Off Topic

The “Can’t” Rant!!!

Three weeks ago, I had the good fortune of spending the weekend in Miami at the NFL Pro Bowl with three of my clients (and now close friends) – Miles Austin, Brian Cushing and David Diehl. I also got to rub elbows and talk training with many other coaches and players from the NFL’s elite group. It was an experience of a lifetime! It was also an experience that would not have been possible if i listened to any of the people who told me what I “can’t” do throughout my life! Read on and I’ll explain…

Hangin’ with Minnesota Vikings running back, Adrian Peterson, at the Pro Bowl

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I hate airplanes and how much I hate to fly. But, I must say, the three-hour flight to Miami gave me a much-needed break. It’s not often I get three hours free from training sessions, meetings, questions, favors, phone calls, emails and text messages! I basically had no choice but to sit back and relax. It was also the first time since I started my business that I really had a chance to reflect on all that has happened in my life since I took the entrepreneurial plunge!

Do I look like a guy that’s comfortable flying??

I have to admit, I started to feel somewhat emotional as I sat on the plane and reflected on the “humble beginnings” of my business. After all, it wasn’t long ago that I “rolled the dice” and started training athletes out of a storage closet with no money in the bank and no “Plan B”! In a blur, seven years have already passed, and I was now on my way to go watch three of my clients play in the damn Pro Bowl!

Two of the three Pro-Bowlers (David Diehl & Brian Cushing) were around during my initial “storage closet” years. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with my “storage closet” references; when I first started my own business, I didn’t have enough money to buy or rent a warehouse, so I rented an old storage closet that was downstairs from a health club. I basically cleaned it out, painted it and equipped it with the ‘bare essentials’. So the “storage closet” I often refer to was my first “facility”.)

A young Dave Diehl board-presses during his rookie year in the infamous “storage closet”!

It seems like yesterday that David Diehl walked into the storage closet as a rookie, sat down at the desk that was placed next to my belt squat machine (I called this my “office” Laughing ) with a pen & paper, and he officially “hired” me as his personal trainer. It was at this first meeting that we mapped out his training sessions and reviewed his goals – both short-term & long-term. Three of which were: Start every game. Play in a Superbowl. Make the Pro Bowl. He can now put a ‘check’ next to each one of those initial goals! True Story.

Mission accomplished!

It was during this time that a stud high school athlete was also training with us and making incredible gains on a “modified” version of the Westside Barbell method that I was experimenting with. I was logging all of his workouts and taking notes every single day for an article I was writing entitled, “Westside for Skinny Bastards“. I had a feeling that this kid was going to be really good so I wanted to document everything. The kid’s name was Brian Cushing and he did turn out to be really good!

A 17-year-old Brian Cushing dominating the competition

As I was reflecting on these – as well as many other stories – I had a flashback of the “advice” a former employer gave me after I told him I was going to start my own training business. Here’s what he told me:

“I know you’re passionate about training, but being a great technician doesn’t mean you can own and operate your own business. In fact, most technicians can’t survive as successful business owners! Plus, it’s a known fact that you can’t make any money with a hardcore gym anyway. Garage & warehouse gyms are a thing of the past. They’re just not profitable! It’s the SAQ (speed, agility, quickness) facilities that are profitable now. They are the future of this industry! Think about it; every high school has a weightroom – so why would parents pay for their kids to goto another gym when they can just lift at school?
‘Speed & quickness’ is also a much more marketable term. Trust me, I’ve done the research. ‘SAQ’ training also allows you to train more kids per session so the profit margins are much greater! You can’t create the same kind of buzz by just having kids lift in an old, broken down gym. There’s no value in that. But, I guess you’re going to have to learn for yourself. Just know that almost every trainer that left me to go on their own ended up asking me for their job back within a year. I guess you need to experience this for yourself. But, the door will be open for you when you come back.”


Reflecting on that conversation really made me think about how different my life would be if I actually listened to him…

Where would I be right now?

What the hell would I be doing?

Who would I be?

I can’t even imagine my life without my gym. The athletes, parents, coaches and cast of characters that walk through my doors each day have become my extended family.

Celebrating the fruits of their son’s labor!
I had a chance to reunite with Miles Austin’s parents at the Pro Bowl…
What a great feeling it was to see how happy & proud they were!

I now speak to individuals all over the world and also have products explaining the “business” of owning and operating your own warehouse or garage gym. People want to know the “secret” behind my gym’s success…they wanna know how we increased our revenue by 43% during a friggin’ recession…they wanna know what was my “back-up” plan…and they wanna know what was my initial 5-year plan, etc., etc.

The secret is… THERE IS NO SECRET! Truth be told, I had NO back-up plan and NO 5-year plan! And when I first opened the doors of my “gym”, I sure as hell wasn’t worrying about “profit margins” and “marketable catch phrases” like my old boss was telling me about. And maybe there wasn’t any “value” in the old storage closet I converted into my gym. But the financial “value” my old boss was referring to – and the “value” I was trying to create – were two completely different things! You can’t put a dollar value on passion, determination and work ethic. And maybe that’s why I never had “Plan B” and “what if” never crossed my mind. I was so damn determined to have the most badass gym on the planet – and I loved training athletes so much – failure truly never crossed my mind!! I had this insane “tunnel vision” – my mind literally NEVER strayed from my ultimate goal. Some people call this “bad business” or a “lack of planning”; I call it finding your passion in life, doing what you love for a living, and refusing to settle for anything less! When you find your passion and you combine it with consistent hard work, things have a tendency to “fall into place” and good things start to happen. Trust me on this one!

Can’t reveal any specifics regarding this pic…
But 13+ years of consistent grinding may be about to pay off…


All this reflecting really made me think about how many athletes out there have been told they “CAN’T” do something:

You can’t because you’re too short…

You can’t because you’re too slow…

You can’t because you’re not good enough…

You can’t because you don’t have enough money…

You can’t because you don’t have enough time…


Are you going to listen to “them”, or are you going to prove “them” wrong?!

Are you going to let someone else dictate your life?! YOU BETTER NOT!!!

I fuc*ing THRIVE on people telling me I can’t do something… and you should too!!

The “broken down” gym that apparently can’t compete with the bigger SAQ facilities…


Another shot of the gym that wouldn’t be “marketable” enough to attract athletes…


Tell me I can’t do something! I dare ya…

-Joe D.


*Please leave your comments below and let me know your thoughts on this rant!


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