If you are a thought leader, therefore, an innovator, you create your own opportunities. You can go to companies and say, “have you thought about doing this way?” You can open new markets.
As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nick Mitchell. Nick Mitchell is an author, writer, fitness expert and founder of the world’s leading personal training business Ultimate Performance (U.P.). He is widely recognised as one of the world’s foremost personal trainers and body composition experts. Nick is the global CEO of the Ultimate Performance Group. Nick launched the U.P. business in the City of London in 2009. The business has now expanded operations across four continents, including gyms in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Dubai, Sydney, Singapore and Amsterdam, with an ever-evolving team of 250 elite personal trainers. Nick is the author of a number of best-selling books including 12 Week Body Plan, Your Ultimate Body Transformation Plan, Principles of Muscle Building Program Design, and most recently Body Transformation Meal Plan Design. He is now based in Los Angeles, California, where he is spearheading the expansion of the U.P. business across North America.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
My story is the same as many people’s backstory. I tried my hand, with varying degrees of success, at a number of different careers. I started my life as a lawyer. I ended up working in investment banking. I did lots of different things, none of it spoke to my soul. I was looking for something where I felt I could make a difference and all my life there was something missing because there was something just not clicking.
I had a lot of options. I had a plethora of options, to be honest with you. I had an overabundance of opportunities, from schooling to early careers, the opportunities came too fast, too furious. And because I had so many different options, I didn’t knuckle down to one thing. What I learned is that you have got to knuckle down to one thing and just grind it out.
So, I tried my hand at a few things, and I did all right. I sold a business. Then I ended up working back in the City of London. I was 34 years of age, putting a suit on every morning, and I just hated my life. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself.
The only consistent thing in my life had been the gym. In the 1990s, I had been a competitive bodybuilder. I’ve been going to the gym for 34 years and I am 46 years old now, so this is a lifetime’s commitment. Nothing else, other than my family, has been such a consistent presence in my life.
My friend suggested “Become a personal trainer.” I thought he was crazy! The barriers to entry for personal training are non-existent — literally anybody can do it. And when anybody can do it, it’s full of muppets.
It’s an industry full of muppets because there are no controls. There are no ethical standards or people saying, “you must do this, you must do that.” There’s no accountability. It’s a cowboy industry, unfortunately. And I looked at it and thought ‘No, I can’t do this.’ But I gave it more thought. I wanted to do something…I wanted to do something that featured something I was passionate about. Otherwise, what am I going to do? I’m going to go and sell widgets somewhere, and try and be the best widget salesman or the best widget manufacturer. But I wanted to do something that made a difference. I wanted to do something where I wasn’t chasing money.
So money wasn’t the goal, it was making a difference to my life. I’m not going to come over all altruistic and say ‘I wanted to make a difference to other people’s lives’ — I wanted to make a difference to my life! And I wanted to do something that worked for me. Something that got me out of bed in the morning. Something that I could sink my teeth into and just go at, wholeheartedly. So that’s what I did.
At the age of 34, I decided to become a personal trainer and when I started I was making like $75 a week — literally nothing! It was starting from scratch on my lonesome, working out of a rough, tough, bodybuilding gym in the East End of London, because that had been the gym that I’d always trained at and step-by-step I worked very hard to build the business.
I was motivated. I was fuelled by fear and anger at the start. If fear and anger don’t paralyze you, they can be amazing motivators, and for me they were, because my back was to the wall.
I thought ‘this is my last chance to make something of myself’.
So I put everything I had into it and now I’m talking to you here from my house in Malibu with private personal training gyms in eight (and soon to be nine) different countries and four different continents of the world.
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?
I would certainly never profess to be an omniscient authority on thought leadership, in general terms.
But I could be considered a leader in my own business space — the personal training industry.
I have been in the fitness industry for over 34 years. That’s a long, long time in an industry that is short-sighted and even more short-termist than most, with 99% of the industry comprising of hucksters just out to make a quick buck.
I have seen every fitness fad and fashion come and go, and then come around again in a different guise.
In stark contrast to this, I have built a unique business in Ultimate Performance that has forged a reputation on delivering results and return on investment for every client.
Without any shadow of a doubt, there are no personal trainer businesses in the world like Ultimate Performance.
We are the only international personal trainer business that I’m aware of and we’re the only genuinely global business that I’m aware of.
We have our own operations in Australia, in Asia and the Middle East, in Europe and in North America. This is a unique business.
So I’ve done something and I’ve built something, with my team, that’s unique and I believe I’ve done this because I have a fairly unique perspective on what needs to be done.
This kind of longevity, knowledge and experience really counts for something in an age where any idiot with a pair of biceps and an Instagram page can call themselves a ‘trainer’ and dole out advice to anyone hapless enough to listen.
The business and the industry certainly works to some of the advantages that I have in life.
Firstly, I am able to write. That was a very good early medium of communication for getting the message out there.
I love training. I’m extremely passionate about training. The people who work for me, they need to see that authenticity in the gym business.
The money men look down and can’t see their penises anymore because their bellies are in the way. This isn’t me. I promise, this isn’t me. I have that level of authenticity, I’m able to communicate with my staff and my clients alike.
As a leader, I pull no punches as to the quality I expect from my personal training team, and as a thought leader in the industry I pull no punches as to the challenges and vicissitudes you must constantly grapple with to succeed in the business. Even to prospective clients, it’s more of the same authenticity, honesty and ‘tough love’ about what it takes to achieve one of our world class transformations that is absent from the majority of the sugar-coated, everyone-gets-a-medal fluff of the wider fitness industry.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
There’s no one story that’s interesting about my career. It’s all interesting and it’s all the same.
At the end of the day, the critical success from my career hasn’t been hitting one, two or three home runs. It’s not chasing one big deal. It’s been mastering the fundamentals. It’s been slogging through the basics. Which basically means two key things — firstly, within my business are delivering maximum value for the clients — not chasing dollars, chasing results. Chasing positive outcomes for my clients.
And secondly, looking after my staff to give them proper career platforms, in an industry — the fitness industry — that doesn’t give people career longevity.
The 40-year-old trainer you see in the gym, he’s usually bored to death, right? I identified this right from the start and I wanted to give my team a platform to grow, whatever that may mean, and that one, that’s partly… We’ve fed the machine. We keep growing the business in order to keep growing opportunities, in order to keep the best possible people within the business.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It might sound somewhat contradictory coming from the CEO and founder of the world’s leading personal training business. But the biggest mistake I made in my career has actually been starting a personal training business!
Opening a gym and working 18 hours a day — it’s a terrible business model.
Any business that relies on people, is extremely hard.
It’s been a grind every step of the way over the past 10 years to make a success of the business and be able to create an effective training and nutrition methodology and consistent personal training product that delivers results…and then scale that model up across four continents, nine countries and 250-plus personal trainers.
That is why people have tried and tried to copy what we have done and they’ve not succeeded because it’s so hard to do.
While it has been incredibly tough, it has taught me some valuable lessons about dealing with the endless problems and challenges and how to reframe them to my advantage.
When anybody comes to me with a problem with something, whenever there’s a problem of any sort, a hurdle, in business, I see it as an opportunity.
I see it as an opportunity to go past the competition because we’re all going to have these problems. We’re all going to have bad things come at us. Everybody can navigate still waters — you know, the easy, calm waters. But what do you do when the going gets tough?
That’s what separates the haves from the have-nots. That’s the thing that’s going to make you successful or not.
So, I see the problems, and I think ‘right, let’s have at it!’
Do I enjoy the problems? Of course not. Do the problems stress me out? Of course. Have I had to build up, step by step by painful step, emotional callouses to the let-downs and problems that come in a people-dominated industry, like personal training? Absolutely. Always. But I embrace the problems.
Earlier I said, fear fuelled me early on. I embrace the fear. I take it, I own it, I look at it and think ‘right, what can I do better?’ Everybody’s going to have these problems, what can we do better? That’s one reason why Ultimate Performance has achieved the success it has and perhaps why I have become one of the luminaries in the fitness industry.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?
A thought leader is one of those nebulous terms with myriad interpretations that often defies succinct and solid definition.
But for me, unequivocally, thought leaders are those innovators, game-changers or luminaries at the cutting edge of their industries.
They are the ‘outliers’ who are the most successful, forward-thinking or innovative people or businesses at the pinnacle of their fields.
They are invariably the leading lights that people look to for surety, insight or inspiration — they are often the ones striking out in new directions with new ideas against the staid consensus or humdrum orthodoxy.
A thought leader is usually an innovator — somebody who goes out and disrupts the norm. Certainly, within our business, we’ve done this, but we’ve done it by focusing on the people within the business — meaning both the clients and the staff — and giving these people maximum value, not chasing the almighty dollar, which is the single biggest problem, by far, across the commercial gym business.
A leader may mould and define the corporate culture within their business, but a thought leader will shape the landscape and set the bar across their industry and even beyond.
You can’t really compare the thought leader with the influencer. Certainly, within the fitness industry, thought leaders and experts are few and far between, whereas ‘influencers’ are a dime a dozen.
Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?
It goes without saying, that being a thought leader of an organisation at the apex of any given industry comes with a number of inherent benefits that go way beyond simply making sales.
Being an authoritative voice garners trust, creates long-term brand loyalty, and opens the door to opportunities to take your business in new and exciting directions.
Internally too, and this is the case at Ultimate Performance, thought leadership in the industry has allowed us to attract the brightest and best talent, disseminate knowledge and values to infect the team with a ‘cause’ beyond just trading time for money and create a culture of excellence where hard work is incentivised, new ideas are encouraged and results are rewarded.
But for me, the most gratifying benefit of being a thought leader is that you constantly get to innovate. The benefit is that you get to use your emotional intelligence, as well as your IQ, in developing new ways of doing things.
There is no point being shackled to existing modalities, if existing modalities don’t fit where you want to go, and your present circumstances, and, of course, the world at large.
The world at large is changing so much because we have the benefits, as well as the drawbacks, of technology.
So, if I wanted to say the key benefit, for me, of a becoming thought leader — you are constantly breaking new ground.
Certainly, within my business, I’m making it up as I go along because I don’t have anybody to model. That certainly makes me a thought leader. It’s got good and bad to it, because when you’re breaking new ground, you have to look at yourself and go, “am I breaking new ground because nobody else has been stupid enough to go down this road?”
The other drawback to being a thought leader is, essentially, you’re an innovator and then everybody copies you, and you have to stop yourself going absolutely crazy when you notice everybody just following you in your wake.
People may say, “oh, well they’re copying you, “take it as a compliment,” and sure, but when you see people disrespecting you, which they do because they don’t single you out as being their influence, you get very jaded, very fast. But ultimately, the benefit of being a thought leader is that you own your own canoe.
Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?
If you are a thought leader, therefore, an innovator, you create your own opportunities. You can go to companies and say, “have you thought about doing this way?”
You can open new markets. My business operates now in markets, in amazing, interesting markets like India and China. Not just Hong Kong, but on mainland China. We’re about to open in Shanghai. We’re about to open in Mumbai. We’re operating in Dubai. These are opportunities to break ground. You’re not shackled by the old way of doing things.
Thought leadership is clearly lucrative, because you are the person breaking new ground in whatever niche industry you are in, and people always want to be associated with those who are at the forefront of innovation. It’s as plain and simple as that.
Using my own experience, we are about to do a deal with one of the biggest sportswear companies in the world. They’ve come to us, because they want to do something with us because they see us as fitting in with their brand. We haven’t had to go out and find it, it’s just clear to them that we stand for something, we have a unique, hard-hitting culture, something that’s very, very important, I feel, but ultimately, we’ve created an interesting business, by disrupting the norm, in our specific case.
I talk about value all the time, but ultimately that comes down to results. We wanted to give our clients a tangible return on their investment, in an industry where nobody bothers to do that. And what I have done is gone out there and shouted from the rooftops, “This is how it should be done.” And this, then, has helped me build my business, forget about bringing clients to me, it’s brought the right people to work with me.
Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.
1. Stand for something.
In a world where everyone is out to make a quick buck, there’s real value in standing for something more than the almighty dollar.
It might not pay the bills in the early days, but if you are in your industry for the long haul, integrity and honesty will go a long way.
It might not pay dividends overnight and reputations are hard-won (and just as easily lost) but people will come to respect and admire you for doing business the right way.
We have several mantras at Ultimate Performance, but one that hits home more than any is ‘results, not promises.
It’s emblazoned in bold lettering on the walls of every one of our 12 private personal training facilities across the globe.
It’s in our DNA at U.P. and it’s why thousands of our clients have put their faith in us because we move heaven and earth to live up to this ideal every single day.
It’s a value we have espoused from Day 1 — and one which stands in stark contrast to the huckster-like mentality of the wider of the fitness industry selling diet pills, shady weight loss plans, and ‘miracle’ supplements which has left the public deeply mistrustful of anything they watch, read or hear.
As a business, we have always done the hard thing. We have always taken the path less trodden. But we have always done things right.
Now, having authored several books, been published in countless leading newspapers and magazines globally as a leading authority on fitness, and working with one of the world’s great academic institutions as research partners, I can say that standing for something real and sticking to your guns is the only path worth taking.
2. Focus on giving maximum value to your clients, customers or audience.
Every person in my shoes — every business owner will tell you that their business is special. Everybody thinks they’re a unicorn.
But there’s no such thing as unicorns, because everything has been done in life, pretty much. It’s very, very hard to come up with something unique and original in this day and age.
So, like we have done in the personal training space, you have to really find a way of offering something uniquely valuable that will mark you out from the crowd.
There are a million different fitness and personal training businesses out there but none come anywhere close to the scale of achievement Ultimate Performance has seen.
The reason? Our unwavering focus on offering our clients and our audience value in everything we do.
We are keenly aware that we have become the leading authority because of the knowledge and expertise we possess.
Every book we publish, every vlog we create, every fact in every social post we publish has to confer value.
Our personal training product is a prime example of maximising value for the client. Any half decent personal trainer should be able to write a passable training programme and put someone on a calorie-controlled diet to make them lose weight (although so many even struggle to do that).
But we have long understood that to become the best and be known as the thought-leading business in the space we continually have to evolve, master our craft and obsess over the granular details of the art and science of body transformation. It’s the same for any business with designs of pre-eminence and thought leadership in their respective fields.
Our trainers have to live, breath, walk and talk what they preach. They are incentivised to want the results even more than their clients.
Our systems have to be robust enough to be replicable across different continents, locations and markets.
Our methodologies have to be continually improved to elicit the best results.
Just as a little insight into how granular we go to add value and get the results we do — every single client will complete a form with more than 50 data points covering lifestyle, sleep, stress, diet, training history, injury status and myriad other factors which enable our trainers to put together a detailed and bespoke personal training and diet plan for each of our hundreds of clients.
Clients have weekly progress photos taken, alongside body fat and bodyweight measurements, and details of inflammatory status, blood pressure and insulin, which gives the trainer the power to track the visual and numeric progress of their client in the most scientifically robust manner possible.
Trainers aren’t just there for the hour in the gym. It’s the other 23 hours that count and make the difference when it comes to adding value and delivering results.
They are there for support, guidance and education around the clock on everything from sleep strategies and stress management, to smart supplementation and lifestyle optimisation. Trainers have even been known to take their clients food shopping and read through local restaurant menus when their clients are on vacation.
Continually finding ways to improve, refine and add real value has defined my career, it’s defined my business, and it feeds into the reputation I have built with U.P. as industry leaders.
I think that you can apply that lesson to any sector, industry and walk of life.
3. Make it about more than money, make it personal.
Nobody starts out as a thought leader or authority. It has to be built brick by agonising brick. I started out at the bottom, with nothing, as a one-man-band in a gritty East London gym where clients would come once, take one look at the place and then never return again.
I had a goal of being London’s best personal trainer. Then when I achieved that, I wanted to two gyms. And then three — taking Ultimate Performance international.
Now where we are with the business is truly exciting, 10 years after starting out with nothing and working 18-hour days.
But money has never been the goal. It still isn’t.
For me, it was a burning passion for training and an acute understanding of the power of hard training, the right diet and some good old-fashioned grit and accountability to help the ordinary Joe achieve extraordinary things. (Considering, most of the Fitness industry was a soft touch at the time with sanitised gyms where the mere sight of sweat or sound of exertion was anathema).
The point is, do what lights you up. Whatever you are doing, make it personal.
Not only will they passion, drive and belief in a real cause carry you through the tough times, but that passion and authenticity will shine through and people will be forced to take notice and become invested and enrolled in what you are doing.
4. Stick to your ideals and don’t compromise on your values. Ever.
Fads come and go, but true values never go out of fashion.
It’s worth remembering this when competitors are jumping on the latest trends, leaping from craze to craze for social media likes, and sacrificing their values for short-term gain.
Stick to your ideals. Stick to your guns. Never lose sight of your core values.
I suppose I am long in the tooth, in fitness terms. I started lifting weights as a teenager nearly 35 years ago now. The bug bit me all those years ago and I am still absolutely taken with the simple and life-affirming pleasure of lifting heavy things.
I became a personal trainer all those years ago because I knew the visceral experience of bodybuilding training was something that everyone — no matter their background, gender or ability — could and should take so much from.
But bodybuilding training in old school spit-and-sawdust gyms had never been fashionable or even desirable to 99% of the population.
But I always knew deep down this is what the world was waiting for — the exhilarating feeling of hard training and the fruits it can bear when executed the right way.
While everyone was jumping from CrossFit to HIIT to F45 or whatever the ‘training modality du jour’ was in any given year, I stuck to my values and not compromised an inch.
It has been a long, hard road in changing hearts and minds, shaking off some of the reputational baggage of weight training (especially for women) and proselytising people to the wonders that good old fashioned strength training can do for both mind and body.
But we have got here. We are in the era of ‘strong, not skinny’. Bodybuilding-style training has not only found acceptance, but is understood as one of the best ways to achieve results, man or woman, old or young.
This reflects in the client base we serve and the audience we now have. Men and Women from 18 to 60 and beyond, lawyers, doctors, politicians, CEOs and everyone in between all experiencing the joy of pushing themselves to the limit with weights.
Sticking to your values and refusing to budge often means going against the grain, contracting the orthodoxy and holding your nerve when everyone is going something different. But if you have the belief, hold your nerve and you will find yourself in a unique space because you zigged, while everyone else zagged.
5. Share your knowledge and expertise
What is the point in building up a lifetime of knowledge and know-how, if you don’t share it with the world?
Write a book, start a podcast, create an online membership site with paid-for content. Do anything you can to leverage your expertise and create something unique that gives you and your brand credibility and authority, and your clients or followers value.
Build something that stands the test of time.
When I wrote my first book, it was a grind. The last thing I wanted to be doing when I was working 18-hour days, personal training, networking, doing press and drumming up business was the lock myself away writing a book.
Like anyone who has ever written anything substantial, it was at times a tortuous and laborious process.
Not to mention, you’re never sure about how your book will be received — whether it will be a massive flop and waste of time.
But there is not a day goes by when I don’t regret all the blood, sweat and tears that went into writing my first book in 2012, 12 Week Body Planwith Men’s Fitness editor Joe Warner, documenting his transformation with me adding 10kg of muscle and losing 8kg of fat over a three-month period.
Nor the follow-up book three years later — Your Ultimate Body Transformation Plan.
Both became best-sellers, sold hundreds of thousands of copies (and are still selling) and firmly placed myself and Ultimate Performance on the map as the leading results-producing personal training business on the planet.
We have dozens of clients through our doors every week whose first exposure to Ultimate Performance and our training methodologies were through these books. It’s incredibly gratifying to see they have had such an impact on people and turned many more into lifelong weightlifting zealots.
I have gone on to publish two more books which detail exactly how we achieve our world class body transformation results in Principles of Muscle Building Program Design and Body Transformation Meal Plan Design.
Most people would think we were mad for giving away all our personal training ‘secrets’. But the secret is that there is no secret beyond deftly managing the triumvirate of exercise, diet and stress management with consistency and determination.
Our goal with the books is to educate and to reveal the simplicity of getting in shape. We trust that sharing our knowledge and being open with our secrets will earn us an army of lifelong acolytes who treasure the brand and everything it stands for.
In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.
I’ve not a single example that I can give, because I don’t ‘fanboy’ on anybody, and in all truthfulness, I’m quite boring.
I spend my time working with my team, working to improve my business, not looking for the next guru.
The whole ‘guruism’ industry that we have nowadays, that’s grown out of a legitimate need up to a point, and then has been taken too far, is too much for me.
So, this idea that I can name a thought leader who I aspire to be like or to learn lessons from, well within my industry, which is personal training, not the wider fitness industry, personal training. Within my industry, there’s nobody.
As I said earlier, I’m really just making this up as I go along, making mistakes, learning from them, and just doing my best, and working with people who are in the same boat, and guiding people who are exactly in the same boat.
We’re trying to break new ground with Ultimate Performance, constantly, and there’s nobody for us to emulate.
I mean, if you were to ask me, “What thought leader has changed things of the current crop of business people that we see around?”
One automatically thinks of Silicon Valley and I don’t like what I see coming out of Silicon Valley anymore, it’s too politically charged. I think Mark Zuckerberg is the luckiest self-made billionaire who ever lived, and I would enjoy reading about someone like J.D. Rockefeller. And there’s a great book, a great biography by Ron Chernow, on Rockefeller, called Titan, that I would always recommend somebody to read. That’s a thought leader. That’s a disrupter. That’s somebody we can learn huge amount of lessons from.
Equally, I recently read a book on Steve Ross who put together Time Warner.
Figures of this ilk are a great well of knowledge. Finding the old industrialists, and even those from the ’70s and ’80s, are where you will find real value.
These are the people who interest and inspire me rather than the new media side of things.
I don’t know much about Steve Jobs, but of course, Steve Jobs is probably the thought leader of the last 20 years. It wasn’t just the technology that he revolutionized, he revolutionized the way we thought we can approach doing business, in many ways.
I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?
Yes, I agree completely.
In the traditional sense, being a thought leader is simply being an expert in a field or industry.
But now the word ‘thought leader’ has become just jargon.
At best, it means something different to everybody. Or at worst, it means nothing — just another buzzword conceived and propounded by marketeers.
I would always want to interpret being a thought leader as somebody who is breaking new ground. That, one could say, is a disrupter.
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
First of all, to avoid burnout, we have to have support at home. I’m very lucky, I get an awful lot of support from home, so nobody gives me any problems if I have to work late, if I have to work early, if I’m traveling, none of that.
Everything is taken care of for me. I have two young children and my wife looks after the children, and does the heavy lifting — the heavy lifting meaning the boring stuff, the ferrying around, the supermarket stuff, all that kind of thing.
Being there as a mother, we’re very lucky, she doesn’t have to work, so she can be an active mother, and what that does, that frees me up. It frees me up to be an active father, when I’m around, so I can spare one or two hours a day to be with my children.
And certainly, that helps giving me balance.
Of course, there’s no such thing as building a global business or pushing your business to the limit, and balance — you can’t have it. You have to be single-minded. I don’t believe you can have it all. So, I’ve had to sacrifice many things. I’ve had to sacrifice personal relationships, friendships, things like that. Friendships that require a little bit of feeding, a little bit of watering, and a little bit of care and attention, have fallen to the wayside because my focus has been my business and my family, and there wasn’t any room for anything else.
Do I regret that? Maybe when I’m older I will. Right now, I don’t regret it. I don’t like it. I wish it could be different. But you can’t have it all, it’s the bargain that you have to make.
All successful people, in my opinion, certainly in business, are people who, certainly, if they’ve kept their sanity, they’re honest with themselves. They’re honest about their failings, they can look themselves in the mirror and go, “I’m good at this, I’m bad at that, “I’m not going to eat myself up because I’m bad at that, “I’m going to focus on what I’m good at, “and I’m going to get other people in to help me “with the things that I’m bad at.”
The way to thrive as a leader, and indeed a thought leader, is to keep pushing it out there and to stay firm to your goal.
It’s not to listen to the naysayers, because if you’re going to disrupt, you’re going to get people knocking you, and you’re going to get people attacking you.
I’ve had people write spoof articles on the internet about me, all sorts of garbage.
But If they’re not talking about you, you’re not making an impact. If they’re talking about you, that’s the best that you can ever hope for.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Well, if I could change one thing about the United States of America, I would retrain 95% of our lawyers and I would change the legislation so that litigation was 50 to 1000 times harder to initiate.
If we had that here, insurance premiums would go down and people would be nicer to each other because they wouldn’t be looking at each other as a payday. I think that would be the biggest change that I would like to see in the U.S. Maybe that’s not the question you’re asking me though.
A movement that I could inspire, to bring about the most amount of good to the most amount of people?
Well actually, I’m doing it right now. I would like to democratize fitness. I own a personal training business where we have elite trainers in elite locations — the most expensive locations in the world — therefore, in order to be commercially viable, we charge elite prices.
I would love to democratize fitness, because within my business — a results-focused business with unique results — the biggest challenge I have is getting people to believe my product is real, because they think it’s ‘too good to be true’. That’s the biggest challenge. It’s amazing, unique challenge.
What I would like to do in terms of inspiring a movement — and we are working on this right now with Cambridge University and their research hospital Addenbrooke’s Hospital — is to establish scientifically-validated, proven ways to democratize fitness.
This means using basic technology — it’s nothing overly complicated. We’re not talking about wearable technology or anything like that — simply using a bit of technology and all the experience that we have in the unique business that’s Ultimate Performance, in finding the right ways to help as many people as possible to follow healthy lifestyle plans.
Following a healthy lifestyle plan, the knowledge is so simple. Pretty much all our grandparents instinctively knew how to live healthy lifestyles.
‘Let’s go out for a walk in nature — no matter the weather’. ‘Let’s not stuff our faces.’ ‘Let’s not go to bed with massively full stomachs.’ ‘Let’s not drink too much alcohol.’ ‘Let’s move our bodies, let’s not be overweight.’ We knew all these things.
Our grandparents, our great-grandparents, our great-great-great-grandparents, knew all of these things.
But, because we are battered with marketing messages, battered with high-fat, high-sugar, nice palatable foods, we’re in a unique situation in the world. It used to be for all of humanity, we’ve been chasing food. Now we’re running away from food in order to be healthy. It’s a bizarre thing.
So, from an evolutionary standpoint, I don’t think our brains can handle it, and so people can’t follow diets, and people can’t follow healthy lifestyle plans. That’s the problem. Adherence.
I have a way of fixing it. We’re working with Cambridge University, right now, on proving out these hypotheses.
If we can prove out these hypotheses, we can democratize fitness by opening up not a one-to-one elite personal training service that helps get inside people’s heads and all that stuff, that’s too expensive, and always will be.
But something that can really make a profound difference to those of us who are struggling to follow the plan. And it all comes down to things like accountability, scrutiny, and monitoring. That’s a story for a different day.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There are many, many ‘life lesson’ quotes I could give.
But the life lesson quote that haunted me all the way up until I was probably in my late 30s, because nobody’s been harder been harder on themselves than I am on me, was, ‘Nothing will come of nothing.’
It comes from Shakespeare’s King Lear.
Now, ‘nothing will come of nothing,’ what does that mean? It basically means, if you don’t put anything in, you’re not going to get anything out. Simple as that.
And because I felt guilty, because I cruised through life for too long, and something in my DNA doesn’t make me comfortable with cruising.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with cruising, but it just doesn’t fit me.
‘Nothing will come of nothing’ definitely, definitely haunted me for a long time, and perhaps, ultimately, helped propel me to where I am today.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I don’t waste my time thinking about questions like that, in all honesty.
So, again, as somebody who’s not a fanboy, I’m struggling to give you an adequate answer, I’m afraid.
Who would I like to have lunch with?
Well, ultimately, I have to go for the cliché. The reason why I’m stood here today, in California, the reason why I always had the itch to scratch, coming from England, that I wanted to live in Los Angeles, the person who turned me onto bodybuilding such that in the mid 1980s, when I was 11 or 12 years old, I would walk around school with his autobiography under my arm, is Arnold Schwarzenegger.
My nickname at school, from 11 years of age, was Arnie. It used to drive me crazy. In my 20s, some people would still call me Arnie.
So, Arnold Schwarzenegger, I read his autobiography when I was 11, and it was a seminal, pivotal moment in my life, really, because the message within this autobiography, it’s great, it’s not just for bodybuilders, and when you read it, and then you see what he achieved after writing it, as well, it’s incredible.
His message of joy and fierceness, his message of incredible positivity in attacking life, I believe in attacking life.
I’m not saying I learned that from Schwarzenegger, but Schwarzenegger’s book put me on the path to thinking that you get the most out of life by attacking life and going for it with everything that you’ve got.
So, for me, if I could have lunch or breakfast with anybody, it would be with Arnold, to thank him and to say, “Look, I have this business that has hundreds and hundreds of employees, and works with tens of thousands, and with the books I’ve written hopefully have influenced millions more” and just as with many people in my industry, he’s influenced everybody.
Arnold Schwarzenegger has a part to play in the success of my business, and the path of my life, so sitting down with him to say, “thank you,” would certainly be a bucket-list moment.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow me at @heynickmitchell on Instagram and Twitter and you can follow my business at @upfitnesslive on Instagram and @upfitness on Twitter.
Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.