John Romaniello is a New York Times bestselling author and one of the most highly regarded experts in the fitness industry today.
He has written for a myriad of publications, ranging from Men’s Health to Fast Company, and is also the author of hundreds of articles and dozens of digital products.
He’s also an angel investor and serves as an adviser to nearly a dozen fitness and tech companies.
Ever wondered how a first-time author could get a seven-figure book deal? Well, John is that kind of guy. In this episode, we discuss John’s first highly successful product launch and hear how he made $250,000 from a single selfie.
John also shares how he builds strong relationships with his audiences through his writing and storytelling process. We discover how John balances writing three books at one time and why talking about butt sex and Harry Potter has helped him grow a loyal following.
Lastly, we find out about his plan for a full immersion writing retreat workshop. And John shares why he decided to give up masturbating and buy a stuffed llama (and much more of course).
By the end of this entertaining episode, you will have a myriad of helpful tips to lead a more authentic business and life.
Key Points From This Episode:
- The 7-year-old selfie that landed John $250,000 in revenue.
- How John launched his first product from his mom’s dining room table.
- The power of the non-pitch and how it propelled John’s business.
- Why everyone wants a story – even when it’s written in the back of a cab.
- Learn more about John’s history as a Dungeons & Dragon and writing nerd.
- Don’t miss John’s upcoming writer’s retreat in the Hamptons.
- The article John wrote about Tim Ferris, that Tim Ferris loved.
- John’s secret to successfully building his audience.
- Butt sex, Harry Potter and the value of just being yourself.
- Interacting with your customers on the days of normality.
- Why John believes Voldemort could have crushed it on Tinder.
- Find out how John recommends keeping track of thoughts.
- Hear more about John’s upcoming three books.
- Why John decided to give up masturbation and pornography.
- Meet Carlos: The stuffed llama John travels with.
- And much more!
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
The Perfect Day Formula by Craig Valentine – https://www.amazon.com/Perfect-Day-Formula-Control-Your/dp/1619613557
How A First Time Author Got A Seven Figure Book Deal – https://tim.blog/2013/04/15/how-to-get-a-book-deal/
Neil Strauss’s book The Game – https://www.amazon.com/Game-Penetrating-Secret-Society-Artists/dp/0060554738
Winning The Story Wars by Jonah Sachs – https://www.amazon.com/Winning-Story-Wars-Stories-Future/dp/1422143562
Everything by Joseph Campbell – https://www.amazon.com/joseph-campbell/s?ie=UTF8&page=1&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Ajoseph%20campbell
Make Love not Porn by Cindy Gallop – https://blog.ted.com/cindy_gallop_ma/
John Romaniello Website – http://www.johnromaniello.com/
Roman Fitness Systems – http://romanfitnesssystems.com/
John Romaniello on Twitter – https://twitter.com/johnromaniello
John Romaniello on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/OfficialJohnRomaniello
“JR: I recently got a vape and I have no idea what the dosage is that I should be using and I just got blasted last night. Not realizing that I would not, it’s also like – it’s like a strain that affects your body and I sat and I just – I was glued to the couch watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows part two and I just found my mind wandering and for four hours, after the movie ended. I was just like, man, if Voldemort was born like 60 years later, probably wouldn’t have started this cult, probably just would like played a lot of X Box, maybe after high school he would have like gotten in good shape, crush it on Tinder.”
[0:00:41.3] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to The Fail on Podcast where we explore the hardships and obstacles today’s industry leaders face on their journey to the top of their fields, through careful insight and thoughtful conversation. By embracing failure, we’ll show you how to build momentum without being consumed by the result.
Now please welcome your host, Rob Nunnery.
[0:01:06.7] RN: Hey there and welcome to the show that believes leveraging failure is not only the fastest way to learn but is also the fastest way to grow your business and live a life of absolute freedom. In a world that only shares successes, we dissect the struggle by talking to honest and vulnerable entrepreneurs and this is a platform for their stories.
And today’s story is of John Romaniello. John is a New York Times bestselling author and one of the most highly regarded experts in the fitness industry today. He has written for a myriad of publications ranging from Men’s Health to Fast Company and is also the author of hundreds of articles and dozens of digital products.
He’s also an angel investor and serves as an adviser to nearly a dozen fitness and tech companies. We’re going to be discussing John’s first highly successful product launch and the $250,000 selfie story that came as a byproduct years later. He’s also going to share how he builds strong relationships with his audiences through his writing and storytelling process. Finally, how John balances writing three books at one time and his plan for a full immersion writing retreat workshop and much more.
But first, luckily, all I travel with now is a backpack for one reason only, it’s clothing form an innovative Toronto apparel company called Unbound Merino, they have clothes made out of merino wool that you can wear for months on end without ever needing to have it washed. This means I can travel less since the clothes clean themselves.
Check out the show notes page for an exclusive Fail On discount that you won’t be able to get anywhere else and if you’d like to stay up to date on all the Fail On podcast interviews and key takeaways from each guest, simply go to failon.com and signup for our newsletter at the bottom of the page. That’s failon.com.
[0:02:59.2] RN: Let’s talk about this $250,000 selfie.
[0:03:02.2] JR: Let’s talk about the $250,000 selfie. Okay, this is a story about a story and the story is that, I like money entrepreneurs, I’m not as responsible with certain things as I should be and creating content is one of those things, right? You get in your head and I’ve been really trying to be more diligent with Instagram and building my Instagram and I see what some of my friends are doing.
I don’t take a lot of selfies, I’m not good at it. And not because I don’t like – I’ve never met a mirror I didn’t like but for whatever – every time I take a selfie, I look at them, I’m like, my nose can’t be that fucking big. I don’t have the skillset and so there’s a folder in your iPhone titled selfies and it organizes them by date and I just went into that because selfies are like – if you want to build your Instagram, you got to post a lot of selfies, people want to see you.
I clicked on it and it brought me to the first selfie I ever took which was on February 20th, super early in the morning, 3:30 in the morning in 2010. I lived my entire life until 2010, never needing to take a selfie and then at some point, I’m being on the cusp of millennialism took over. I’m a story teller by nature and so I thought, “I’m going to post this selfie and tell this story.” The story of the selfie is that it was taken very late at night during the first product launch I ever did.
I had been in the internet marketing fitness world for a little while, I had been doing some online coaching and then it was time to launch my product and so the selfie is the frame where I essentially tell the story of this product launch where I had been working on it for months and everything’s coming to fruition.
You know, I launch what was then called Final Phase Fat Loss, it was a series of ebooks to help people lose the last 10 to 15 pounds and just right there, you know, it’s a really tight niche and the product had everything it needed. The copy was really great, the hook was good, the story was good, I’d spent a lot of time on it, I was very proud of it.
[0:05:08.2] RN: Did you write it?
[0:05:08.8] JR: I did, it was the first piece of copy I ever wrote and that was how I learned that I was a good copywriter because I saw what everyone else did, people sent me, my affiliates who were going to promote the product, sent me a lot of information and they’re just – there was a list of these 11 things that one needs to have in this order and I did it and I went in and I killed it.
It was a lot of very satisfying moments leading up to the launch where everyone was sort of nervous because I had never done this before and I sent the copy to Craig Ballantyne who was one of my mentors and then he sent it to another one of our affiliates. Mike Garry who – a very successful guy.
Had like a 900,000 person list in 2010. The subject line was “Holy shit.” I was CC’d and then the body was just “Read this” and a link to the sales page and I was like, “I guess I did well.” We got all these affiliates promoting, it’s going crazy, you know, I had been running a successful personal training business, blah-blah-blah, I don’t want to tell like the origin story of my business.
The launch went very well. And, you know, it’s this moment where your life is changing and you’re checking, you click bank account and it’s like $120,000, you check it again and it’s $125,000.
[0:06:19.5] RN: Kind of refresh game.
[0:06:20.1] JR: Yeah, the refresh game. But overall, the launch did like $465,000 in revenue, which was the biggest for a fitness ebook launch at that time. That was my goal, I really wanted to just come in and swing my dick around and be like, “I’m fucking here to party guys” and my buddy, Joe Marin who partnered with me on the launch had done the most prior to that like $330,000.
We came in and we broke that. At some point, you know, I realized how my life was changing and you know, the fact that –
[0:06:50.6] RN: This is a written story that you’ve written out?
[0:06:53.5] JR: Yeah, I’m in the cab, I flew to Mexico for my buddy’s wedding, my buddy Joey Persia who is in my Mastermind, he asked me to officiate his wedding. I’m driving to – from the Cancun airport in the back of a cab Tulum which is an hour and a half drive, looking for Instagram content because I don’t want to just start posting Mexico selfies and be an asshole.
I find the selfie and now, in the cab on my phone, I’m writing out the story, talking about the selfie which essentially is the story of the launch and how the online business bloomed around that.
Yeah, it wound up sort of leading me to talk about how coaching was very valuable and how – I just really want to tell the story because the main part of that story is this: People know the legend of Roman and they know that chubby kid, thick guy, they know, I came out swinging with Final Phase Fat Loss.
A lot of people don’t know is that I launched that product and this is the important part from my mother’s dining room table. I had been in a serious relationship, like why I got started in the online business and when it ended, we had lived together, I needed to move out and I was sort of –
In that like really crazy grind mode wherein I would get up at five in the morning, train clients at six, you know, I’d be out until nine PM and then I would get home and write content and work on the product.
Part of it was like I wanted to save a little bit of money but there was really this thing where I was like – I don’t need to – I’ll just move in with my mother, I moved back in at home and licked my wounds and you know –
[0:08:31.6] RN: How old were at this time?
[0:08:32.2] JR: I was 27.
[0:08:33.1] RN: That’s a tough ego hit, right?
[0:08:34.1] JR: It’s a tough ego hit but you know, now, telling everyone – that’s always the part of intentionally left out of the story, right? It’s part of the marketing like for final phase was like, when a New York City’s top trainers, 250 an hour. True, but I was also like, I had moved back to Long Island and was taken the Long Island railroad.
5:30 in the morning to train 6:30 clients. I’m like living with my mom but I launched that program from my mom’s dining room table and we did 465,000 in gross rev. Now, I made 150k and so much of it was thanks to the coaching.
I got a text message from one of my coaches and he’s like, “How do you feel right now?” It was at like, 3:45 in the morning. He was just waking up to start his day because he’s super productive.
[0:09:16.5] RN: This is Craig?
[0:09:17.9] JR: This is Craig Ballantyne. Who has like, now he’s written books called The Perfect Day Formula and Craig is just the most productive human I know.
[0:09:24.5] RN: I think side note. I think the first digital product I ever bought was a product that he created.
[0:09:29.8] JR: Turbulence training? Yeah, that’s a great program. He texted me and he’s like, “How are you feeling?” And I really didn’t know how to put into words the feeling of all this shit happening, so I’m like laying down with my chin on my kitchen table and I took a selfie and said to him, “Like this.”
I was hoping that would convey it. I went back to what we’re doing and continued to launch. The best part about this or the funny part is that at that time, Craig had like a 2007 Blackberry and couldn’t even receive picture messages so when I said “Like this,” he just didn’t follow up and I assumed he got the picture but he didn’t.
[0:10:03.1] RN: Yeah.
[0:10:03.3] JR: In any event, now, you know, this is seven years later and I’m in the back of this cab, writing this story and I’m like, “This is good, I think this is good content, maybe people will like this.” I had no real conception of how powerful it was going to be and I mentioned that I run this business Mastermind, right?
As a side, for context, I run a business of Mastermind. Mostly online fitness professionals who want to build their business. We focus a lot on writing and obviously storytelling, et cetera. But we teach people how to make money in the internet. It’s nothing crazy in that regard.
I have graduated a few people from the Mastermind in the last few months and while it’s not like the primary revenue stream for my business, if I’m going to do it, it needs to make enough money for it to be worth my time.
We have like a threshold of people that we want in there. I thought, “Maybe I’ll get six more people into the mastermind at some point.” And like two weeks prior to this, I was talking to my team and I was like, “Alright guys, this is what we’re going to do, we’re going to rent out a conference room in New York.”
„We’re going to start promoting it three months in advance, we’re going to charge people just $97 to get in, we’re going to give them a ton of content. I’ll bring in one or two speakers, content all day long and then at the end we’ll pitch the Mastermind or some form of that.”
You know, it sounded really good and I was about to start planning that when I got back from Mexico. Instead, I posted the selfie and wound up telling the story and mentioned, but did not pitch the Mastermind. We got like 42 applicants for this $2,000 month program and we’ve taken –
I wanted to take people onboarding a few more – we gave some discounts based on location and a few other factors. All told, even accounting for attrition, there’s always some drop off.
Just those new people alone will account for an increase in monthly revenue of around, like 21 to $22,000. Estimate that over the year, we’re looking at a $250,000 revenue increase from a selfie. That was the only marketing I did. I posted one selfie and then I followed up again with like a picture from when I was 20 years old which was just kind of fun, another fun story of me working at summer camp the first summer I shredded.
Ultimately, what it comes down to is like, that’s a $250,000 selfie that I – it was hidden somewhere on my phone and I wrote the “copy,” it’s a story in the back of a cab on the way to a wedding which was beautiful.
It was so much less work ultimately than like running a mini event. I can’t even – you know, what we focus on, on my business and what we teach the Mastermind a storytelling and people forget how important that is and even me, while I knew as I was writing it, I couldn’t recognize the greatness of the story and I can taste exactly when they’re going to respond to it.
I could not predict that the none pitch that just – “Yeah, hey, we got this other thing if you’re interested in learning how to do it,” was going to fundamentally blow it up that much and it’s crazy how little marketing I did.
The interesting thing is, Mastermind has always succeeded because of word of mouth. I mentioned it when I first started it two years ago and I funneled a bunch of people in and then after that, I’ve never really done anything.
[0:13:30.9] RN: Was your intention writing that article or writing that story to get sales? Even though you were pitching.
[0:13:37.3] JR: Honestly, I didn’t realize until I got to the bottom, “Oh I should probably mention the Mastermind.” I just wanted to tell a good story because my COO Jeff is constantly – he’s like, “If you want to build Instagram, you got to post every day,” and I was thinking.
He had sent me a text, on the plane, it’s like, “It’s time for a selfie today, find some good lighting.” He was just like yelling at me because Jeff is like, he’s COO of the business but also my life.
“You need some fucking content on your Instagram, find something to post.” I’m like “Fuck, my nose is so big” and I know I had this one selfie where I looked good and I’m like, “I’ll post this and tell this story.”
Not only was my intention not to pitch, I just wanted to tell a good story and at the time I was writing it, I was just trying to get some Instagram content so Jeff wouldn’t yell at me.
It became this entire other thing. You know, even though I knew that the story – it’s a good story, it’s not quite rags to riches but nobody knows that mama Roman was serving my buddy and I like chicken cutlets as we’re writing these emails that are going to go out and bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Hats off to my mom for keeping us fed and letting us just crash on the couch and the whole bit.
[0:14:50.3] RN: Just for context, we’re in your actual apartment, not in your mom’s house right now?
[0:14:54.8] JR: Right now, no. We are no longer – no, right now we’re in my apartment in the West Village currently.
[0:14:58.9] RN: You graduate to your own place.
[0:15:00.2] JR: Yes, I moved – I lived with my mom for like another month after that and then the next thing I did was I got this insane high-rise apartment, you know, in Hell’s Kitchen with a roommate of mine, I was still frugal and not being crazy but you know, it was at the time where there was this big wave of gentrification so a bunch of high-rises went up with – there’s a lot of demands.
A lot of supply, kept the demand low and we had this ridiculous two-bedroom that no one had ever lived in before, you got four months free on the lease, we signed a 16 month lease and so they amortized that course of it and I think it was like $3,400 a month which by New York City standards. It was crazy.
I was paying like two grand a month and she was paying 14 and it was – the roof deck wasn’t – it was insane, it’s the most insane thing. It’s like a pool and all the shit. Two months prior, I was like living in my mom’s place and like launching a product from her dining room table.
[0:16:01.0] RN: Just in terms of – that’s an amazing story – but just in terms of when – that was like your first real success? Would you say that in terms of financial – like financially?
[0:16:09.7] JR: That depends on what you look at, right? The personal training business was doing well. I mean, I was doing over 150k a year which is you know, depending on how you look at it, either very successful or modestly successful.
[0:16:23.2] RN: But grinding pretty hard for that, right?
[0:16:24.1] JR: Yeah, definitely, when I decided I wanted to make more money, the first thing I did was work more hours, it’s not like old school blue collar Italian mentality where I used to take clients from like, I would start at seven AM and end at seven PM.
Then I started taking clients at six AM and ending at nine PM. You know, I occasionally like raised my prices and things like that but ultimately, I just did life harder. It made my life harder.
This is the first real success where I could now see – I have some leverageable assets and there’s an arbitrage point where I can build from this and you know, like with the personal training stuff. I had one or two guys working under my banner but ultimately, it came down to the fact that the less I worked, the less I made.
The less I worked, the less I worked, which means that if people don’t see you training, you stop getting leads and things like that. You know, it’s sort of like that in the online world, right? If you stop creating content, you kind of disappear for two months then slow down quite a bit.
Even if like me, or you, like you get a big backlog of stuff. That was first real success, it was you know – I wanted to document it and the picture that I took and taking a slightly less endearing and more vulgar picture of your click bank account with $150,000 in it is something that people do.
You know, that’s really cool and so this $250,000 selfie from seven years ago was something that I carried on my phone, not realizing it or not wanting to delete it because of whatever sentimentality was attached to it.
Then on a whim, in a cab in Mexico, because I needed content so Jeff wouldn’t yell at me. I posted it. But, the most important thing there is that the storytelling is the thing that I’ve trained to do every single day my entire life, you know?
Since I was eight years old, I’ve been telling stories.
[0:18:17.7] RN: Like? Not necessarily writing.
[0:18:19.8] JR: Writing, yeah, no. When I was eight years old I told my mom I wanted to write a book and she asked “Why?” I said, “Because books make me happy and I want to make other people happy.”
I’ve always been a writer. And so, to sit and write a beautiful story in a cab, that part is not unusual for me. The idea of what happened as a result of that is certainly like that’s not as common. I’m not writing $250,000 Instagram posts frequently. You know, I’m very blown away with this.
Ultimately, it’s a $250,000 selfie, we funneled some amazing people into the Mastermind, you know, I’ve already started doing some coaching calls with them, we got a next meeting in a couple of months and they’re all incredible, high level people and really excited to work with them in all sorts of different businesses.
It’s crazy and then I don’t have to do that other marketing bullshit where I try to get people to a live event.
[0:19:09.7] RN: It’s like pushing versus pulling, right?
[0:19:11.3] JR: Exactly right.
[0:19:14.0] RN: The writing stuff’s really interesting to me because I’ve been writing a bit more now and I took a big break, it’s always made me happy as well, like in college like super emo and writing like blog posts about my life and poems and –
[0:19:27.0] JR: Yeah, I do that. I was in a couple of bands, I wrote a lot of song lyrics and most of them were very angsty song lyrics. Naming songs like my ex-girlfriend. My buddy and I, he had this ex-girlfriend named Diane. One of – we each wrote a song about our ex-girlfriend like sort of apart from one another and I came back with a song called “Kat With A K” after my ex-girlfriend, he came back with a one called “Don’t Say The D Word.” We can’t have both of these on the same EP. It’s very interesting but yeah, writing the – Yeah, very emo goth.
[0:20:07.5] RN: No, but I’ve gotten back into it and it’s been like a big break since I started writing again and it’s connecting with me a lot and I know – when did you start taking writing seriously I guess?
[0:20:17.0] JR: I think that there is a lot of the positive feedback loop that really forced me for this. I was always naturally good at because when I was a kid, I just disappeared into books, I read a lot, I was a very bookish kid. I didn’t – I played a lot of video games but I played a lot of RPG’s and so there was –
I was always being told stories, you know, I wasn’t really into shoot them up’s, I played Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior and Zelda and when I got into – first middle school. Or even elementary school. I would have assignments and I would write stories and I remember there was this one occasion where Mrs. Hoppler who was like my fourth grade teacher, pulled me aside and she’s like, “I need you to show me, you’re not going to be in trouble if you tell me now where you copied this story from.”
I was like, “Nope.” That was the first instance, then I started getting appraised for my writing and I was just like okay, well I’m good at it, everyone tells me how I can get at it and that makes me feel good so I keep doing it and I keep writing it. When I was like 14.
[0:21:17.2] RN: This wasn’t like you’re studying, this is like just naturally you’re writing?
[0:21:21.7] JR: Right. Reading and getting good feedback and then when I was 14 or so, I had a teacher who encouraged me to submit a short story. Just so everyone is aware of the type of nerd that I am, I have a lot of tattoos.
One of them is on my elbow, it’s a 20-sided di from Dungeons and Dragons. I played D&D, I’m very proud – I’m proud of my $500,00 launch, I am prouder of my level eight paladin travel in Dagmar.
I played a lot of D&D and I was the kid you would see with his four other nerd friends playing Magic the Gathering at the lunch table in high school because not that there’s anything wrong with it.
We were so uncool we didn’t even have a conception that maybe we should do the shit in private at our home, we just needed to get in a 30 second – 30 minute magic session.
[0:22:13.6] RN: That’s amazing.
[0:22:13.9] JR: At school. Big nerd. A teacher, you love this shit, why don’t you submit to like Dragon Magazine or Dungeon Magazine or Scribe. Scribe is the type of magazine you would read if you wanted to learn how to build like a sick fucking magic trick.
I submitted and I got my first piece rejected but then after that, you know, I got some good feedback and then after that, I got three or four pieces published in a row, in these magazines and I don’t really tell anyone which honestly was like my attempt at modesty.
Hoping that someone would find them and be like, “Dude, why didn’t you tell me?” Because none of my friends read it. You know, I’m still getting paid for articles and then I was always writing for school and then by the time I was in college and I had found fitness.
The only way I’ve ever been able to make anything real or truly process it is by writing about it. By journaling. So when I went through this big body transformation, the only way to make it real for me was to write about it. I got my first article published and what was then T Mag and is now T Nation, like 2002.
As that was happening, you know, I was at a school where they – I was in a creative writing program and I was like learning the craft of writing and starting to take it very seriously. You know, I was exposed to a couple of different types of writers.
I am not known for exercising economy of words. At the same time, I fell in love with Hemmingway and I was like, “This person is amazing at that but that’s not my thing.” You know, just really reading and loving and falling in love with the craft and you know, hammering things out and I just kept working at it and treating that like my job. No matter what else I was doing, I was always writing.
[0:23:54.4] RN: Like, just writing internally just for your own or were you actually trying to post everything that you got out of your head?
[0:23:59.1] JR: At the time, I wasn’t blogging but I was very active on various forums, writing very well written thoughts and polemics and diet tribes. But also writing articles primarily in the fitness space and then you know, sort of writing some lifestyle.
Then it just kept evolving in all these different ways and then it was business and then writing about writing, it’s kind of the thing that I do now. And then writing books and writing ebooks and all of the stuff and the thing that always help me stand out, regardless of how good my content was relative to everyone else, which is like you know, very good compared to others, not as good as some.
It was just – the writing is where I was able to stand out and yeah, it just always been very satisfying to me to teach and to be able to do that.
[0:24:42.6] RN: I know we’re talking earlier because we were trying to meet in Venice but you mentioned that you had – I don’t know if you’re still doing this but you mentioned you’re doing a writing kind of boot camp, right?
[0:24:52.2] JR: Yeah, this is – I put this on Facebook so I’m always like in awe of how stupid I am. I think that in general, if there’s one rule you should try to apply to your life is to take pleasure in nothing more than the violent exposure to your own ignorance and anytime you can be this wrong about something, it’s amazing.
I was on a call with one of my Mastermind members again, Jason Philipps, he’s one of the top cross fit nutrition coaches in the world, his business is killing it, he’s amazing. He’s an amazing guy.
You know, we talked about how he had been traveling around doing all these seminars and like “No man, you got to do like – you got to make people come to you, we’ll set up so you do four events per year, and people will come to you and you’ll certify them.” And then we just kind of rolled and toward the end, he’s like, “Well what about you? You get some more live events? You're so good at this. I like it.”
I was like “Yeah, I got this fantasy where I do this writing thing and it’s like you know, it’s like a writing workshop and I just say, we teach people how to write”. He’s like, “People that come to like a hotel and a classroom?” I was like “Yeah, maybe, but what if, it was like you rented a house and it was like three or four days and like do the class in the morning and you know, in the middle – there’s no internet and everyone has to come with a big project they’re working on and just work on that for five hours?”
There was like breakdowns at night and so I described – this dream idea that I guess had been percolating for a while and he’s like, “Bro, you should fucking do it, what’s holding you up?”
I’m like, “Man, I don’t think anyone would come. I think I’m like the only dork who wants to do that shit. It seems like going to be me playing magic the gathering by myself if I announce it.”
“It’s also like, I’d have to charge fair amount” and he’s like, “I don’t know man, I think people would be interested in that.” I was like, “I don’t know.” He’s like, “Alright, I’m going to do for you what you do for me.”
“I’m going to bet you right now, it’s like, I will bet you, what do you want to bet?” Like 500 bucks and like, the stakes we wound up settling which is randomly, it was $200 paid in five-dollar bills and three cans of diet Sun Kissed. Which is my –
That’s what I had to pay him because I then, went and posted it on Facebook and I framed it and like, I have this dream, I don’t think it will work and I described exactly what it was.
I was like, “Too bad no one will do it” and everyone’s like, “Your copy is so good, of course I want that, that’s amazing.” I was like, “Shit, dude.” The response was fucking crazy and like, 10 people were like, “What’s your PayPal, I’ll pay you right now.”
I’m like, “My god, alright, we’re going to do it. I’m going to do it.” I didn’t just like start doing it then because I was working at the time. I was knee deep in trying to figure out the next step for my book wiring process.
Yeah, now it’s happening, I really wanted to do it in October but now that’s a little bit proximal. I think like, if I can’t do it in late fall, just based on – I mean, I know that I could do it. I could theoretically put it together, sign up like 10 people and put it, I could do it.
I want like no more than 12 students and then myself and maybe two other teachers. Here’s the thing that I’m thinking, not only do people learn the value they get is also exposure to other writers. How much is it worth to you to have five hours a day, where for three days. Where you are forced to do nothing else but work on the big project that you’re like – have all these resistances.
[0:28:09.7] RN: Totally.
[0:28:11.3] JR: I’ll happily pay three grand for some focus. Just to fucking force me to – I have accountability to make – I’m like, “This will be great and I don’t really need to make any money on this. I can be break even plus my time” and I looked at a bunch of houses like – where could I host this?
Where can you do that where you can get 15, 16 people? The first thing I thought of because I’m a Long Island boy.
[0:28:36.1] RN: Hampton Trader.
[0:28:37.0] JR: Do it in the Hamptons in the off season because all those houses are built to share. You know, in the off season, it’s actually not that expensive. I was like, I talked to my buddy who is a – my buddy Rich Shonocker who is a chef and he’s got a restaurant here in New York that he’s working with.
I was like, “What would you charge if I wanted you to come out and cook for an event like this for three days?” He’s like, “Well, this is a weird position because if anyone offered me this. The first thing I would do is call you and ask you what you should charge.”
I was like, “I would tell you to charge like the cost of food plus $1,500 a day for your time.” He’s like, “That sounds fair. Yeah, that sounds good. Alright, I want to do it.” If you’re listening to this now and you’re super excited about it, I cannot tell you when exactly it will happen, I can tell you that it will be –
If we do it in the Hamptons, it would be in the off season, I was also thinking fall in the Hudson Valley is gorgeous. Anywhere that’s like I think two to three hours away from a big city so you’re distracted enough but the end of this three day period, not only do you have the writing and the work, you go celebrate a small victory and you know, you guys could go out into a bar and party.
It will happen based on my projections for the cost, the price would be around $3,000 and I know that I’m going to do it, I’m putting it out there, this is the first time I’m talking about it on podcast Rob, so thank you. I’ll do it.
Yeah, I just want to like work with people and get deep in the writing and like –
[0:30:12.0] RN: Is it writing based around business? Storytelling in business, or just any writing?
[0:30:16.4] JR: Anything that they’re working on. I would prefer that people – the reason I didn’t think people would do it is I didn’t think people would see the ROI, right?
I think that if you tell like, it’s a copywriting work and you’re going to be able to make $10,000 in sales pages going forward, of course people do it. You’re just going to be a better writer overall and that’s going to improve everything that you work on. I can’t quantify the value of that but I guess if you can – fucking $250,000 selfie then it’s high. It’s very high. It’s very high.
Now that I got that out of my pocket. This is the first time we’re putting together. I’m like, use that to market. This is such a valuable conversation for me where I’m having all these realizations.
[0:30:57.9] RN: Connecting selfies to writing.
[0:30:59.8] JR: So good, but yeah. I would want someone to come in with like, “I have this idea for a book that I’m working” on or I have two guys I know that are like – they really have this great idea for a screenplay. I have ideas, I’ve written screenplays, they’re all shit.
Hemmingway said the first draft of anything is shit and I think that applies. 10 next screenplays, they’re all fun ideas, good ideas, the dialogue is really good but the structure, they’re the cleverest six-hour movies you’ve seen.
[0:31:28.5] RN: Six-hour movies.
[0:31:29.2] JR: Six hours of fucking banter. But a good story. You know, I would rather someone come in with something like that, they’re like, I’ve been thinking about this for a year and I’ve got like an outline and then I just want to dig in with them and be like, “Let’s fucking do this.”
Hopefully, I can offer insight and actually help make them better writer during that process but at the absolute worst, if they come out, you know, with like 4,000 words a day on this thing and they’re like 12,000 words richer. I feel like they’ve gotten their value plus meeting all these people and being in this house and then there’s the chef.
I want to do it, I’m doing it, done, it will happen, I’ll let you guys know when I’ll – here’s the thing, I’m going to say this right now. I’m not writing a sales page for it or refuse, I’m going to take a screenshot of the original Facebook post and just film a video and I’m going to be like, this is what I’m doing, it sounds like –
I’m so sick of writing sales pages, I just don’t want to do that.
[0:32:22.7] RN: And it’s not like you have to do that.
[0:32:23.5] JR: I know, apparently I just take selfies. I’m going to take a selfie of that, take a picture of that typewriter up there, I’ve got this old 1954 Remington ran.
[0:32:32.7] RN: You Actually use it?
[0:32:34.2] JR: Yeah, as most writers do, absolutely atrocious handwriting. I’m a lefty in addition so I use this typewriter to write out thank you notes and like just like inside of a handwritten card, it’s just like “Hey, I’m thinking of you.”
I type it up on the typewriter and then I sign my name and so it’s like, it’s still sort of hand crafted and different than sending emails personalized. It allows me to hide behind the fact that there’s just like nice fonts on the typewriter and not my handwriting which is atrocious.
Little tip for you people out there. Get yourself a vintage typewriter and send handwritten notes on like nice paper. You won’t have to deal.
[0:33:13.7] RN: Can I get a picture of it?
[0:33:15.0] JR: Yeah.
[0:33:16.0] RN: I mean, obviously you’re doing a lot of coaching, right? Are you doing the business coaching? The writing coaching.
[0:33:20.1] JR: Yeah, I haven’t really started much writing, the business coaching is partially writing coaching, that all takes place within the Mastermind but completely separate of that, I want to work with high level entrepreneurs who were like, not as good as me in terms of writing but you know, maybe exceed me in terms of where their revenue is and they’re not like coming to me for me to teach them how to create funnels.
They’re just like, “I really want to become a better writer.” I don’t work with people like that and people who are – you know, they’re not entrepreneurs, they’re just like teachers and they’re working on their novel and they want to come and get better at doing that.
You know, my goal is to have one person there who is also in the publishing industry who can sort of like tell them very authentically, “This is where this would need to go for it to be saleable.”
This is where it would need to go for – if you wanted to work on your book proposal. I really want to get people to get a lot of value and I’ve been very blessed in my network to meet people like that and you know, obviously, a couple of years back, I had a book that was very commercially successful and emotionally successful and for which my coauthor Adam, whom I know you know. He and I were paid like a very large advance.
[0:34:26.7] RN: There is a really good – Tim Ferris…
[0:34:28.5] JR: Tim Ferris.
[0:34:28.9] RN: That’s an amazing article by the way. I literally copied the whole article, put it into a note in my mac and like okay, when I’m doing my book, I’m keeping this and following this step by step.
[0:34:38.6] JR: I got a lot of good feedback on that. I wrote that article, it was about 7,000 words at the time, I think they’ve added to it now and it’s called How A First Time Author Got A Seven Figure Book Deal.
Harper Collins paid Adam and I 1.2 million for two books, we canceled the second, we just like wanted to move on from fitness but yeah, Tim loved the article and that was, I put a ton of work into it.
I remember I wrote the article it was like maybe 6,000 words and so the book was published on April 16th. So my birthday is April 8th and it was my 31st birthday and Tim texted me at 6 PM and he’s like, “I have some questions that you need to flesh out these parts” and I had tickets to go see Allan Cumming in a one man show of Macbeth. I had tears in my eyes. Only for Tim Ferris and only because I know it’s going to be the most valuable piece of me to the book.
Do I skip out on Allan Cumming being every character in Macbeth? And so I didn’t get to see it but I was very excited to do so but anything for Tim. To this day Tim, if you need me I am here.
[0:35:44.6] RN: How have you done such a good job building your audience? Was it just the steady writing, slow build type thing or?
[0:35:50.5] JR: Yeah, I think that ultimately what it comes down to is I focus on not the 99% of shit that makes me the same as other fitness professionals, when I was self-identifying as that between 2009 and I guess 2015. But the one percent that makes me different, you know at the end of the day everyone in that industry is offering the same services. You help people look better, feel better, perform better, some variation of that.
The mechanisms that you use might be different but at the end of a 16-week program, the individual in question does not care how they got lean. They just care that they got lean and along that journey they can choose one of three people and one of them is Craig Ballantyne and he talks about productivity and getting up super early. And then one is, I don’t know like Mike Vacanti, my prodigy who’s talking about the ice cream and macros.
And then in the middle of that there’s me and I’m just like, “Let me tell you about butt sex and the Game of Thrones.” And you know that’s the shit I talk about all the time and I’m like, “Let me tell you about this time where I was scream crying at the Dashboard Confessional” and that somehow inspired me to write a program.
[0:36:58.9] RN: It is an interesting though because it sounds like you are able to become like your most authentic self, even though authenticity, a lot people are talking about it now but to truly be yourself is tough in this day and age and you do it well.
[0:37:12.5] JR: Thank you and it’s a slow process like when I first came out swinging. I was happy to talk about my music and eventually anal but it wasn’t until 2015 that I was comfortable talking about my depression and things like that. So it’s a slow sort of burn but ultimately I think that’s what it came down to. I was always very interesting to people because I think the most interesting thing is when you zig when everyone else is zagging and people like that dichotomy right?
So, I always go back to Neil Strauss’s book The Game. If you guys haven’t read The Game, if you think it’s douche because pick a part, it’s actually a retelling of the hero’s journey. It is beautifully written, Neil is and I hope he hears this because Neil is a good friend and I learned a lot from him. I believe that Neil is the most seasoned storyteller of our generation. He is absolutely one of the voices of and I am very blessed to know him and learn from him.
So the hero’s journey that is present in the pick a part, it’s always interesting to me because the reason – there is so many – in general, in business we have vision, we have strategy and we have tactics and so the tactics that are apparent in The Game are like be cocky, funny and there is a little bit of a peacocking. It’s so funny to me that that worked for Neil for very obvious reasons and wouldn’t work for me for the same reasons.
You know Neil coming out swinging and just being overly confident and you know he’s short, a 140 pounds, good looking funny guy but just looks a little geeky. You know I walk around 200 pounds lean with tattoos. When I behave in an overly cocky manner, all I’m doing is confirming people’s expectations of who they think I’m going to be.
[0:38:51.3] RN: Douchebag.
[0:38:52.2] JR: Right and so I come out talking about Harry Potter and people are just like, “Oh that’s interesting,” and I’m like, “I got this Dungeons And Dragons tattoo” and that is interesting to people. So you know it was such a change from the intentionally vanilla sort of PG world of fitness industry that I was able to gain an audience very quickly and everyone said, “You’re like the fitness Tucker Max” I don’t think that’s true but I mean if that comparison stuck I wouldn’t have been upset about it. Tucker has become a great friend and I love his writing.
[0:39:29.2] RN: Yes, unapologetic right?
[0:39:31.7] JR: Right and that’s the thing. I’m not going to be weird about the shit that I did. I did those things so let’s talk about them. I have some guys with whom I’ve grown close who are in the Mastermind and one of them, a guy named Adam Ali who runs Cycle Physique Economics, he said, “Whether you realize it or not what you did in 2010 plus, you gave everyone else permission to be themselves” and it’s amazing to think that. I don’t believe that that’s true. I’m not egotistical enough to think that I was the sole arbitrary of change.
[0:40:07.7] RN: But I still don’t feel like everybody is –
[0:40:10.1] JR: No not everyone is doing it.
[0:40:11.9] RN: Because social media is very – it’s still going to go for a lot of people.
[0:40:14.6] JR: Yeah, it’s a highlight reel. I know, I like but I try to throw in the low lights. I try to throw in like here’s some stuff that is truly embarrassing and then you know there is stuff that is right in the middle. I don’t know, I think it’s lot like relationships. When you’re with someone for a long time, people reduce relationships to a series of stories and your wedding day is the best day of your life and that’s true and the day your mother dies is one of the worst.
And the person who is standing next to you for both of those days is your life partner but it’s very easy to do both of those things. The script is written, when the stage is set, when somebody close to you has a death in their family, you intrinsically know how to behave right? You’re just there for them, when someone has a bad day you know what to say, you’ve read it, you’ve seen it, you’ve done it, that’s it. It’s emotionally challenging and draining but it’s not difficult.
You instinctively know what to do and the same thing when someone gets a raise or promotion that’s like, “Oh my god that’s amazing! Let’s go.” You know how to celebrate but there’s all those middling days of just like epic mundanity than how you interact with people on those days when you’re not excited when nothing particularly good has happened when you’re just in the routine and there is a lot of just hamster wheeling for life.
How you interact with people on those days, that is the real meat of any relationship and that’s why romantic relationships are harder than friendships because friendships are built around mundanity and you know like, “Oh just come over and I guess we’ll…”
[0:41:54.7] RN: You don’t have nothing to do right? “Let’s play some video games.”
[0:41:56.0] JR: Yeah and one of my best friends, a guy named Josh, when we were growing up he would play video - he loved certain video games that I didn’t and it was when I was building my business and I would go to his place and he would put Skyrim on which is a great game to watch but I didn’t want to devote 90 hours of game play. I would watch him play it as I was writing client programs and we would just hangout and order food and it was an amazing day.
[0:42:20.7] RN: Just proximity right? Hanging out with your buddies, even if you are not talking.
[0:42:24.0] JR: So I look at my relationship with my audience as that. It’s not just how we go, how we’re doing during the launches. It’s not just what I write during the bombing at the Boston Marathon, it’s how I am able to interact with them on all the days where nothing special happens and if I can be a bright spot in their day, if I can make them laugh or if they can just feel comfortable being like, “Hey man, I’m just bored with my life. Is there a book you’d recommend?”
If I can help them through that then I’m their guy for life because we have more of those days than anything else.
[0:42:59.8] RN: Totally that’s a good point. How do you do – I am just trying to think, you know Gary V always talks about it and I know you know him well. He always talks about “Document don’t create,” is that how you’re actually thinking about like coming up with this content? Is it just like living your life on a day to day basis and you are documenting your thoughts?
[0:43:15.4] JR: Honestly for me, if I have to be totally honest is I personally believe that it would be criminal to not share every half clever thing that tumbles into my head and it’s so ridiculous. I remember back when I was a dungeon master and I’d be like, “Oh this Goblin is going to say this funny thing” and I couldn’t wait for my friends to get to that point. So I just wanted to make my friends laugh and the same thing here, like sometimes I’m in the middle of the workout.
And something absolutely bonded, I giggle to myself. Sometimes I’m like, “They are going to love this” and I just dig that, I fucking dig that. So I don’t document a lot of my life. There is not a lot of my day to day that gets filmed. For Gary, it’s very easy for him to say, “Document don’t create.” He’s got a camera man and he’s got D Rock and he’s got Jordan training him and he’s on Planet. My day is like I am fucking sitting here in this very apartment on this very couch and I’m just like:
“Hmm what am I going to be watching tonight?” Like last night, I used a little edible marijuana from time to time for anxiety management and so I recently got a vape and so I have no idea what the dosage is that I should be using and I just got fucking blasted last night. Not realizing that it was also a strain that effects your body. I sat and I was just glued to the couch watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part two and I just found my mind wondering.
And for four hours after the movie ended, I was just like, “Man if Voldemort was born 60 years later he probably wouldn’t have started this cult. He probably would just played a lot of X Box, maybe after high school he had gotten in good shape, crushed it on Tinder.” I could not move. So documenting my life is not something that I am interested in because I don’t think it’s particularly interesting.
[0:45:09.7] RN: Well this is interesting.
[0:45:10.7] JR: Yeah but that is happening on my head. That’s not saying it got – what you like through your thoughts, maybe. I don’t know but maybe if Voldemort was born in the 80’s instead of Hogwarts having – instead of being the second wizard anymore, there’s a school shooting of some sort like that’s how things played out differently you know? And yeah, I don’t know what I was thinking because if Voldemort is in the 30’s, he is coming up on the 40’s.
And there is still a very prude culture. I’m wondering if Voldemort gets born in the 90’s and he grows up in the age of Instagram thoughts and it’s super easy for that guy to be like – you know I don’t know if you have seen young Tom Riddle? The guy was a looker, if it was super easy for Tom Riddle to just go out and get laid would he still be, “Alright, I am the heir to Slitherin but am I going to take over the world or am I going to use that in my Tinder bio?”
I don’t know but I feel like that’s very – I don’t feel like anyone in our generation is rising up thinking, “You know what despotism, that’s where I’ve got to go. That’s the move.” No, people are just like, “I’ve got to fucking take down Dan Belzeri, I am going to unfollow the guy” and that’s what Voldemort would have done, I think.
So I had that thought because I was glued to my couch because I had no idea how much to smoke or to vape I guess because that’s new to me because I have never done drugs. I have lived my entire life not doing, I have never smoked a cigarette, I have never smoked weed.
[0:46:40.3] RN: I didn’t realized that.
[0:46:41.0] JR: Yeah so I mean like –
[0:46:41.9] RN: Meanwhile I see on your bookshelf it says “ecstasy”.
[0:46:44.6] JR: Yes so somebody gave me a book. So I’m a really nerdy guy and so when I get into something I’m going to read everything about it. I believe that there is a lot of value in MDMA and a couple of the studies just moved to phase two to treat alcoholism and then there’s some for major depression. I have been playing around with some recreational MDMA and it’s MDMA The Complete Guide.
So it is Ecstasy The Complete Guide. So I am going to read every book I can find and scour read it. I’m not going to start putting things in my body. I am not as cavalier but that’s the difference, right? I guess that is the piece of me that’s like an entertainer. I am on Facebook, I was talking about rolling faces one time but back home here, I measured out the exact amount to take based on my body weight and have it based on the fact that I wanted to low dose instead of micro dose and you know –
[0:47:38.5] RN: It was a thought-out decision. It was just like cavalier.
[0:47:41.1] JR: Yeah, exactly and it’s very – but you don’t –
[0:47:44.2] RN: Last night wasn’t very thought out.
[0:47:45.6] JR: No. last night I was like, I am experiencing some anxiety and I’m going to put on Harry Potter which is comfort and then I just got glued to the couch and so I don’t actually know how the fuck we got there. But my point was that documenting that probably would be funny to some people. I don’t know so –
[0:48:02.2] RN: Well documenting the thoughts of what Voldemort could have turned out to be.
[0:48:06.6] JR: He could be something special. I feel like Voldemort might have his own reality show. Tom Riddle would you know, he was a good-looking kid, he could have killed it but I feel like growing up in a very prudish era, he is not getting laid because nobody is getting laid because the only way to get laid is to meet Lily Potter day one and just be her boyfriend forever and then you have to like –
Why doesn’t anyone idolize James Potter? He was an asshole and there was the one girl you know? And Voldemort, if you have read the new play he got along with Bellatrix which is not wreckable because she’s out of her fucking mind. So yeah, I don’t know I feel like Voldemort born the same year as me, turned out very different you know?
[0:48:55.1] RN: Yeah, I would love to see that, J.K. Rowling’s next book she should. Actually, my wife and I were just in Scotland for about three weeks and we were staying in this cottage. I’ve got friends there that have these cottages, a bunch of Airbnb’s they rent out but it overlooks J.K. Rowling’s house and I mean –
[0:49:12.1] JR: Is it palatial or is it fairly modest?
[0:49:15.1] RN: No it’s very modest. It’s got a lot of land. I think she has hundreds of acres but the house is very modest.
[0:49:22.0] JR: Yeah man, well how much do you need?
[0:49:23.9] RN: Yeah but I mean that is one of her four houses but –
[0:49:27.5] JR: Sure but if you’re going to have four houses, how many bedrooms?
[0:49:31.5] RN: How many palaces do you need? Yeah.
[0:49:33.1] JR: Right, I don’t know man. I’ve got a three bedroom apartment in Venice and I have this lovely 480 square foot palace here in New York but it suites my needs. I’m just past the point where I want to –
[0:49:46.5] RN: Care about what it looks like and?
[0:49:47.8] JR: I mean it’s decorated how I want and it’s the exact amount of space I need. When everyone is here, if I were to have six people over watching Game of Thrones it might be a little crowded in terms of just seating, but whatever man, it’s fine for me.
[0:50:03.3] RN: The location is amazing.
[0:50:04.2] JR: It is, yeah. We are right in the heart of the West Village. I really like it here so. Yeah, my point is document though create I think works very well for Gary. For me, I’m just share, whatever you think people will love and I like to do that.
I think I’ve gotten to the point where I tend to think in pretty direct lines and few abstractions then I used to and as soon as something tumbles into my head, I can immediately assess or discard it and like, “Nah that’s not it.”
“That’s for me, this is for them, that’s for me and this is for them” and I can put things into buckets pretty quick.
[0:50:35.8] RN: Do you get a lot of those thoughts? So how do you document that in terms of keeping track?
[0:50:42.0] JR: Just on a note app or like I talk and think and the hardest thing for me particularly because they happen a lot when I am in physical motion. So when I am walking on the street so that’s when I’ve got headphones with everyone has got one in and it’s got a microphone so I can record. I am just creepy talking to myself but the other thing is it always happen to me at the gym and the single biggest piece of discipline I had to institute is to not be the guy who just takes his phone and goes over and sits on the bench for an hour writing.
And I used to do that and then now I am just trying to speak it as much as I can and then get back to my workout. When I did it and actually sat and wrote it, my workouts would be shit because I’d like to lose energy and steam.
But now, I just record verbally what I want to like high level thought and then if there is a couple of sentences that I want to put there and then I burn through it and I have this intense workout because I can’t wait to get home and I get to write. So it’s very reward heavy and it’s very cool and I like that a lot.
[0:51:41.5] RN: For somebody that’s really interested in what you are talking about in terms of storytelling through business, what would you recommend for somebody to get started and incorporating stories and to know what –
[0:51:51.4] JR: Sure, there is a couple books. One is on the shelf, one is Winning The Story Wars. I can’t see the author from here. That was a good one, a big one honestly, Everything by Joseph Campbell and then my upcoming book which takes Campbell and applies it to sort of entrepreneurialism and self-development. It is titled, The Cave You Fear to Enter, and that is taken from Campbell’s one of his more famous quotes, “the cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek.”
So the title of the book is The Cave you Fear to Enter: [Really creative subtitle] I haven’t thought about it yet but the book will help you, please just buy it. It is the working subtitle.
[0:52:28.5] RN: Is it actually?
[0:52:29.3] JR: Yeah, I mean this will help you please just buy the book. It is the working subtitle so I am almost done with it and excited about it. I’ll talk to some master namer’s and see. You know, Tim will know exactly what to call it when I send it to him but yeah, working subtitle.
[0:52:43.5] RN: When is that out?
[0:52:45.2] JR: What would I know? So I am writing it.
[0:52:46.8] RN: Are you finished writing though?
[0:52:48.6] JR: No, I would say just over two thirds. So I am writing three books at once right now which sounds –
[0:52:53.9] RN: Not ambitious at all, huh?
[0:52:55.1] JR: You know what? For most people I think that’s a terrible idea for me based on the way I write. I am a sprinter and I get real sick of shit. I work on Campbell until I’m like, “Man I can’t talk about this anymore,” and then I am working on – I will tell you about all my books if you are interested. This is the first time I get to talk about the book on a podcast. I’ve been on a podcast moratorium because most of them are lame and this is a lot of fun.
And so the first one is Campbell: The Cave you Fear to Enter. The second one is a book of personal essays, which you know started out as a bunch of funny stories and has now morphed into stories and lessons that sort of – the frame is the time I grew up because I was born during a very special time in 1982 and so if you have been following media in general, I am what’s called a Zennial. People who are in the cusp of millennials and generation Z.
And it’s an interesting stupid word but it really does inform a lot of things because it how I relate how people in my generation and your generation, relate to technology right? So I am the last analog generation. I remember my phone number when I was a kid growing up in Queens. It’s 718-204-8965 everybody called that number find out who’s number that is now I have no idea but I don’t remember – I don’t know my mom’s current cellphone number.
It’s weird how your brain changes and you know anything that I needed to remember by wrote prior to getting a phone that would store all of that information is still there. You know my best friend is – Yeah, I don’t want you to call him I won’t talk about him but I still remember some ex-girlfriend’s numbers and things like that and so it’s a bunch of essays that are funny and are very personal and they pause it in a lot of the deeper questions in life but they’re coming from this perspective of I’m only 35. I am not young enough to pretend to be young anymore but I am not that old.
And you know I’ve got an 11-year-old son and looking at things from his perspective and just trying to really figure life out and so that book is titled: Okay, But How do Mermaids Fuck and that is a serious inquiry you know? It’s a philosophic inquiry and so one of the books, one of the essays in the book focus on pornography. So not really relevant to that but I gave up masturbating over two years ago not because I think it’s bad but because I wanted to see if I could do it.
I set this challenge for myself on February 3rd, 2015 that I was going to give up ice cream, alcohol and masturbation for a year and a day. It was just very story book and the alcohol lasted 93 days and it wasn’t challenging enough. So I replaced it with very limited internet usage which was hard. The ice cream, whatever it was easy but the masturbating was the hardest one for the first four months and then it just got easier and easier and then February 4th of 2016 came and went.
And then it was like seven months later I was like, “Oh shit, I guess I just don’t jerk off anymore” and I’m fine with that and so not masturbating hasn’t changed my life in any dramatic ways. But I do think watching a lot less pornography it can’t not be good. So, the essay on the one hand is sort of about the dangers of porn and it’s got a lot of research and it references Cindy Gallop, a woman who I know and her company, Make Love not Porn.
She did an amazing TED Talk and it’s written in the perspective of a father. I am worried about all of this access he has. So on the one hand it’s like abject concern and on the other I can fuck him up. On the other hand, I’m just completely resentful of him because he has so much access. I used to have to walk to school uphill both ways. We had the same four video tapes, VHS tapes that we pass around my friends. We had to work for our fucking porn, kid.
You could just jerk off in bed looking at your phone. You don’t even know what it’s like, that’s a real problem. So on the one hand, it’s very serious but on the other hand it’s written on this very tongue and cheek like this kid doesn’t know. If you never have to work for porn you can’t fathom what life we had.
[0:57:01.9] RN: Do you remember the channel like 00 with squiggly line?
[0:57:04.1] JR: Oh yeah and hoping and every now and then with the line and you’d see a boob, yeah and dude, I remember like fucking jerking off. You have to go first of all, dial up internet. So as soon as you sign on everyone in the house knew and then you go to AOL and you go to chat rooms and they have special chat rooms and then you’d have to – people you have trade JPEG’s back and forth and you didn’t know if they were going to send.
So you didn’t know if it was going to be good, you just send one of your best and they send one of their best and then you get to later on that night when everyone was asleep, masturbate to a still image on a computer, on a desktop computer in your living room in the very real danger of getting walked in on. That was what masturbating was like and this kids now just – the kids watch porn in class.
[0:57:55.0] RN: Yeah, all access right?
[0:57:55.7] JR: All access and it’s real fucked up porn and that’s the shit that can – it’s like I’m super worried. I have to have conversations with them like, “I just want you to know that facials aren’t the only way that sex ends. That’s not how you know it’s over and when it is over, that doesn’t have to be on the face. You could do that anywhere. Definitely don’t do that inside because you do not want to get pregnant” that’s a way. So that is sort of the essay and so that book is titled, Okay, But How Do Mermaids Fuck? A Philosophic Inquiry.
[0:58:28.2] RN: So being two thirds done are you done with two out of the three books or?
[0:58:32.2] JR: No, I’m two thirds done with the Campbell book. The way I am treating the mermaid book is like I might actually be done, I just have more ideas and I am just going to write the shit out of them and then at the end I will treat it like an album and get rid of the ones that are not as strong but yeah, I really like it. It’s good and then I have another one which started.
I don’t know if it’s a book. It’s a series of micro essays, one to two to three pages although one and a six which is I guess a regular essay. So each essay focuses on an individual aspect of depression of my depression. So one of them is about apathy and just like, “Oh I can’t just do anything. I don’t care about anything,” another one is quick sand where you care about things, you just physically cannot move. You feel stuck and then there’s one about rage.
There’s one called the pharmacological nightmare that is my body and so people who suffer from depression like me, you really have very high stress and so I wound up with both back pain and ulcers and so I have to take things to medicate for these except if I take pain killers for my back pain it lifts up to my ulcers and I start spitting up blood and that’s exacerbate by the antidepressants that I need to take and there’s ADD medication.
And so it’s this Tetris of one after take what so that I am not upset and as a guy who presents to world is very healthy and who in other ways is there’s a lot of weirdness built around that. So in that book, it will be a book of micro essays. I don’t know if I will release it for free or what I’ll do In any event, it’s titled, So As It Turns Out, I’m Pretty Fucked Up. You know, focus on my struggle with depression and suicide but again, tongue and cheek.
[1:00:13.3] RN: Yeah, plan on bundling those together, selling them all like, kind of the same time?
[1:00:16.3] JR: No, Campbell’s going to be sort of on his own, I want to sell that to a publisher or direct publish it and have that. Because that’s part of my business.
The other one, you know, the mermaid book is – I would love to just see that in like an urban outfitters, it’s just got very funny –
[1:00:32.9] RN: Traditional publisher for that?
[1:00:33.9] JR: Probably. Then the depression book, I don’t know, if the publisher was interested in, I go that way, it’s one of those things where you start to realize, it’s not going to fit into my business in any way because I’m not a psychologist, I’m not going to start doing coaching or any kind of treatment for depression.
The most I can do is give people insight. I wrote this 7,700 word opus on my struggle with depression and suicide a while back and the number one thing that I get in terms of feedback is, not from people who were depressed or who suffer from depression.
But people proximal to them. One connection over – “I finally understand what my father’s going through or my sister killed herself 10 years ago and I could never really understand it.”
I don’t know how effective I’ve been at talking about depression from a high level, in terms of communicating what it’s like, the only thing I can say is that I did my absolute best to talk about what it’s like for me.
That seems to have been enough to convey the people what the experience is. You know, is like, I don’t know what this book will be or if it will be a book but that seems to be the goal.
[1:01:39.0] RN: Got it.
[1:01:40.1] JR: In a way less serious.
[1:01:43.8] RN: Sure, as most of your writing, kind of tends to be.
[1:01:46.4] JR: Tends to be but with the mental health that’s serious thing, right? I do veer more toward the serious and there’s like – there’s not a lot of – in that piece and depression is, I think they’re saying jokes at all.
Yeah, it will sort of like – in the rage one, one of the hallmarks for me is my temper gets short and I just find myself getting insanely angry over absolute nonsense. I’m like, you know, for the minor transgressions are you know, they’re like, cause for justifiable homicide and so the open in quote of everything has that I do has like an opening quote.
Either the frame or it’s fun. There’s a great Chris Rock bit where he’s like, you know, “Hold up man, there’s no reason to go to prison for three years because somebody scuffed your puma.” Then there’s like a follow up. Don’t listen to Chris Rock about anything.
It’s just talking about how rage affects me and then there’s this little very well written vignette about how this guy at an event I went to. They’re pitching me on his affiliate product and he was – listened politely for as long as I could but the whole time, I’m looking at him –
He’s wearing this navy blazer and all I can think about is grabbing him by his lapels and opening his face with my forehead and I just like described what was going on my head, how I imagined it would be like, the feel of blood squirting and you know, how he would collapse and I’d be holding him by his jacket and I’d be holding him up as he collapsed and I just probably give him at least one more.
Then really getting into the fantasy of how everyone around me would react what happens, you know. He’s still talking to me and no idea. For me, it’s like very polemic inspired sort of, what happens in the narrator’s head in Fight Club and –
[1:03:37.3] RN: No, that’s phenomenal.
[1:03:38.3] JR: Stuff like that. I’m a real cheery guy. Real positive guy. You guys never read my stuff, I highly recommend getting involved now, it’s going to be great, it’s going to be a good 2018, is my year kid, let me be all over the –
[1:03:52.6] RN: No, I appreciate it man, thanks for hosting and thanks for introducing me to Carlos.
[1:03:56.7] JR: For everyone who can’t see us, Carlos is my stuffed Lama that I bring everywhere with me. By everywhere, I mean, he travels wherever I travel and the thing about Carlos is he’s not like a childhood toy that I’ve had.
I happen to love lamas, they’re one of my favorite animals and I was at urban outfitters with my wife and kid and shopping. I saw this, I was like, “I need this lama in my life.”
I decided, I guess I was 34 when I got him, it was like, “I’m going to cultivate this eccentricity, I’m going to be the guy, the 34-year-old man with a new stuffed animal and I’m going to see how people react.” When I fly, I don’t buy his own seat but take him out like he sits on my lap on the plane and people are like, “What’s up with this lama? Is this like a safety thing?”
I’m like “No, it’s my friend Carlos.” Like the most nonchalant, “No, that’s just Carlos.”
[1:04:54.2] RN: “He’s quiet, I speak for him.”
[1:04:55.3] JR: “Don’t worry about it, Carlos he’ll have a jack and coke. I’ll have a water.” Sometimes I tell the stewardess, “Can I have some extra crackers please?”
Yeah, for no reason other than – I like lamas, but now I like, if I don’t have Carlos – the thing is you know, you create these stories in your head and there have been times when I on a trip and I forgot Carlos and I feel like something’s missing. When I co me home to my hotel room and he’s not sitting on my bed, I’m like, “Fuck, where’s Carlos?”
[1:05:24.5] RN: “Why didn’t he say something?”
[1:05:26.4] JR: I created a dependency on the stuffed animal that I bought to be funny. We’re weird creatures but thank you for having me.
[1:05:34.3] RN: He’s sitting in your lap now so you guys are tight.
[1:05:36.3] JR: Yeah, we’re tight, me and Carlos.
[1:05:37.1] RN: Alright, thanks man.
[1:05:37.5] JR: Dude, thank you so much.
[1:05:38.3] RN: Yeah, you got it. All right, you could find John at @johnromaniello on Twitter at @johnromaniello. Of course, that spelling, along with all the links and resources John and I discussed including more information on his businesses and coaching programs can be found at the page we created especially for this episode, that will be at failon.com/037 and next week, we have a good one, we’re sitting down with my friend, Steve Cam.
Steve is also in the fitness realm, he’s a fitness instructor, publisher and writer, best known for promoting the paleo diet at the website, nerdfitness.com. Nerdfitness.com has a crazy following now, it’s a now worldwide fitness community dedicated to helping nerds and desk jockeys level up their lives.
This episode, Steve will be talking about his personal body transformation story which led to the foundation of his business and we’ll also be discussing what he learned from his previous work experiences and his advice for getting started on your own side hustle.
Don’t miss it, it’s coming up next. If the podcast is providing value to your life and your business and has the wheels turning, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what your biggest takeaway from this episode with John was.
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