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How the ‘power of broke’ saved me from the worst deal of my life

Let me tell you about the time I somehow convinced an investor to help me open up a gym. I’m only doing this because it seems like the next thing to do as a fitness professional. And I want the credibility to publish content online about fitness. I somehow think that owning a gym gives me the ‘permission’ to do so.

This investor owns some jet company and absolutely rips apart my business plan. But he believes in my abilities as a trainer from being a member at the gym.

And selfishly wants a gym in his portfolio. With the perk of him and his family have free memberships for life.

I’m 20 years old, ready to drop out of college, and put my life on the line for this gym.

But I am actually about to trade my life in for this gym. Because I have no real money. Neither did my business partner at the time.

My ego was so hell bent on making this location come alive that I was okay with earning back ownership of my business with sweat equity.

This didn’t seem like an ideal way to start off my twenties.

But hey, I’m working 3 jobs and focusing my energy into this one basket seemed better.

So months go by searching for this ideal location that fits all our needs and budget. I’m finding nothing. My business partner seems very disinterested in pursuing this path.

And I’m on the phone with this investor when he says, “It’s really down to what you want to do now. I don’t think that (BIZ PARTNER) will be driving this ship. So let me know if you want to pull the trigger on this. I don’t want to force you into anything.”

I have this moment of clarity where I’m watching Shark Tank or something. Then I find Daymond John’s book, The Power of Broke. I read it front to back in a few days. On lunch breaks, late at night, and during class.

Countless stories of people who had nothing. Backs were against the wall. And somehow they made their vision come alive.

Now at this point, something in gut tells me, “You need to start creating stuff online. You can’t wait till you own a gym.”

So I start a blog, where I’m interviewing people in the fitness industry. I’m doing book reviews. Pretty quickly, the members at my gym respond positively. This investor is watching me hustle.

And one day we’re at a wedding together. I notice his tone is different around what I’m building. It created even more of a desire on his part to do business with me.

My blog, which eventually becomes my podcast, is this proof of work that becomes my sweat equity. Every post or podcast I publish helps me build leverage with this investor. All of a sudden I don’t have to slave away for the rest of my life to own this gym.

But I’m still scared to take on so much debt for something I don’t really want. I wanted location independence. I wanted to create something online that strangers would find worth their time and money.

I give myself permission to create before I’m ready. And a few months later I land an internship at my dream gym in San Diego, California. This comes from an interview I do with the CEO on a podcast.

And I realize, “Holy shit. If you had a gym right now, you couldn’t just bounce for two months.”

That opportunity ended up turning into a 3 year journey. I get my dream job without all the bullshit I’d have to deal with from this investor.

And I still have this investor hitting me up periodically to see if I want to open up a gym.

There was another investor who was in Silicon Valley that was nice enough to look at my business plan very early. Before I showed it to the private jet investor.

But it was impossible to get his time and there was a part of me that knew, “This guy doesn’t take me seriously.”

Three years later, I’m getting DMs from him to do coffee. He also manages one of the biggest fitness moguls of our time, which will remain nameless. 

But silently I got the lesson burned in me. Not having money is a huge advantage. That story is more interesting than someone who landed $100k to make their dream happen.

The Power of Broke taught me:

  • to bet on myself by creating content (even when I don’t feel like putting myself out there)
  • how content is valued in the digital age subconsciously. The content landed me the internship both directly and indirectly.
  • my time was the ‘sweat equity’. I was willing to move across the country to work for free for several months. That grind I was willing to put in would stay with me
  • All of this was still very hard. It wasn’t ‘easier’ than opening up a gym. But it felt more purposeful at the time.

And I still get nightmares from time to time about what my life would be like if that deal to open up a gym actually went through.

I’d have none of the experiences I’ve gotten to have. It’s not just the 3-5 years, but the next 10 years could be impacted. Because I definitely wouldn’t have been into it enough to survive though a pandemic.

So I respect anyone who actualizes the dream of running an in-person gym.

But for me personally, using the Power of Broke, meant building a story around my name through media. Podcasts, blogs, videos, cold outreach, you name it.

And even though it felt like there was no point to creating content at the time, it’s visible in plain sight, how much it impacted how people want to do business with me.

It’s not always about coming from literally ‘nothing’. It’s the perception or feeling of having ‘nothing’. Whether that’s having no ideas. Nothing worth saying. And I think most of us experience a sense of ‘broke’ from time to time.

Having nothing in the tank.

So if you’re in that spot, I definitely recommend reading this book. But to make it even more accessible, I’ll leave you with a question. What are the things you really want behind what you think you want?

Owning a gym was the thing I thought I wanted. But when I dug deeper, I thought it would give me:

  • status, 
  • credibility, 
  • social proof, 
  • fulfillment, 
  • confidence, 
  • self-expression,
  • financial freedom,
  • location flexibility
It showed me there was a less costly way to earn leverage and get those same things.
So what is that for you? How can you deploy the power of broke? Especially while you’re building something bigger. That will likely take a long time.

The Power of Broke is a mindset that enforces immediacy and speed of implementation.

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