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“Connecting with people is the most important skill set you possess” with David Johnson and Marco Derhy

Connecting with people is the most important skill set you possess. It’s a quicker way to a faster result. Stay connected to your social network. Your next deal could be right in front of you. I had the pleasure of interviewing David Johnson. David has been an executive in the movie industry for 32 years. Although […]


Connecting with people is the most important skill set you possess. It’s a quicker way to a faster result. Stay connected to your social network. Your next deal could be right in front of you.

I had the pleasure of interviewing David Johnson. David has been an executive in the movie industry for 32 years. Although the movie industry has been his vocation, his avocation is fitness. In July 2016, he was a winner in the Classic Physique Division at the NPC Masters National Bodybuilding Championships and became an IFBB Pro. After winning this prestigious national title, “The Mecca of Bodybuilding” Gold’s Gym Venice hung David’s picture up with only 110 other bodybuilding greats. Gold’s Gym is world famous, so to have your picture hung is a real honor. David was the 1st Gold’s Gym member to earn an IFBB Pro Card while winning a national title in the new Classic Physique Division. After competing in 2 IFBB Pro shows, David exited the competition stage to become the Founder of Dumbbell Club® and The Official Dumbbell Club® Hall of Fame in July 2017. David honors the best of the best in the fitness and bodybuilding industry with the Golden Dumbbell Award™ and inducts them into The Official Dumbbell Club® Hall of Fame. Since January 2018, David has honored 25 superstars. Most of these inductions have been hosted by The FitExpo convention in Los Angeles, Anaheim, and San Diego on their main stage. His new tag line for Dumbbell Club® is Smart to be Fit™. He is married to a clinical psychologist and proud father of 2 young men who has excelled as scholar athletes and scholar academics at Gonzaga University and UC Santa Barbara.


Thank you so much for joining us, David! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My career in fitness started in 1980, where I managed Dynamic Health Club in Michigan, and over 6 1/2 years, I owned and operated 3 fitness facilities: 1 Racquetball Club and 2 Gyms. After the urging from a long time friend to move to California to open gyms, I arrived in Los Angeles in June 1987. After his grandfather, the investor backed out of funding the gyms, I landed in the movie industry by default, starting at 20th Century Fox. But, my passion for fitness was always burning.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

Coming from Michigan in 1987, I had never experienced an earthquake. In 1994 at 4:30 am, the 6.8 Northridge Earthquake hit. I was so scared that I literally gave 2 weeks’ notice to quit my job at MGM Studio. It was only two days before the moving van came to pick up my stuff that I canceled the pickup and told MGM I wasn’t quitting and moving back to Michigan after all. This change of heart could have led my career on a completely different path.

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?

Back in 1990, I was training for the Mr. San Diego Bodybuilding Championships in which I won, and I was working at MGM movie studio. I was on a strict diet, and I thought I put a baked potato in the microwave for 6 minutes. I hit an extra zero (60 minutes) and forgot about it until the fire department showed up at the MGM offices after the fire alarms went off from the smoke and the burnt potato. Everyone was laughing, and I was still hungry knowing I didn’t have any more food with me. Lesson learned and never forgotten: don’t hit an extra zero on the microwave.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

The Official Dumbbell Club® Hall of Fame is my passion project at the moment. Within two years, I have created a ceremony with the Golden Dumbbell Award™ that has the feelings of an Emmy or Oscars award event for the fitness industry. I will be honoring 10–12 fitness and bodybuilding superstars annually.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

I jumped out of the shower at the Brenden Celebrity Suite and Stan Lee happened to be doing his 1st screening in the world of Sony Studios Spider-Man at Brenden Theatres at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas. My friend’s suite was also being used for Stan’s interviews, and his entire camera crew ambushed me. They started to interview me half dressed, and I didn’t know what was going on. He asked me what my story was, and I started to tell him about my history in the movie industry. He told me how he came up with spider-man, and I had to sign a release, so they could use my footage in his documentary they were doing on Stan. I actually didn’t know who he was, so after this surprise encounter with him, I told a few people, and they thought it was incredible to meet him in that manner.

Recently before inducting 3x Mr. Olympia Champion Frank Zane in the Official Dumbbell Club® Hall of Fame, I asked him what has been the most significant change in Bodybuilding. He said, “there weren’t any tattoos when he was competing, and now 60% of competitors have them”. He told me one person had them when he was competing, and it was Ed Corney. He had one tattoo on his arm and in prejudging, he would always try to hide it from the judges. Times have changed….. I am currently helping him with his documentary titled Zane Defined.

Having lunch with Lou Ferrigno was interesting because he spoke about how abusive his Dad was growing up. When Lou would lose a Bodybuilding contest, his Dad would say very mean things to Lou. Like, “you’re not worthy of winning” etc… it was actually sad listening to this because I know what it takes to compete at that level. He came over so much adversity from his disability of being deaf. He became Mr. Universe, The Incredible Hulk on TV and a Fitness Icon from being in the legendary documentary “Pumping Iron” with Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is a Scorpio and his birthday a few days apart from mine. Also, Scorpios are intense but very loyal. Lou will be one of my January 2020 Hall of Fame inductees if he’s available for The FitExpo in Los Angeles.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Since I am associated with the movie industry and the fitness industry, here are a few tips I would recommend:

1. Never be late for a meeting because it will always show respect to the person you’re meeting, whether he’s a CEO or a clerk. Be careful on the toes you step on going to the top because they’re attached to the ass you’ll be kissing on the way down.

2. Be yourself, and it’s ok not to know everything. It’s a process, and you will learn.

3. Try to learn as much as you can about the business and try to connect regularly with a mentor.

4. It’s great to be involved in philanthropy but know your limit. Not every function or event is a must go. Choose wisely and show up because you want to go, not because you should go.

5. “Work so hard, so you never have to be at the mercy of someone else’s choices, power trip, or kindness.”

You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂

My movement would be Smart to be Fit™. Age is just a number, and, at 61 years old, working out has been my fountain of youth.

Exercise gives everyone self-esteem and makes you feel great. It’s an investment in your life and how to treat your most treasured asset: your body.

Wealth is built in many different ways, and depending on your overall wealth, you can feel wealthy if you live a healthy, active, Smart to be Fit™ lifestyle. Your health is priceless, and, without it, everything else takes a backseat.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

1. Connecting with people is the most important skill set you possess. It’s a quicker way to a faster result. Stay connected to your social network. Your next deal could be right in front of you.

2. Read more interesting books. Readers are leaders, and the more you read, the more you learn. Instead of living one life, you live many different lives through other people’s writing.

3. Pay yourself every check and put it into savings. Life is short, and you want to enjoy retirement.

4. Never share your political views in the industry. Stay very apolitical. You hear many different viewpoints and will probably not agree with some, but listen to get information. It could be a deal or relationship killer just because of what side of the political fence you are on. Stay Neutral…

5. Don’t gossip and keep friendships very close to your heart. People will try to use you to get to certain people you know, but be very careful about who you go to bat for because you are sending them to your trusted contacts and friends. It could eventually ruin your relationships if you send the wrong person. Be cautious who you recommend, so it doesn’t come back as a blemish on you.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson quote: “the problem with experience is you don’t have it when you need it.”

I have made many mistakes in my life that have cost me money and time. If I would have had the experience beforehand, life would have been easier.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Well, I am grateful for Ted Mann, who owned the famous Mann’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood along with 360 movie screens in the U.S., and I owe him for getting me in the movie industry. He taught me many things throughout my time with him. I trained him every morning at his home for 12 years in Century City for 15–20 minutes before going to the movie studio. He instilled in me that everyone puts their pants on the same way. The only difference is that some people have more money in their pockets. He also taught me how important a mentor was in the movie industry. He said everyone needs a Rabbi and he was mine. I met many people in my early years that knew I was Ted Mann’s trainer even though I was in the movie industry. It has helped me to this day with all my relationships in the movie business. Many of the executives that worked for Ted Mann are top executives in the industry and are referred to as “The Mann Mafia.”

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Professional quarterback Tom Brady attended High School in California, played college football at the University of Michigan, and was a 6th round quarterback taken in the 2000 NFL draft. Since then, all other quarterbacks are either retired or injured. His career has been incredible winning 6 Super Bowls and becoming the Super Bowl MVP 4 times. He is the winningest quarterback of all time. His work ethic is unbelievable, and his humble personality is something everyone should hope to have after becoming a champion. He’s a husband, father, and businessman, on top of probably going down as the greatest football player of all time. He is grounded, and nothing has rattled him after his success. His story is so inspiring, and if I could have breakfast or lunch with any individual, it would be Tom.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My social media links are

Website: www.dumbbellclub.com

Instagram: @dumbbellclub

Email: [email protected]

David, thank you so much for joining us. This was inspirational!

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