specific number of other realms, which you've outlined before. I heard your interview on Joe DeFranco's podcast. You guys were talking about this: you’ve got to have behavioural psychology, money management, and marketing. Can you give us an overview of this success view? If you want to be super crazy, unbelievably successful focus on one area (because then I have a follow up question for you after that.
Jonathan Goodman: I like that you brought this up. I love this concept. I think it’s a very powerful concept. What's interesting about it is that if you really disagree with it, almost get insulted by it, then I implore you to look inward, because that's probably your ego telling you that it's right (but it’s hard to hear). In almost every discipline, there is a certain level that you hit in terms of skill acquisition. There’s a point of diminishing results. If you're a personal trainer, you need to get good enough at programming, good enough at nutrition coaching, probably good enough at behavioural coaching. Once you get to that point (and it's actually not that hard to get to that point), once you get to that point, one hundred percent you should always, always, always aim to get better, but you will very quickly hit a point of diminishing results.
The reason for that is individual disciplines, individual industries are inherently uninteresting and invaluable, unless you are literally the best in the world at that thing. To get to that point is 20 years of suffering, if you even get to that point. It really won't make that big of a difference to how much money you make. But also: how much impact do you have? This is why a lot of people get frustrated at this industry. You know, they think that they're better than somebody else who's a better marketer. That person who's a better marketer probably knows enough about fitness, or whatever they're talking about. You might think that they're wrong, but they’re still probably having a bigger impact than you. The reason for that is quite simple: success isn't one industry or one discipline; it lies at the intersection of industry and discipline.
If you picture a Venn diagram, I was good enough as a trainer. I wasn't exceptional as a trainer. I was good. I got my clients good results. When my career started to take off was when I started studying marketing. Then when my career really started to take off is when I started studying behavioural psychology. That intersection of knowing enough about fitness, understanding marketing, and understanding behavioural psychology; those three things together now started to fuse. That’s when Men's Health reached out. Livestrong called me one of the "top 30 trainers in the world you need to know”. I wasn't that good of a trainer, but I understood enough about that other stuff, and I was a good enough trainer.
In business, now I've mixed that with a glowing skill-set of leadership, business development, and money management. The general theory is this: you need to be really, really good at one thing. Most people listening, I would think, it would be fitness, but it might be anything. I mean, it could be music for example, and then you need to be good enough to be dangerous at a whole bunch of complimentary, transferable skills. Those complimentary transferable skills are: by and large, writing. Everybody needs to be a good writer (and going into that is copywriting, advertising, etc.) Money management, the fact that they don't teach you when you're young what money is and isn’t, is insane to me. Money management, behavioural psychology, and marketing, specifically marketing sales (are the important ones.)
If you have those all complimentary skills, you could literally do anything. You are now immune to any outside source. Everything could go, and you would be fine. This is not dissimilar. David Epstein wrote a book called Range that I felt it was way too long and repeated the same thing over and over and over again. You probably don't need to read the book, unless you really want to read 300 pages of stories and 20 pages of material. He's a good writer though. The general idea is summed up in this one sentence. You just need to know this one sentence. You could have 10 individual world class experts on 10 different disciplines, and they will be considerably less effective than one person, who's got pretty good knowledge of all those 10 disciplines. That one person now can figure out the crossover, and the patterns between them, whereas the 10 people will have a hard time doing it.
I believe that we need to be a little bit more specific and say, 'okay, got to have these transferable skills.' Everybody should be a good writer. If you do your podcast, or you’re a YouTuber, the strength of what you do is on your script. If you're an Instagrammer, the strength of what you do is your description, and all of those places; you still use those (things). The only reason that you use any outside media, any social media, any marketing platform is always the same. It's for one reason: SEO. It's to gather traffic from somewhere else, and bring it back to a place where you own it, so that you can build a relationship, and nurture and convert that traffic. Where would you bring it back to? Email. What do you do in an email? You have to write. It’s not a dying trade; it's a growing trade.
Karina Inkster: Absolutely. What about the thing that we are supposed to focus on? Of course we need all these 'good enough to be dangerous’ skills, which you just outlined: writing, behavioural psychology; those are all obviously important to anyone in any industry. What about this one, main piece that we are focusing on? I'm just thinking about people who have really wide-ranging interests that are in completely different areas. My husband for example, Murray, he's a web developer. He runs his own business, but he's got such wide-ranging interests. Any of those could be focused on, and developed into a career, which is a valuable skill in itself. His super power is kind of learning new things. When it comes to creating work, building a business, furthering your career: what if you're someone who's equally interested in web and app development, music production and arachnology, which is his case! Does he have to choose one and then leave all the others?
Jonathan Goodman: I want to hang out with that guy, first off. He should just get people to pay him to hang out with them! This is a good question. This is a question I've never had before. I'll spitball the answer. One thing that you realize when you do a lot of these interviews, and what speaker trainers always train you to do, is basically to have 5 to 10 good stories.
Karina Inkster: …and the talking points!
Jonathan Goodman: It's really easy once you get trained up, to basically do what a politician does, and just spin every single question back to one of your pattern stories. I'm not going to do that. I’ve been doing that with you all along. I’m not going to do that here, so I'm going to spitball this.
Karina Inkster: I cracked the code Jon, I cracked the code!
Jonathan Goodman: I've gotten really, really good at just talking over and over and over again about different things. You forgot what your original question is, and then transitioning to back into what I wanted to talk about the whole time. It's a very important skill! I like your question a lot, which is what if somebody is really good and has a lot of interests in a whole bunch of different things. I like this question because it's something that is completely unfamiliar to me. When things are really unfamiliar to me…. I think that people who I disagree with are really smart, and they fascinate me. People who are different than me, but successful: I'm fascinated by them. There's way more that I'm going to learn from them; than somebody who I agree with and I like.
I am very, very good at this: I naturally compartmentalize stuff, almost to a fault. If I'm working on something, I'm in it, which is why I turned my business into a publishing business. If the publishing business allows you to dive deep into a project, do a great job with it, put it out into the world, never think about it again, and then move on to something else: fantastic for somebody like me, who compartmentalizes. What you're speaking about with your husband is somebody who basically has all of these interests. What I would say there is, it kind of depends on what you want to accomplish as a human. I would look and say, 'what you love the most doesn't necessarily need to be the thing that you make the majority of your money from.'
When I say this kind of thing, especially to fitness professionals who are the most passionate people ever, I actually wrote this in a letter that we're going to be sending out to our people: I loved going to the gym until I started working there. If you really love something, if you're really passionate about something you probably shouldn't work there. I wouldn’t go that far, but you don't need to make the majority of your money through something you're passionate about. The best way to explain that it's just a metaphor. If you were outrageously passionate about dental hygiene in third world countries, and you believe that the solution is everybody needs a toothbrush, you don't need to start a toothbrush company. You need to start, literally, any company that makes a ton of money, so that you can buy as many toothbrushes as possible to donate.
If you are really passionate about something, if you really love something, what I would say is: you've got all of these skills, you've got all of these passions, all of these things that you love, that's amazing. Some of them are ones that are pretty easy if you really smart, and if you've got a good marketing mind and you network properly, you can make a lot of money in a little bit of time. Web development, for example. If you've got that combination of web development and SEO, then you basically say ‘ okay, professionally, I'm only going to do the thing that's going to make me the most amount of money in the littlest bit of time, understanding that there's actually a good chance that you might lose a little bit of your passion towards that thing that could happen. You don't really look at it that way, because you look at it and say, 'this is my point of leverage. If I do this thing right, if I put all my efforts professionally into this thing and build a reputation,' you don't want to dilute your efforts that way. Then, if he has these other interests, like audio production, if he’s into - what was the other one?
Karina Inkster: He’s super into spiders.
Jonathan Goodman: Super into spiders. Could he find those types of people potentially, and do web development for them? (Maybe not spiders)..
Karina Inkster: Web development…get it?! Spider related things… (so bad, so bad.) Ok, as you were.
Jonathan Goodman: I guess where I'm going with this is he doesn't need to make his money on spiders. He doesn't need to make his money on playing guitar. Maybe that's what he will make the most amount of money with (my guess is it's not) but maybe that is. Then you don't have pressure. You can go play at night at a bar or a club with your buddies, and not worry.
Karina Inkster: Isn't that kind of the whole reasoning behind OTA, which is Online Trainer Academy that we all have outside interests. You know, my interests are musical, and lots of things that are not directly related to coaching. Now, mind you, coaching and working with clients is something I absolutely love doing, but the whole structure of your courses, your material, and things that the Personal Trainer Development Center put out is around: how can you scale your fitness business, that you are probably passionate about, so that you have additional time for all the things that are important. Family, for my husband it would be music, for me as well. Isn't that kind of the whole structure around what you're trying to do by helping other fitness pros?
Jonathan Goodman: I'm fascinated by the science of happy, and we don't really have time to dig into it.
Karina Inkster: That's a whole other series there.
Jonathan Goodman: I am fascinated by the science of happiness because it's nebulous, and it's misunderstood. If you really understand what makes you happy, what brings you joy, you can work backwards and design a life around that. There's a baseline financial need for sure. But where you invest that money completely changes; this idea of experiences over things, even a bad experience brings you more joy than buying the best thing, because of our fondness for telling stories about how bad something is. The maximizing impressions you get by a thing, how much we expect a thing, you should always pay in full for something, for an item or a vacation or something you're going to get in the future, because you will enjoy it more. This is science, not a payment plan, because once you pay for all of the pain, all of the loss is gone.
Then you only have to look forward to this thing. Once you get the thing for the most part, the enjoyment starts to dwindle. I try to talk about business development. I talk about building a fitness business, if you dig into my work; it's basically like what John thinks about how you should live your life. I try to also show by example. I mean, you know a bit about our story. We've traveled. We've lived abroad for four to six months for the last seven years. This past year, I celebrated my third wedding anniversary with my wife hiking in the Albanian Alps. We took a four-day vacation, and took a bus down from where we were living in Montenegro at the time, while our nanny looked after our son.
We were away for eight months while I was running my business. I could build a bigger business, but what I have is big enough. Going back to what Dandapani taught me: this idea of what it is you really want to be doing. What is it that's really important? Make as much money as you possibly can, as long as it doesn't take away from that. The minute that it's taken away from that, it's too much. I could move to New York City. I could move to San Francisco, and try to build a nine-figure company. We have the platform, the base to at least make a go with it. I don't know whether I'd be able to do it or not, but we'd be able to make a go with it for sure.
100 percent, to answer your question. Yes. It’s what I try to teach. It's what I try to show by example, it's what I think is really important. What's interesting about particularly The Online Trainer Academy is our stated goal is: we're going to help you in one thousand dollars more a month with online training. When people get to that point (we guarantee you'll get to that point within the first 90 days or we'll give you money back), so everybody gets to that point. When people get to that point, a really interesting thing happens, because now they have enough space to actually think about what they want. We try to train them throughout to kind of be thinking that way. Some people are like, 'yo, I'm good. I don't have to train these three clients who are a pain in my ass anymore. I can tell them to go away. I can take a couple of holidays. I'm not worried about bills anymore. I'm good.’
Other people are like; 'now it's time to blow this up’, and both are fine. Other people, to be honest, get into that space. They think, 'now I have time to really think about it and reflect, and the fitness industry isn't for me. I'm now going to leave and I'm going to enter in another industry, but I have this online coaching now that's making me a bit of money, which gives me the space to make this transition.' To be honest, that probably brings me more joy when people figure that out, than anything else, because they would have suffered for years, probably, if they didn’t have that space to figure it out.
Karina Inkster: You're really in the business of engineering happiness, and individual definitions of success, rather than, 'Hey, I have this one thing that's going to be the answer.'
Jonathan Goodman: If you have one thing that will be the answer, it's the answer for a tiny percentage of people. How many people are going to be online trainers for the rest of their lives? How many retired personal trainers do you know? It's a stepping stone career. I know people who have been trainers for 20 plus years and retired as a trainer, but it's common. It won't be common. It's a stepping stone career. I'm proud that we're able to help people basically continue that progression. That's kind of it.
If you just teach people how to become an online trainer, you're doing them a disservice. You're really just giving them a little bit of money, and a little bit of time. The marginal value of a dollar diminishes every day. A dollar is worth less today than it was yesterday. It's going to be worth less tomorrow than it was the day before. You have to build more than that. You have to build assets. You have to build a life that you're proud of. You've have to build the mental capacity, and the space to build that mental capacity, the decision making muscles and start to carve out whatever that means for yourself, which is going to be different for every single person.
Karina Inkster: One hundred percent. What can you leave our listeners with who are in some level, all interested in fitness? There are definitely a huge proportion of listeners who are coaches themselves, but it's a wide range. They're definitely all related to fitness in some way, whether it's personal or professional, where can people start with this whole working backwards process?
Jonathan Goodman: The first step is something I know you're quite familiar with. It was passed on to me by a client of mine; his name is Tom, who is the Chief of Psychiatry at a major hospital in Toronto. He was the one who recognized in me that I was entrepreneurial. I think he kind of always wished that he did more entrepreneurial stuff. He still does. He walked up to me in the gym one day, he was five minutes late like he always was, and I said ‘ go get changed, idiot’. He walked up to me on the floor, and I said, 'what are you doing idiot, go get changed.’ He handed me a book, and he said, 'you're not going to be my personal trainer much longer.’
The book was Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. He's still a friend 10 years, 11, 12 years later, we still get together for coffee and stuff every once in a while. I don't know what it was. He just saw something in me. What he passed along to me, he helped me make that transition. What he did is he passed onto me is something called the Freedom Number Equation, which is the simplest thing ever: how much money do you need to make each month, so that you and your loved ones are looked after? That’s basically rent, food, if you’ve got dependents or loans, and keeps a little bit extra for extravagance. I call it 'something special for my wife fund.' What is that dollar amount? Do you know? Most people don’t, and the reason why it's so powerful is that it goes down into what fear is.
Fear is nothing but an irrational response to the unknown. We fear because we don’t understand. The actual worst-case scenarios, or the actual realities of situations, are almost never as bad as they seem, if we don't understand them. Even though we can't quite articulate what it is, we fear stuff because we haven't actually made sense of it. When you figure out the basic calculation, it should take you five minutes. 'I need $4,000 a month. I need 5,000, $200 a month.' Whatever it is, it'll be different for everybody. I mean, my number when I was single and lived by myself with no dependents and no loans was 2,600. You know, now I've got a family and a mortgage. Obviously it's more, but once you know that number, you've defined the problem and you can't solve a problem until you define it.
Now that you've defined that problem, you say ' I got to make 5,000 bucks a month.' Well, what does that mean? 'I need 25 clients, who pay me 200 bucks. I need 25 bodies. How do I get that? If I'm making $2000 a month already for my in-person training, I like that, and I don't want to leave that, why need $3000 more? I need 15 clients at 200 bucks a month.’ Your only job is to figure out how to get to that freedom number, whatever industry you're in, whether it's fitness, whether it's anything else. The way that you do that is you don't look for the most scalable. You don't look for passive. You don't look for low-end membership, or selling eBooks or anything like that. Go after the highest yield, highest margin activities you can possibly find, which in many cases is coaching.
That's why we teach online training. It's not because I love it. It's because it is the highest yield, highest margin activity that any trainer worth their salt can transition into like that, and get to that freedom number as quickly as possible. It's not scalable. It's not passive. It is a new way of trading time for money, except now you're doing it on your own schedule, which means you can do it at night. You can do it on the weekends. You can do it when your kid's sleeping, whatever it is. Once you get to that point, a beautiful thing happens. If you're really dedicated and focused on getting to that freedom number, and you don't think about anything else, when I need 15 clients, do I really need to post every day on Instagram and try to build up that following? Do I really need to work on that e-book? No: you need 15 people who are going to pay you 200 bucks a month.
That's when you talk to people, that's when you pound the pavement, that's when you knock on doors, whatever you need to do. This is where the hustle comes in. You hustle harder than anybody else. Once you get that freedom number, beautiful things happen. Now you have space. I always say, freedom is providing yourself the opportunity to fail. If you can't fail, you can't innovate. If you can't fail, you can't try things. What some people find when they do that exercise is they're already past that number, but they never knew it, right? Which is just as bad. If you are already past that number, but you never know it, you still fear, and you still think that you need to do all these things. You don't know where to start. If you find out that you're past the numbers, ' cool, man, you got space!' You got a bit of extra money you can invest back into your business. You got some time. Maybe you can give away some responsibilities to buy more time back, so that you can spend it on your business and build up your business even bigger. Wherever you are in the process, it's how you get to the next step and the next step and the next step. (And the next step!)
Karina Inkster: Love that. You basically have in mind this baseline freedom number, which you use to work your ass off at first, early in the process, in order to (down the road), be able to give yourself more freedom, start delegating, and all these things that happen when you grow a business.
Jonathan Goodman: At any one point, you're going to have to bust your butt. At any one point, you're going to have to do things that other people are unwilling to do. If you don't want to do them, that's totally cool, then you need to make a decision that you are okay with that. There's nothing wrong with it. There's nothing wrong with working for somebody else. In fact, I think a lot more people that say that they want to be entrepreneurs probably should work for somebody else. Owning a business kind of sucks sometimes. As anybody knows who owns a business, it isn’t for the faint of heart. It's not fun. A lot of times, the buck stops with you. If you don't know something, you've got to figure it out. That’s not a fun position to be in. Assessing that and saying, 'okay, it's not for me’, will actually (again going back into happiness) make you much more satisfied, and thankful for the position you are in, which is just as powerful.
Karina Inkster: That's a great way of putting it. Let's leave it there, Jon. I feel like we should do a whole series on happiness, and BS-busting around hustling and building businesses. It's been amazing speaking with you. Again, you are a major business role model for me personally, and I love following your work. The course that I'm in right now that you're running is fantastic. I’m very glad I joined. I think it was back in 2013, maybe the 1K Extra…super old school, which is awesome. Thank you so much for the conversation, thanks for coming on, and it was fantastic speaking with you.
Jonathan Goodman: You got it. Thank you!
Karina Inkster: Jon, thanks again for joining me today and thank you for the opportunity to speak with you. Make sure you head to our show notes at nobullshitvegan.com/075 to connect with Jon and to check out the incredible work he does. In the fitness industry, I feel like sane, no-BS, positive voices of reason are really hard to come by. I'm really glad we've got Jon and The Personal Trainer Development Center team out there to support us. Thank you so much for tuning in, and I'll see you in our next episode.