Pretty frequently I get told something that really does bug me, it happened again recently. "You are so lucky to be doing something you love." Imagine quitting your job right now to start from rock bottom and building a career from scratch. Well thats exactly what I did, I finished my trade as an Electrician and left it behind to pursue purpose. Is that luck? Or is that being ambitious and kicking fear in the ass!
Thinking about how I was going to write this blog I was worried about how I could avoid sounding like a self absorbed dick or like this blog is a petty attempt at a success story. But you know what, fuck it, this is my story, I am proud of it. There is no goal to this blog, I am just simply writing down my story as a reflection for myself and anyone that would like to read it.
Opening A Gym With Less Than $500
My heart was beating hard whilst sweat was pouring out of me. I was in the middle of a fitness assessment at a gym called 'Alive,' it was apart of their protocol for any new personal trainers looking for a job. As they flogged me with burpee's, clean and jerks and jumping squats I thought it was a little odd seeing as I was a 118kg powerlifter at the time looking to be a strength coach not a cardio guru. I could deadlift 300kg but I was doing terrible at their fitness assessment.
A blessing in disguise, I didn't get the job with Alive or multiple other gyms I applied for, this forced me to do things myself. It all started with a bootcamp on Queanbeyan oval with my partner Amanda's friends where I made $40. I was ecstatic that I had made it on my own, I did it by myself and this broke a huge belief barrier for me. Not long after this 'Sherro' approached me and offered his space to start renting out of which was called 'PTC Canberra' which is now currently known as 'Burley Strength.'
I started with 1on1 personal training and began to build my client base. This journey alone was filled with challenges such as no shows, driving to the gym for 1 client and driving home, learning to get people to pay sessions in advance in case they don't show up. I could of been getting paid over $1000 after tax at my old job as an Electrician but here I was grinding my ass off to be paid $200 a week.
I went through my phone book and Facebook messaged everyone I knew to see if they were interested in personal training, do you know how f**king embarrassing and degrading it is messaging people out of the blue and trying to sell to them?? I was beginning to learn business, you do what you have to do, it is all on you! Heck, I would even go into friends Facebook accounts and go through all their friends to until Facebook blocked me. When your income relies on you, you do whatever the fuck you need to move forward.
I soon learnt the power of connections and mentors as I had a conversation with 'Mitch Pike' who owns 'Metamorph Gym' which spun UltraFS into a new direction. He mentioned small group training and the benefits of it, I thought it sounded fantastic. So me, jumping into the deep end once again, informed all my 1on1 clients we would be starting small group training and to my surprise everyone loved it MORE than 1on1 training and new clients started to roll in. The system I developed was so successful it grew to the point where I was making enough income to start my own gym after only 6 months of trying this new idea.
Once again I threw my dignity and pride aside and started pounding at banks and potential investors from every angle I could. I was rejected by 5 different banks and 2 investors, I only had about $500 to my name so it made it quite hard. 1 man believed in me, I used to work with him as a sparky and he knew I was ambitious and wouldn't take failure as an option. His name is Craig and I cannot thank this man enough. I showed him my business plan, the numbers made sense and with a bit of a push he would get his money back within 18 months. We pulled the trigger and went for it.
"From memory Craig told me his mum thought it was a stupid idea for him to invest."
After 12 months of starting my 1on1 personal training business 'Ultra Fitness and Strength Gym' opened. After 18 months of opening Craig had his money back plus a fat interest cheque that he deserved for taking the risk on.
Writing this gets me a little emotional, I am guilty of not feeling good enough a lot of the time but I do have moments where I reflect and feel pride and accomplishment.
I Want To Be So Busy That I Am Sick!
"I want to be so busy that I feel sick," "I want to be so freaking busy that the moment I wake up I have things to do literally until I go to bed." These are the things I would say to myself before opening UltraFS Gym, little did I know my wish was coming and it wasn't going to be easy.
I have no hesitation in saying the first 2 years of opening UltraFS Gym was THE HARDEST period of my life. It was full of 16 hour days, 70+ hour weeks, 3:30am wake ups with 10pm bed times. Then you would get some fucker come along and ask if you had a job outside of running the gym because it looked quiet, this really hurt and it taught me to be proud of myself because NO ONE will EVER understand what you have been through as much as yourself. People see the end result and think it is all fucking rainbows and butterflies.
I was burning out once a month, sleeping on the coach in the gym to catch an extra hour where I could, I still NEVER missed a training session and I haven't in at least 5 years, my progress with training went no where due to extreme sleep deprivation and anxiety. I was constantly highly strung trying to meet check points so the gym could get passed breaking even.
There is no doubt trauma is involved which has developed slight anxiety attacks to come and go in my current life. But was it worth it!? Hell fucking yes!! Living a life without following some sort of passion is for fucking losers, I say this from a place where I have learnt that as humans we need purpose and a passion gives us purpose, without this in our life we are nothing, we are depressed and lost, a fucking loser! Find your passion in work or outside of work!! FIND SOMETHING!! This kind of adversity has taught me an invaluable amount about myself, how my mind works and given me a huge amount of self awareness.
It didn't take me long to realise without extreme self awareness you will not keep a business open for long. Also, you better learnt to be extremely fucking optimistic and see everything with a glass half full because the universe doesn't care and it will try rip your soul out daily. I have been in tears by myself at the gym at 1am in the morning feeling lost a few times, the universe will try break you. The more trauma you over come, the stronger you will be as a person. There is no doubt this period in my life toughened my mind, to those ungrateful people that complain about the weather or the price of milk, go put yourself through fucking hell, I promise it will be good for you at the other side.
The Evolution Of Ultra Fitness and Strength
We got a little deep in the last passage so I promise to lighten things up now with some positive vibes by going through what we have done over the last 3 years!
Year 0-1 involved learning about how important culture is for a business, especially a service based business like a gym. 'Dave Nixon' mentored me a lot through year 1 and taught me a lot about people, how they work and how important culture is. I can't remember exactly how we thought of it but the new hashtag #TheUltraCulture became a hit. Culture is one of the main reasons why people join our gym and why our retention rate is firm. After all, if it wasn't for all the amazing members there would be no gym. I always say "I may have started the gym but it is our gym, I am just driving the bus, you guys can yell out directions and I can steer whatever way we like."
Year 1-2 involved a mentor named 'Brendan,' a very smart business man who taught me a lot about self awareness and mental health. I remember going for a coffee and I was so tired running off 4 hours sleep and he shook his head as I struggled to stay awake. One thing I will always remember him saying is "If you aren't having fun then why are you doing it?" This hit me like a ton of bricks, it made me realise that I am not having fun, I don't like doing 16 hour days, this taught me to work smarter not harder. For e.g. little things like answering messages in bulk and brining class times down to make MY life better.
I was over ambitious and wanted to knock the wall down and lease another 200m2 next door after only 1 year of opening the gym. Brendan pulled me back and recommended I spend a year just in business, be a part of it and just learn what business is about. This was one of the wisest bits of advice I took and it certainly paid off, it also taught me to start slowing down and to invest in myself.
Year 1-2 was remarkable because it was the year I employed my first coach! I had to learn how to be a 'boss!' Scratch that, boss to me is a negative word. I have learnt a boss micromanages and a LEADER inspires their team to be mini leaders and think for them self. I learnt about treating the coaches as a team, they don't work for me they work WITH ME!
Year 2-3 (this year) was the year we punched a giant hole in the wall and added another 200m2 to the gym. This created a room with more of a raw feel and gave birth to 'Ultra Powerlifting' featuring some of the best of the best Powerlifting equipment in the game! There are so many incredible things that have happened, below I will put some highlights with photos to sum things up:
This is the original room.
The new space.
The new space filled with 'Ultratarians.'
The birth of a brotherhood and f**king strong training crew. Including World Class Powerlifter Eric Lilliebridge who coaches most of us. On Saturdays it is rare to see anything under 300kg lifted.
Eric Prepping for 'Big Dogs 3' Powerlifting competition out of Ultra Fitness and Strength.
This featured training lifts such as a 477.5kg/1052lb squat. a 245kg/540lb bench press and a 409kg/901lb Deadlift.
My mental health currently versus 1-3 years ago is extremely better. I have morning rituals, meditate, watch daily self help videos, I work a lot smarter than I do harder these days meaning I am more efficient at getting a lot of work done quicker which gives me more time to invest in myself. I have taken up a few new hobbies like Golf which creates a wedge in my work/life balance. I hope in another 3 years I can look back at further positive advancements but currently... LIFE IS GOOD!!
Again, I find myself in a spot of new territory with Ultra Fitness and Strength holding it's first ever Powerlifting competition called 'Battle Of The Gyms' this Sunday organised by myself and Jez. I guess this will be a part of the story for Ultra's 3-4th year. I would also like to make a huge shoutout to all the people helping this Sunday, there is a huge amount of man power required to run a competition!
To conclude, I cannot say thank you enough to everyone in my life that brings positivity, to all the people that have helped on the Ultra journey, to all the incredible members whether past or present you have all played a roll.
"There is no such thing as being fearless, there is just people who have more ambition and courage to do what they desire anyway."
- Jake Fisher