Josh: Welcome to the Gym Heroes podcast. I’m your host, Josh Peacock. Today’s show is brought to you by Gymdesk, the easiest gym management software you’ll ever use. Take payments, create marketing automations, track attendance, and much more. To try the software out free, go to gymdesk.com. No credit card or painful sales call required.
Our hero today is Nick Albin. known best as Chewy from the Jiu-Jitsu YouTube channel. In this episode, we discuss how he came to own an MMA gym, why he decided to expand it to have a fully equipped fitness gym, and how he used social media and content marketing to grow his personal brand as well as his business. Without further ado, here’s Chewy.
Cool. Alright. So, probably most of the martial artists that that happen to listen this podcast will know who you are. But for those of that run like maybe fitness centers and yoga studios, maybe they don’t know who you are. So, if you could start by introducing yourself and telling us a little about yourself.
Nick: Yes. So, introducing yourself is always kind of an interesting thing. So, my name is Nick. Everybody knows me as Chewy or Chewjitsu, since that is my sort of online moniker. Most of my students and members of my gym know me as Chewy as well. The name has just stuck. During my waking hours of the day, usually, the only person that calls me Nick is my fiancée. And then me and my business partner, Joe, run a gym in Louisville, Kentucky, which comprises mostly of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and mixed martial arts type stuff in combat sports. But we also have a fully functional like weight training facility, which we have done stuff with everything from like, Olympic lifting and CrossFit stuff to basically private training and personal training for people on an individual basis.
Josh: Very cool. So, actually, I’m going to skip to a question. So, what made you want to open…? I thought it was interesting. So, I have seen you mentioned that a couple of times in some of your videos that you actually have a full gym component tacked on to the Jiu-Jitsu slash MMA studio.
Josh: So, what made you decide to do that?
Nick: To do what? Which one?
Josh: To have a whole… well, both actually, but the one I’m most interested at this second is like, what made you decide to have an entire like fully functional gym inside of your martial art school? Because that you don’t find that super often, unless it’s like a really high-caliber MMA school?
Nick: Yes. So, what ended up happening, so the gym was going, was moving, shaking, and it was around 2012. And we had like a little space to lift weights in the gym. We had a a squat rack and a bench press and just the basic stuff if you want to lift weights. I am a meathead at heart. Like, I mean, I actually, my first love as far as martial arts and athletics and all that stuff, it was lifting weights. When I was a kid, I got jumped. I got beat up pretty bad by some much older people. And my buddy’s dad took me downstairs with him. Me and my buddy and my buddy’s dad, we’d go down in his basement lift weights, and this was around 7th grade. And so, I just developed a love for lifting weights. For me a lot of times, it’s very much my Zen time, right?
Nick: And so, my buddy, my business partner was growing this sort of boot camp thing going on. He had a boot camp going on for women, and that was taking off. And then at the same time, this is 2012, so CrossFit was starting to get kind of big. And he was getting into CrossFit, and he was like, “Hey, man, like let’s try to do this.” And so, we’re in like a strip mall right now still, and we’re working on buying our own place now. But at the time, this is several years ago, in the strip mall next to us was a beauty salon. And the beauty salon moved out, so there was an extra like 2500 square feet that became available, and we were like, “Oh, we want that space.” And so, we ended up taking that space over, busting down one of the walls, building that space. And developing a business through that as well. And so, we had bootcamp classes, CrossFit stuff, everything else.
And part of the reason, I mean, why is because, I mean, for me, most of what I do with my business really is to essentially scratch my own itch. So, for me, like I teach classes that help me out. I teach classes that would have been something I would have wanted to do and engage in. And I’m trying to create a gym and a whole thing that is something that I would have wanted when I was coming up, and something that I want now. Like, I mean, we’re still getting new toys into the weightlifting area. Like, we just bought like a brand-new like leg press from Rogue. It’s a great machine. We’re just like lucky to have it. I mean, I got it because I wanted it. And now that we have it, all the other members like it too because like, “Man, this is great.” And so, it’s one of those things where I guess it’s a creation of my own sort of desire. I want this stuff. And a lot of times, it’s a good place for me to come from, at least I’ve figured out in my world and with the success that I’ve had.
Josh: Yeah. I wish that there was a facility around me like that, so that I could pay 1 price a month.
Josh: And have access to a squat rack and a barbell on the bench, like so I don’t have to pay $400 to put one in my house on the third floor of an apartment complex.
Nick: Yeah. Well, it’s nice too, because I mean, we have around, give or take it fluctuates a little bit, but around 400 members to the gym.
Nick: And what’s really cool about it is that most people are doing the martial arts stuff, but you can use the gym stuff whenever. And it never gets so packed that you can’t move or that you can’t get to a machine that you want. And so, that’s kind of a nice thing where you go to a regular gym, and you might have to wait on the machine, you might have to wait on this stuff, whatever.
Nick: And in there, it’s kind of an interesting dynamic, where 1, the equipment’s open, and then all of us already know each other so we’re all like lifting weights. And it’s very much like, I don’t know what people think, but a lot of people have trouble going to gyms, traditional ones, because they feel so awkward.
Nick: And because they don’t want to do the exercise wrong or have people staring at them, whatever. And so, in our space, it’s a bunch of people that are already training together in other forms, and then they’re just lifting weights on top of it together. And then we have a number of members that just do the lifting weights, but they’re closely connected to our gym as well. So, it’s a really cool, close-knit community all the time.
Josh: Yeah, that’s neat. I think that, and I’m sure you produce a lot of competitors to that.
Josh: But I think it’s kind of like a lost opportunity not to have a gym inside your facility, when you do produce a lot of athletes, instead of to farm them out to other… I mean, you could have in house trainers or people that you contract in. But like you were talking about, it builds the community stronger, the links are stronger, and people don’t feel like embarrassed or anything like that. I mean, even if you got injured and maybe you can work on some of the machines but you can’t roll, you can still be at the gym…
Nick: Oh, yeah.
Josh: … and do something for recovery for like physical therapy and feel involved.
Josh: Like athletic improvement for performance, there’s like so many things you could do with the gym component. Although, I will say that that is a lot of additional overhead to take on to do that.
Nick: It is.
Josh: It sounds like you were already an established gym at that time, by time you expanded.
Nick: Yeah. We’ve been an established gym, and we’ll say ‘established’, meaning we’re actually making profit and we’re stable, we’ve been doing that since 2011.
Josh: Wow. Yeah, you’ve been at it.
Nick: And so, basically, the members… but see the thing is when we opened up that weight training area, what we really did is we had a little bit of stuff, like a little bit of workout equipment.
Nick: And then we were like, “Alright, let’s like…” it was kind of that time. Everybody was doing it. And we wanted to get that whole gym area going. And so, we have sort of sold upfront these boot camp classes. And we did not have a lot of weight equipment at the time. So, we sold these boot camp classes out those started doing well. So, then we use that money to finance more equipment. And then after that, then we opened up across that affiliate, and then more people came. And then we use that to finance the equipment. So, we basically kind of got an idea of where we were going with it, and then we created programs and things like that that people wanted so that we could finance the equipment that we were trying to get, initially. Like, because even back in 2011 when things were good, 2012 too, things are still a little bit tighter. We couldn’t just say throw up like, “Oh, we’re going to drop like 20 grand here to get a bunch of new stuff.”
Nick: We had to be a little bit more mindful with the money, but we were able to do it by getting people in to offer a service for them, bootstrap it, use what we had. And then when the money was coming in, then use that to get more stuff for them to grow the program even more.
Josh: Awesome. I love stories about like you leverage 1 revenue stream or 1 programs that help fund another, and then it builds and then you continue to build progressively like that. That’s really neat. So, let’s back up a little bit.
Josh: You said that you had actually got into weightlifting because you got jumped. You didn’t like me weak. I think a lot of us can really relate to that. When did the martial arts come in? How did you get started on that?
Nick: Yeah. So, 7th grade, started lifting weights. Because just like all of us that are lifting weights, we’re trying to change something about ourselves, right? And then it’s interesting. So, martial arts, it started with wrestling. Most people don’t consider wrestling a martial art, but it’s a martial art.
Nick: And I signed up for the wrestling team in 9th grade. And then I did not go to the tryouts. I remember when the high school intercom came on and said, “Okay, if you sign up for the wrestling team, go to the lunchroom or whatever,” I just chickened out. I didn’t do it because I was too nervous. But something was calling me to it. It was like I was supposed to do it. I don’t even know why I signed up for it. It just sounded cool.
And then the next year, I remember over the course of being in freshmen in high school, one of the guys got me to do football. So, I started doing football with them. And then at the end of the year, or at the end of the football season, I remember feeling connected to this group of guys, and kind of liked it. And now I was getting ready to go back to essentially being a normal student with nothing to look forward to. And some of the guys were talking about wrestling. And I remember that I was kind of interested in wrestling anyway. And so, since now, I already had a group of guys doing it that I knew, I was like, “I’ll jump in with them and go try this wrestling stuff.”
And so, then I began wrestling in high school and initially got my butt kicked all over the place. And then ended up doing pretty well my senior year. And then right after like high school, I jumped right into Jiu-Jitsu because I wanted to be an MMA fighter. And I think that I was drawn to doing these things because it was my own inner desire to not be a victim of the trauma that I had when I got jumped. Because I got jumped by 16 and 18-year-olds. They beat the crap out of me, broke my nose. And it left me very in a weakened state. And again, like you said, I wanted to be strong. I didn’t want to be weak. And doing these different physical things like wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu and MMA fighting and all that stuff, I think early on, it was a sort of a mechanism of myself sort of going towards this thing that I was afraid of, like afraid of physical confrontation. And by doing so, I conquered it and took the power back and then fell in love with it for different reasons later on.
Josh: Awesome. When did you realize that you wanted to start specifically like an MMA gym? Was that to help you’re on training? Or like what was the journey there?
Nick: To start an MMA gym, like when I started it?
Nick: So, what happened was, first off, there weren’t like really any specific MMA gyms when I started. And then in 2009, my coach was moving away. And I was a brown belt in Jiu-Jitsu at the time. For anyone who doesn’t know how the belt system works in Jiu-Jitsu, it means I’m like 1 belt below the black belt, kind of 1. I mean, you’ll see people teaching at brown belt. But it was a little bit more common back then. But most of the time, it’s black belt and higher, right? And so, it was around 2009, my coach was leaving with his wife in he was selling the gym. And the gym at the time was not doing well. I mean, it was like barely making, barely even. It wasn’t really making a lot of profit or anything like that. So, it wasn’t like you’re buying this like flourishing business.
And so, at the time, I didn’t have the money for it. So, my friend ended up buying the business from my old coach. And then I end up becoming the head coach at the time. And then later on, I ended up buying the business with another friend, we’ve just bought the business outright from the second owner, I guess you’d say. But originally, it was my friend who had put up, who had held the note to buy the business. And then I started growing the programs.
Josh: Okay. Cool. So, you said that when your friend bought it and you’re helping to build the program, it was maybe making a little bit of profit, but it wasn’t like a sexy deal, so to speak.
Josh: How did you originally go about growing your gym? And has that approach changed over the years?
Nick: Dude, the old approach was fucking stupid. I didn’t know what I was doing. I had no idea about business.
Nick: So, 2009, I started teaching, and then by 2010, I decided I was going to do this stuff full-time. I was like, “I want to go full-time.” Basically, I sold off pretty much everything that I had. Basically, it was a one night, I was driving my car, and we had had a really cool training session that night. And at the time, I still had like a normal 9:00 to 5:00 type job, and I had to go in on Sunday. And I remember just being so frustrated, because I didn’t want to do the job anymore. And I remember like having this flash of like my subconscious, the universe, whatever, God, you want to call it, basically was like, “Pull over. Let’s figure this out now. You can do this.” And so, I pulled it over. I looked at my baseline bills, how much I actually had to pay each month, and essentially getting rid of everything that I possibly could, my base bills were like about $1,000 a month.
So, I called up my buddy and said, “Hey, can I get $1,000 a month? If I get this, I don’t know where the rest of the money is going to come from for things like gas or food or anything else, but this will cover my car payment and all this other stuff that I still had around.” And so, he said, “Yeah, we can do that.” And so, in June of 2010, I went into it full-time, and I just knew that, if I went into this stuff full-time, that people would start showing up and classes were going to start growing. I was wrong. That’s not how it works.
Nick: Granted, we got some because we had an amazing product for the area. And so, we get a ton of referrals. And obviously, so by referrals, I don’t mean we actually even had… at the time, we didn’t have a referral program. They just told their friends because it was a really good experience.
Nick: Because, for me, I figured if I just gave these people the best experience I possibly could and I was teaching classes every day, that people are going to show up. And I was right about that. There were a lot of people that showed up because of those reasons. But when you’re trying to run a business and actually make some money, you’re going to have to do other things. So, this is around the time I started getting interested in the idea of marketing, because I didn’t know what I was doing. So, marketing is what I need to do.
And I remember coming across some book, it was like Guerilla Marketing or something like that, and it had all these like really cheap ways to market. And to be honest, I think some of them, a lot of them weren’t very good. Like, for instance, one time we bought a bunch of yard signs, and it said, “Boxing and Jiu-Jitsu.” And we were going around town like stapling these suckers up on telephone poles, which apparently, I think is illegal, but they never charged anything. But we were just going around doing this. So, we’d hop off a pickup truck, pop, pop, pop, put one on the telephone pole, back in the pickup truck. And we maybe got 1 or 2 people off that, which I mean, whatever we paid for the yard signs. But we didn’t really get much else to it. And then… but I knew that this marketing thing, that’s how you get people in.
And so, one of my first like big marketing campaigns/failures was… and this is just kind of fun, because it kind of illustrates what goes on now. So, around 2011, there was a UFC coming to the city, to Louisville. And we were like, “Okay, what a great place to just get people. People that are interested in our mixed martial arts and Jiu-Jitsu, and boxing, all the stuff that we do, these are the people that we need to get for our gym. It just makes sense.” And so, what we did is I got this idea from a friend of mine who did it Nashville, but I didn’t really know what he did on the back end. So, obviously just didn’t make sense. But I was just seeing on the front end what he did.
So, we went, we got some videos made of the gym. It was like this little intro song and a compilation of the gym that was like had music blaring and stuff. And then it basically said, “Give us a call. Join us today,” that kind of thing. And we put it onto a DVD, and then we got these really, really attractive women. One of the guys was in a fraternity. He got these really attractive sorority women to pass them out at the fight. And so, like when we get to the UFC event, all of a sudden, we see all these women with free DVD shirt on, they’re running around, they’re handing these DVDs out right before the fight. And then we just knew, dude. We gave out like 2000 or 3000, I can’t remember, several thousands of these discs. People are going to be flooding through on Monday. And again, it didn’t happen. And I think that it would actually work better if we would have given the discs out after they were coming out rather than before. Because you’re giving them a discount, then they’re going to go drink and they’re going to be at the event. Rather, like you’d be better to get them all pumped up, they just got done watching the fight. They all think that they can fight now. They want to be the next UFC champion, “Here, join us and be that.” And then the DVD did not have any sort of real what I would consider like it wasn’t based on good direct response principles.
Nick: And so, you didn’t have that nice like, “Here’s what you need to do. And here’s this like time-based offer,” or anything, nothing like that. And so, that failed. But it was a good mistake and we learned from it. And so those are some of the early ones. And then it changed into more of like we started having some success with things like Google AdWords and stuff like that. And then we started learning how to, personally, I started learning how to use like sort of organic marketing where, essentially, you help people out and you develop a fan base and a following. And then from there, people come to know, like, and trust you. And then it’s a lot more sweat on the front end, but it’s a beautiful thing. Because then people get to know who you are. If you’re transparent, like I am, they’ll get to know who you are.
And so, like, when people come into the gym now, they’ve watched my videos, they know who I am, and it’s not even a question. They’re like, “Oh, yeah, I’m signing up. Like, I’m ready to be here, because this is the guy I’ve been watching the videos. And of course, like there’s no question. If he’s in my town, I’m going to train with this guy.” And so, we’ve done a lot of different stuff over the years. And some of the stuff works for other people, some of the stuff doesn’t. Some of it works for us. Some of it doesn’t. But it’s very much just like, for us, like in martial arts, where we’re constantly testing, testing out techniques to figure out which ones work for us.
Like, for instance, we tried Facebook marketing. We had terrible results with Facebook leads for our actual gym business, right? But we have a great ROI on our AdWords and Google AdWords leads. They’re fantastic. And there’s reasons for that. But then likewise, but then on the flip side, with the Google or the Facebook, I’ve had great results with, say, my online business stuff with Facebook leads and Facebook ads. So just different tools for different situations.
Josh: Yeah. Is that how you got into YouTubing, like make the Jiu-Jitsu channel? Was that to help your gym out, or was that just like a personal project? What led you to that point?
Nick: Well, I always kind of wanted to do videos for a while. I always kind of liked YouTube. I liked it, I mean, I always watched it and I always enjoyed it. And there was all this stuff that was never covered that I was interested in. And so, I remember as far back as 2009, I wanted to start making videos. And in fact, in 2010, I remember I was getting ready to make a video and I had my camera put up, and I was going to do a Gi review. Because at the time I remember, like, I bought these Gis, and they were never gave reviews up. And it’s like, back then, it was a lot of money for these Gis. They were they weren’t as easy to come by as they are now where you can go on a website and get them cheap. They were kind of expensive, and there weren’t that many places that sold them. So, I was like, “Okay, I’ll do a Gi review and tell people about them.” So, I tried to do this Gi review. And if anybody’s been in front of a camera and you’re not used to it, it’s a very weird experience to talk to a camera with nobody else around. Like it’s different like when you and I speaking, like we’re talking, there’s this conversation going on with 2 human beings.
Nick: But when you’re just staring at a mechanical eyeball that’s inanimate and it’s not speaking back to you, it’s very weird. It’s very hard to project yourself. And so, I started speaking, and my girlfriend at the time was just laughing hysterically. And she’s making fun of me about it. And so, I kind of like got like a little bit traumatized from it. I was like, “Man, I suck at this. I just need to lock this up.” And I came back to it again about 2 years later and started doing videos here and there.
And then what ended up happening kind of where the YouTube sort of following grew was that, in 2015, I started kind of doing the videos more regularly as a part of my blog that I started. And then in around that time, I started doing drilling videos for my students. Because a lot of my students would come in for training sessions, and they would come in for open mats. And they would say, “Hey, guys, who wants to come drill?” And I watched some of their, quote, ‘drilling sessions’.
Nick: And they were basically just hanging out, talking for a few minutes, and they would roll. And not necessarily the worst thing, but you’re not really drilling. And so, I put together these drilling videos that were essentially my way of saying, “Hey, listen, if I’m not here to run you through this, just follow along these. These are decent.” And then that’s when the channel started to grow. People are like, “Oh, this is good stuff.” And then all of a sudden, I started getting lots of questions from people just asking about random stuff. And so, I was, “Okay, like, I’ll answer these questions.” Because there were lots of channels that I liked that were doing the same thing. I mean, Q&As, I mean, it goes back to the Dear Abby type stuff in newspapers. It’s just such a classic format. And there’s all kinds of different channels that do that. And so, like, “Yeah, I kind of like this. I’ll give my own spin on things and just like I would in the gym.” Because in the gym, I’m very much a guy where, as you might notice, you ask a simple question, and I go on like a long diatribe about something. And so, it was already kind of happening in the gym, so I was like, “Let’s just transport that to the camera into YouTube.”
Josh: Awesome. Yeah, I agree with you on that. YouTube is very heavy on the techniques. You can find any technique video you could possibly think of. But more of the abstract stuff, like things that I’m into, like training methodology, approaches to training, how to design drills and exercises, things like that, there’s actually surprisingly little of that. Mindset, like psychology, sports psychology, not a ton of it. And if somebody does address it, it’s a little bit surface level. So, yeah, that’s definitely something I have appreciated about your videos over the years, is not just doing like, “Oh, here’s how to do this unique armbar that I saw at a tournament or something like that.”
Josh: “Here’s this like wizard escape from side control.”
Josh: But yeah.
Nick: It’s because the techniques are easy.
Nick: Techniques are what people do every day. They teach techniques. Getting up and speaking, and I’m sure you understand this, getting up and speaking and being able to articulate your thoughts in a way that are coherent and entertaining is another type of skill to develop. And it’s not necessarily easy. And sort of a dirty secret about a lot of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts and competitors is that they’re not all that disciplined. They might speak about discipline, like, “I’m a disciplined guy, man.” Like, they’ll tell their students, “You need to be more disciplined in this and this.” But really, most of the time, it came easy to them. Like, for instance, like, I mean, like me like doing Jiu-Jitsu, like rolling, that never took discipline. I loved doing it. Like, from the moment I started, I freaking just loved doing it. Lifting weights requires no discipline to me. I just like doing it. Like, it’s sometimes in the early morning, because that’s when I really like to lift is there first thing in the morning, sometimes it kind of takes me a little bit to kind of get going. But like, once I’m at the gym, I love being there.
Nick: I love the feeling of being done lifting weights. And so, those things really didn’t require that much discipline to develop. And but when you develop other skills that maybe don’t come as naturally to you or come as easily, then you actually have to develop some serious discipline. Now, the process is the same, right? The process of getting good at these things is basically the same, right? You’re constantly putting forth your reps, getting feedback on how you performed and then trying to improve for later, that kind of thing, learning new techniques and tactics to implement. But ultimately, the fact that you may not be naturally as inclined to do it is what’s going to create a struggle for you.
And you can see this by, you can go on YouTube, and there is literally, in my niche, Jiu-Jitsu and stuff, there’s a ghost town of YouTube channels. A guy did a video once or twice and stopped. He posted a video, didn’t get a lot of results and said, “Ah, screw this, I’m going to do something else.” It happened with podcasts in 2020. Everybody was sitting around doing nothing, and they’re like, “I’m going to start a podcast.” So, we started a podcast. Not that… and I don’t know when you started your podcast and you did it 2020, I don’t care, it’s fine. But what ended up happening is then, after 2020 like was kind of done and people started going back to work and doing their normal schedules, then you had to dig into the discipline, because you didn’t have all day free to actually do this stuff. And then all those podcasts like stopped.
Nick: They just stopped at whatever episode they were, and they didn’t continue. And so, you can see that sometimes, like certain things, certain people lack discipline for certain activities. And so, I think it’s that it’s very easy to teach technique because it’s what we do all day long. It’d be the same as like a personal trainer and lifting, “Hey, here’s how to do a bench press.”
“Okay, thank you. What’s your philosophy on like lifting weights? Like, what do you really think about it?”
Nick: Then you have to be much more of a deep thinker. And you really have to tease out your ideas. And to be honest, a lot of people don’t do that. They don’t really think about their ideas beyond the surface level. They’re just like, “Pump the iron. Get strong. Do this armbar because I said so.” You’re not necessarily, they don’t get down to the deep philosophies as to why they’re doing certain things.
Josh: Yeah. You have to think about it more deeply. And you have to have a broader base of knowledge. Because if you start speaking outside, hey, as a Jiu-Jitsu guy, maybe you’re not a personal trainer, and maybe you’re not like a certified strength coach, but you do, if you want to be a good competitor, and you want… especially if you’re you don’t come from very athletic background, you want to like catch up and get strong, you have to know a little bit about how to train. And you have to have some thoughts about how that pairs with your Jiu-Jitsu training or whatever combat sport that you do. So, you do have to broaden your knowledge base, even if you’re not an expert on everything. And then you have to think really deeply about how they pair together and, “What do I know about biology? What do I know about skill acquisition?” all these sorts of things. It’s funny that you say that everybody started their podcasts in 2020. This podcast started, we launched the beginning of this year. But…
Josh: I have a personal podcast called The Combat Learning podcast.
Josh: Which is about motor learning and skill acquisition for martial arts.
Josh: And I started that in 2020. But in my defense, I’ve continued it…
Nick: Nice, nice.
Josh: Through working. I was actually working full-time nights at the time we started it. But I was thinking about it for a long time before 2020. That’s just the opportunity.
Josh: That’s when it struck. So, I was like, “Well, I’m caught between jobs right now. I’ve got like this dumb security gig that I’ve got to do here, whatever. I might as well do something else with my time.”
Nick: Yeah. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. 2020 was a great year to take you out of your routine and then make you assess what you were doing. And it was a beautiful time for a lot of people because they got to figure, “Okay, I don’t really want to do what I was doing,” or, “I want to change things.” Because you see that with the work-at-home movement, and like people being able to work more remotely now. And it’s a beautiful thing.
Nick: But at the same time, what happens with some people is they have those moments of clarity where they’re sort of taken away from their routine, and then they go back to their routine, and they just kind of go back to it just because.
Nick: And so, that that’s the thing. So, I think what happened was some people saw this moment of clarity, “Hey, I want to do some of these projects and some of these things. I think it will be a lot of fun.” And then when things started happening, they got sucked back into their schedules, and the other things that they started to do during that period, were just they went by the wayside.
Josh: Right. It’s like those ruts in the road where the road’s old and the tires keep falling into the same place, and it gets to like a divot.
Josh: That pulls your tires in. When it rains, it’ll flush it out, and maybe you’ll be out of it. But as soon as the water goes down, you get pulled right back into them. It’s basically the same thing. Cool. So, what is your…? Actually, let me back up. Has your YouTube channel helped your school grow? You mentioned about the content marketing, where you kind of build a relationship with a prospect before they get to the gym, so that by time they get there, they’re ready to sign the line. I know you can do that on Facebook. You can do that on Instagram. Has YouTube specifically, has the channel helped grow your gym?
Nick: Yeah. So, something I didn’t really make clear earlier (and this is my fault), part of the other reason why I was doing YouTube videos is because I thought that what we were doing at the gym was pretty cool. What ended up happening is a lot of times, people would come to our gym, they’re like, “Dude, this place is awesome,” and they would sign up. They would come from other gyms and sign up. And it was something where I didn’t really think about it, but I would have people that would literally, there were guys that were training all over the place, they would come to our gym, like, “The atmosphere in here is incredible.” And I always thought that was neat. And so, I was like, “Well, I’d like to do some videos to kind of showcase that too some degree.”
And when I started doing the videos and doing all that stuff, what ends up happening is, obviously, more people watch the videos that never become members. Because obviously, you’re talking about an international base. We’re not just talking about my city. But what ends up happening is, if anybody in my city goes to search up Jiu-Jitsu, they’re going to see my face, because I just have so much content, and it’s been well received. And I put a lot of work into it and that kind of thing. And so, what ends up happening is those members or those people see my face. And so, they start watching this guy. And I don’t really make it explicitly clear that I’m in Louisville, but then a lot of times they go deeper, and they find me. And then boom, like they find out I’m in Louisville and they sign up. Now, this is a cool thing. This is like, what is it? Dan Kennedy talks about this, like, “The best people swim upstream,” right?
Nick: So, you can go acquire customers by buying them. I mean, we all buy our customers. Everybody paid. You pay something for your customers at the end of the day.
Nick: But when it comes to paying for them, some people will just go out, put it on Facebook ads, put it on whatever, and then buy those customers that way. And you can see your actual acquisition costs, things like that.
Nick: When you do something where you put out content and people find you, they discover you on their own. And whenever you discover something on your own, there’s a different sort of situation that happens. You weren’t… for instance, when an ad pops up in front of us, we’re all hesitant. We’re all a little bit. We look at it, we’re saying, “Man, is this guy for real?” Because there’s so many is shysters out there. There’s so many people that are essentially, especially with the internet world, you got so many people in the business space that are information guru types where they have lots of information, they’ve never used any of it in an actual business. Their only business is selling you on how to run a successful business.
Nick: It’s absolute hogwash. It’s basically like, it’s the guy, it’s the obese person telling you how to lose weight. It’s like, “Okay, give me something else. Like you’ve never put any of this into practice.” So, with that, when someone finds you, they don’t have that resistance because you didn’t put an ad in front of them. They found you on their own because you were searching up stuff. And then with your content, if you give them good stuff, then you become associated in a certain way in their mind. So, for instance, there is this… it’s a really bad thing, but there is with coaches, a lot of times there’s this proclivity to want to wow people. They want to like, “Oh, look how much stuff I know. Look how cool I am.” And basically, they’re trying to impress people because they have insecurity issues. in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you see this a lot where you’ll have new coaches who want to do techniques that are way too complicated for beginners, but they look cool. And so, you get people to like try them out, and you can do whatever. And same thing with social media. In Jiu-Jitsu, you’ll see a lot of like social media stuff where the guys will do these crazy techniques that would never work like for anybody if there wasn’t a huge skill discrepancy.
And so, and you see this in weight training too where guys do these weird funky exercises that, again, nobody actually does, but they look funny. And it looks like it could be interesting, and so it gets likes and stuff. The problem with doing that is, is that the people aren’t going to get results from that. And if they don’t get results, then they’re not going to associate you with someone that gives them results. So, for instance, you may get a quick, a little burst of likes or shares or whatever on that particular post, but when people go to buy something, they’re not going to go to you because they’re going to be like, “Well, yeah, his stuff looks cool, but it never works,” or, “Yeah, like, it’s got some neat ideas, but that’s too complicated for me.”
And so, what ended up happening is I started putting out a lot of stuff, and I was basically giving stuff out as if they were my students. So, I had to keep it simple and effective, because I’m like, “This is the stuff I’m giving to my guys. My guys are going to be watching this stuff.” And so, as I started getting that stuff out, it was simple stuff. Now, going back to the original idea, when people then find my stuff, it’s good stuff. It’s stuff that’s going to help them physically, mentally, technically, with all their stuff. And so, they’re like, “Man, this guy’s good.” So, not only they found me, so there’s not that resistance of an ad. And then on top of that, I give them good stuff. So, that then when it comes time to actually buy, the decision to actually pay for something, they’re like, “Yeah, this guy’s done so much for me already. Of course, like, that’s the guy I’m going to go to.”
And so, when those people finally come into my gym, I mean, bro, they’re sold before we even ask them to pay for anything. They come in, they get a good experience. The gym is just like they expected. I’m the same guy as I am in the videos in person. And they sign up right there. And they have a good time. And they become flourishing members of the gym. And they’re people that end up sticking with it for a long time.
Josh: Yeah, that’s awesome. I’m a content marketing guy. That’s what I do for Gym Desk. I got into marketing because I used to teach Taekwondo.
Josh: I had a Taekwondo club for about a year. And I had to shut it down because I needed to take a full-time job. But I wouldn’t have had to do that, if I knew more about business, and especially about marketing. I didn’t grow very much, I had excellent retention. So, the product itself was sound. But I got into marketing after that, literally learned how to market piece of one to come back around later and actually be able to open up a successful martial arts school. But yeah, what you’re talking about with the content marketing, that is definitely. I think a mistake that a lot of content creators make is that they try to create a persona that isn’t their own.
Josh: And when you sell a business where sell a service, like in the case of martial arts, or if you’re like a personal trainer, or a yoga instructor, anyone who teaches or has to be in front of somebody for the service that you offer, you can’t create this like charismatic, like this new image, this new thing about yourself to put onto the internet, and they come and meet you and you’re like a different person.
Josh: And your energy level’s at a different level. You talk differently. You’re not as polished. Like all these different discontinuities between the way you present yourself in your messaging and the way you are when you’re actually delivering the service itself. I know that one of the things I’ve personally seen is people, they’ll do something that they put on Facebook or on YouTube, where it’s like really organized.
Josh: And then they teach a class or they teach a lesson, and it’s disjointed.
Josh: And it’s scattered, and sort of haphazard.
Nick: Yeah. I think every one of us is different people in different situations. Each one of us has multiple masks that we wear throughout the day. The way that I am with my fiancée is different than the way I am with my students, it’s different than the way what I am by myself. And you can 100% change yourself. You just want to make sure that those changes are intentional, and they’re who you want to become. Because we’re all trying to change yourself. I mean, weightlifting, the whole damn point of weightlifting is to change ourselves. To do training is to change ourselves. It’s to change ourselves into a stronger person physically and mentally, so that we can do the things that we want to do, right?
And with that, I’ve changed several things about myself. For instance, like my voice. My voice when I was younger used to have a bit more of a drawl to it that we would associate with maybe being a bit more from the south. It would be much more noticeable. It still comes out in certain words, and some people can pinpoint that. But for the most part, it’s pretty neutral. It doesn’t have a very strong accent this way or that way. Just kind has that basic American-sounding English.
Nick: That was done intentionally. I heard a video of myself when I was like 24 years old, and I didn’t like the way that I sounded. So, actually, it was 22, excuse me. And so, I was like, “I’m going to change that. I don’t want to speak like that.” Because that, to me, it doesn’t evoke an idea of intelligence, right? And then even like certain habits I chose, I don’t really play video games. Like, when I was younger, I used to love video games. And every now and then, I’ll play for like, right now, I have some friends that I’ll play. We’ll play for like an hour or 2 once a week. And it’s kind of like just a brain dump for a little bit, just let my brain relax.
Nick: But when I was younger, dude, I would play video games a lot, like hours and hours of the day.
Nick: And I thought about it, I was like, “I don’t want to be the person that plays video games like that, because that doesn’t seem like it’s going to be resourceful for me being a business owner.” And so, there were lots of little stuff that I changed along the way with the habits and everything else. And it was done intentionally, because it’s who I wanted to be. And so, the big thing is, if you are going to put on a persona, make sure that that persona is something that is a mask you actually want to wear when you meet people. Because like you said, you don’t want to be a persona, and then all of a sudden, you meet someone in person, and it’s not actually the persona you want to put on. You’re just doing it for the videos, but then you don’t actually want to be that person. So, then when they come in, they’re like, “Who is this person? This is not the person that I be starting to like in the videos.”
And it’s a definite point. Because I’ve had some people say that to me, they’re like, “Yeah, it was so cool meeting you in person, because you’re like the same person in the videos.” And I was like, “Well, have you met someone else in videos?” They’re like, “Yeah, I’ve met a couple.” Like, there was 1 guy who’s like, “Yeah, I’ve met a couple. And sometimes they’re not exactly who they act like they are in the videos.”
Josh: Right. Yeah. And I should clarify on that, because my teaching style. I’m more of a reserved person, like just in everyday life. But in the New Mental Toughness for Sport, I think it’s what the book is called, I forgot the name of the author, but he talks about the performance self. And the performance self has to be connected to your authentic self.
Josh: But it is different, because it is performative. So, it’s more of, and rather than being actually different, I guess you could say is amplified.
Josh: Right. So, when I started teaching, you can’t be quiet. You can’t… you know?
Nick: You can, but nobody’s going to listen to you.
Nick: It’s going to be as boring as can be.
Josh: Right. You have to have energy, especially when you’re teaching kids. And so, I had my first Taekwondo instructor was very charismatic. And so, I picked up a lot of stuff from him. I did a instructor program there too. So, I learned a lot from that program, and from him especially, so I just internalized some of that stuff and then kind of made it my own. And that’s what became my instructor personality was that. But the jokes that I told the kids, those are mine. The particular flavor and all that kind of stuff, my timing, that was mine. That’s part of me, and that’s not something that I just stole from somebody else. So, you do have to have that performance self. So, if you’re going to be in front of the camera, maybe it’s going to be a little bit of more of an amplified version of yourself, but it does have to be a version of yourself. It can’t be like, rip off from your favorite comedian or something.
Josh: But like you said, you are different with different people, and you have a different dynamic with people that are close to you versus maybe third-ring acquaintances or people you have to entertain more.
Nick: Correct. Well, and I mean, I’m even, I’m kind of a reserved person. Like, I’m kind of like a social extrovert. So, like, in settings, in certain social situations like the gym and those kinds, I’m very much an extrovert. But on day-to-day things, I’m very much an introvert. I’m kind of to myself, and I kind of like to sort of… enjoy things like solitude, being by myself.
Nick: Doing whatever I’m doing, reading, relaxing, whatever, because it allows me to charge my battery. So, then I can go out and do my extroverted things. And I sort of count like sort of this is opposite to say like a true extrovert, whom they go into groups of people and they’re just like charged up with energy from it. I do get charged up with energy from those situations. Like, if I go to a good class, or seminar that I’m teaching or whatever it might be, and then once it’s over, it’s power down.
Nick: And then I’ve got to recharge. And I like to recharge by myself or in the company of very few people.
Josh: Yeah. And that’s okay. I remember when we had… I worked for a franchise, and I used to teach. And the guy came and he shook my hand everything, and I shook his hand. We exchanged some words, but I was kind of… I let him go and talk to like the program manager and stuff. And I was mostly quiet, I didn’t say that much. I was going over my lesson plan, making sure everything on the mat was ready to go. And then the kids started showing up, and then it flipped on.
Josh: And then class started, and then it went off again.
Josh: And so, it was explosive. There’s a lot of kids there. It was loud. I taught, like my backgrounds Taekwondo, and I do Jiu-Jitsu just for me. So, I taught like a Korean karate system and everything, and they love to make just things loud for the kids, because the kids to get all the energy out.
Josh: The parents like it.
Nick: I did Taekwondo when I was a kid.
Nick: Like you’re just doing a punch, you’re counting, and you’re just like, “Rah!” screaming.
Josh: Yeah. It’s cathartic. It’s cathartic.
Nick: Yeah, it is.
Josh: And afterwards, all the kids left, I powered back down.
Josh: He came up to me, he’s like, “I gotta be honest, man, I thought this is going to be a dud when I met you. And then you just came alive during the class.”
Nick: That’s funny.
Josh: And I was like, “Yeah, that’s…” my friends, my system instructor the program, my friends said to me they thought was funny, because they had known me for a while. So, that’s a very low key, and then class starts and it goes. But yeah, that’s how you got to be. People think that introverts, that they’re asocial or anti-social or they can’t be… they’re awkward, and they can’t meet people or enjoy being in social settings. That’s just not true.
Nick: Well, a lot of people use it as an excuse.
Nick: Because people, this is something that I’ve been big about recently, thinking about the belief systems that we hold on to. So, people hold on to certain beliefs about things. And it doesn’t mean that they’re true, it means that they’re a belief. Like, it’s something you believe, but it doesn’t mean that it’s true for everyone. Because someone else is an introvert, or someone else does this thing, and all of a sudden, they have completely opposite results because they choose not to believe in what you believed, right? So, for instance, you’ll hear introverts say, “Oh, I can’t do that. I’m more of an introvert,” or, “I’m not this,” whatever. It’s like, “No, you absolutely can, because there’s lots of people that are just like you that are doing it.” And even sometimes people that say, like they’ll say things like, “Oh, I can’t do content, because I don’t write well. I don’t do this well.”
Nick: So, what? Nobody does. It’s like everybody had to put the forward thing.
Nick: You’re putting a belief system on yourself that you can’t do this, and you’re accepting that belief, but it doesn’t mean that it’s true. It just means it’s what you believe. And so, you have to be careful with that.
Josh: Limiting belief. There’s so many, so many limiting beliefs. Especially with the pop psychology, the whole introversion, extroversion thing. I’ve tried to… I’ve an interest in psychology, I’ve tried to track that down. And I think there’s truth to it in terms of like how it is that you energize yourself.
Josh: Introverted people are more energized, they have to recover with more downtime, especially time to themselves. Whereas extroverted people, they feel more, they get energy, they draw energy from being around other people. And that’s the extent of it. It doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to be shy. It doesn’t mean that you can’t learn to perform. Some of the best performers are introverts.
Nick: Yeah, a lot of them are.
Nick: And were deathly afraid to get up on stage. When I started teaching, they hired me to teach, and then all of a sudden, I’m in front of 400 people at an event and I have to give a lesson, or something to try and promote the school. Or I’m in front of like a church or some organization, and the community, it’s like, “Oh, yeah, you got to just go do this.” And it’s like, are you going to be like, “I’m sorry, I can’t do my job because I’m an introvert,”?
Josh: Hey, you have to figure it out. I did it. I did fine. It’s not that bad. You can say ‘um’ in ‘uh’. You know what I mean? Like, people aren’t going to judge you because you say ‘um’ somewhat. Just have an idea of what you’re going to say and be personable. It’s like people make a much bigger deal about breaking out of their comfort zone and things like that than I think needs to be made.
Nick: Yeah. I think it’s this idea, like I’ve noticed this where like, as society tends to go on, we like… I think it’s interesting. It’s like, you’ll see people make a fuss about, “Don’t put labels on me. And don’t put me into a box.” But then people have this little knack for creating lots of boxes for themselves to be trapped in.
Nick: So, it’s like, “Don’t put me in a box, but I’m going to put myself in a box.” And then people cling to that. They cling to these ideas in all sorts of different manners. And I’m glad that when I was growing up, some of those boxes weren’t available. Like, we didn’t have names for those boxes. Because I think that it would have been a negative thing for me, because it could have been a place to essentially avoid discomfort, and just like not do things that were difficult to me because I could like, “Hey, I’d like to do that, but I’m a blank. So, I’m in this box, and I can’t do that. I’m sorry. Like, you’ll have to exclude me.” It’s like I think it would have been a terrible thing for me.
Josh: Yeah, I agree. Self-labeling is, if you’re trying to be like a scientist, labeling is like having a taxonomy, it can really be helpful for relating things to each other and understanding things. But if you’re a regular person, you don’t think in scientific terms. You’re not thinking of trying to taxonomies your experience so you can understand it. You’re going to limit yourself when you start slapping labels on what you do. “Oh, I’m an introvert. Oh, I’m an INTJ, whatever unicorn.” Like, I’m not a fan of Myers-Briggs, but…
Nick: Well, no, I mean, even like with that, like as humans, we classify things. We like to put things into categories and chunks because it makes things easier. So, for instance, when we come to know a person in a certain way, we like them to stay that way. So, this way, we don’t have to think about it, right? And so, we do this naturally. But the problem is that, just because you made up a story about what it is doesn’t mean it’s true. It’s like, for instance, calling certain animals herbivores doesn’t mean it’s true. Like they do eat mostly plants, but it doesn’t mean they won’t eat meat.
Nick: I mean, there’s plenty of videos of like deers eating chipmunks and all this other stuff.
Nick: It’s like, “What’s that nice herbivore doing eating meat?” It’s like, humans gave it that label. It didn’t give itself a label. That’s nature. Nature doesn’t care. Nature doesn’t have these imaginary stories that it tells itself. That’s humans. And those imaginary stories are really helpful. I think the big key is that when you tell yourself an imaginary story about yourself, it best serves you well. So, make sure that you’re conscious of the stories that you tell yourself about yourself, and make sure it’s like, “Is that the best story that I can tell myself? Is that actually helping me? Because if it’s not helping me, let’s go ahead and get rid of that sucker.” But if it’s helping you, then run with it.
Josh: Yeah. That’s interesting. I’m a big proponent… I’m not a proponent of self-deception, but I am a big proponent of telling yourself stories that are going to get you to the next level. But it requires self-awareness. Because the thing that overlaps between frauds and high-functioning people that… or high-performing people rather, is that they both tell themselves narratives that aren’t quite true yet. But the fraud tells it as if he thinks it’s true for like an insecure reason, right? Because he wants to be that, but he doesn’t want to put in the work. So, he’d never get to that level. Whereas the person who’s high performing tells himself that story because he wants to get there. He’s driving himself to that. He doesn’t want to be a fraud. And I think I really am a proponent, I think most people are proponents of positive self-talk, but of really telling yourself the story of, “I’m a hard worker. I’m disciplined. I’m going to do this. I’m not going to slack today. I’m going to solve this math problem. I’m going to learn to read this. I’m going to learn to speak this language. I’m going to learn this tactic on the map.” Even if you’re not there yet, thinking of yourself as already being the person who can accomplish it, and then acting accordingly, if that makes sense.
Nick: It does. I think for me, like when I think of something, I think some of the most detrimental things that people say is when people say, “Oh, I’m just not good at X,” or, “I’m just not very good at Y.” I hear that all the time with people. Like, in Jiu-Jitsu, people say, “I’m just not good with sweeps.” Bullshit.
Nick: You need to train them more. Or I remember when I was younger, I told myself that I wasn’t good at math. I didn’t understand that basic, I don’t know why it never clicks. Just no one ever explicitly told me this. But math is just a bunch of it’s a set of rules.
Nick: And these rules don’t change. You just use them in different situations, but they’re pretty much always the same, and once you learn the way that they’re used. And then I remember, one of my friends essentially tutored me a little bit with my math. And when I understood that, I’m like, “Oh, this is not bad at all. I’m not bad at math, I just didn’t quite understand it yet.”
Nick: And so, a lot of people, I think, the self-talk and like, “I’m this and that,” that stuff can be good. I don’t necessarily use it as much. I do get a good visualization of what I want in life. But the thing that I have to fight against sometimes, which I’ve always had to fight against, is basically when something is initially hard, or whenever I fail at something, is initially wanting to revert back to, “That’s just not my thing.” And that’s where you have to be careful, because at least for me, if someone’s like me, like you got to be careful with that, because it’s very easy to go, “Oh, that’s not for me,” and then just stop. When how do you know? Like you haven’t really given it a fair shake. And really, who’s to say what’s good for…? Anybody can pretty much be good at anything if they really, really want to.
Nick: So, it just takes time.
Josh: Yeah. Anybody can be competent if they put in the quality of practice and the amount of practice that they need to. Yeah. So, pivoting here, I want to be respectful of your time, so I’m only going to ask you like 1 or 2 more questions.
Nick: Fine. No problem.
Josh: But as you mentioned culture before. You seem like the guy that would have a really great culture at your gym. So, how have you gone about building your gym culture? And how do you maintain it?
Nick: Hmm. Well, I think the culture comes as a byproduct of the person that’s creating it, right? So, I mean, that’s the biggest thing. It’s going to start from the top.
Nick: Whatever the leader at the top does, and acts, and the way that they do things, is going to be what everybody else follows. And again, when I say that, I’m very intentional about that word ‘act’, not ‘says’. Because we know plenty of people who say things, but don’t follow up those words with actions. And it’s like Emerson, Ralph Waldo Emerson said that, “What you say speaks so…” or, “What you do speaks a lot, I can’t hear what you say,” right?
Nick: So, your actions are so much more powerful. It’s like little kids. You’ve taught little kids before in martial arts, they watch you like a hawk. And you’ve got to be incredibly intentional about what you do, because saying one thing and then doing another one, they will look at what you’re doing, and they’ll call you out on it. And adults do this too. They just don’t necessarily call you out on it, but they internalize it. And so, it came from a place of me trying to create something that I would have wanted, really, it’s what it comes down to. This is something that would have been really useful to me. This is the kind of environment I would have liked to had when I was coming in getting started in Jiu-Jitsu. And I was trying to create that.
And the process by which it happens is simply being mindful of the culture. And sometimes you have to trim out the weeds a little bit. Sometimes there’s people that are not good people, they’re not good fits for your gym. And so, if they’re in a leadership position, or if they’re getting close to that point you, you have to remove them. It’s not the most fun situation, but it’s just the nature of the beast if you want to keep the culture going. And but again, I think it comes from a place of inside you, at least it has for me. I’m more of an intuitive feeling type person. So, this is just what I want to create, and then so it’s going to come through for that. I’m just trying to make a gym, that would have been awesome for me, so I can make it awesome for my students. And we try to do as much as we can for the people.
And I think that from a business standpoint, with what we do, I’m incredibly respectful of the fact that people were coming to my gym. And it is a business, but at the same time, I’m very much trying to create like a truly remarkable experience for people and to create a close-knit environment. And so, there’s this kind of middle ground where I can’t go too far into the business. Because if you go too far into the business, you become one of these kinds of funky martial arts gyms that’s like constantly just cashing their students out and ringing them out for money. But at the same time, you can’t go completely 100% just like friend, personality side, because then people take advantage of you, which people have taken advantage of me when I was younger. And so, you’ve got to straddle this line in the middle somewhere, where you’ve created a good business that’s strong, where you’re offering people stuff, you’re making money, and you’re keeping the gym strong, so you can serve yourself and the people around you in a more powerful way. But at the same time, you create the person, you create that that personal aspect to it where people feel like they’re getting this close-knit group environment. And you can sort of keep those 2 things going at the same time, if you’re smart about it.
Josh: Awesome. Awesome. Very good. Where can people find you?
Nick: If people want to find me, you can find me on my YouTube, obviously, is Chewjitsu. You can put that in there, C h e w j i t s u. You can find me on social media by the same tag and all that stuff. And yeah, that’s what I do. So, I have all that stuff out there. You can find me if you’re interested and go from there.
Josh: Awesome. Thanks for coming on the show man.
Nick: You’re welcome, brother.