Intuition — I lean into my intuition all the time. Even if it is steering me “wrong” it is still sending me in my most authentic direction and I know I can easily adjust as needed. For a lot of business owners, it is their first real experience in not having a higher up — or someone to lean on. In order to be successful, you have to trust yourself and be able to make scary decisions without the need of approval from others.
Startups have such a glamorous reputation. Companies like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Uber, and Airbnb once started as scrappy startups with huge dreams and even bigger obstacles.
Yet we of course know that most startups don’t end up as success stories. What does a founder or a founding team need to know to create a highly successful startup?
In this series, called “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup” we are talking to experienced and successful founders and business leaders who can share stories from their experience about what it takes to create a highly successful startup.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Nick Pags of Project Limitless.
After 11 years as a leader in the fitness industry and owning a gym in NYC, Nick Pags stepped out of the fitness scene and shifted his attention to coaching the mindset of high performers. Even the most elite understand they have the capacity to evolve. Nick’s incredible ability to unlock human potential through live coaching is unmatched. This past year he created his signature 8-week group mindset coaching experience, Project Limitless. After a life altering move from NY to Brazil in the middle of the pandemic, Nick continues to exemplify what it means to live a limitless life. His gift is his ability to guide people to finding the clarity they are looking for within themselves, consequently empowering them to create the life of their dreams. Nick has continued to virtually speak all over the world, inspiring and motivating people to thrive through the challenges of COVID-19.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started? What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
7 years ago, I was teaching my first prime time group fitness class in a boutique fitness studio in Westchester, NY and I was trying to motivate and inspire people by using quotes and telling them what I thought they needed to hear and trying to offer them good information that would inspire them to work hard and live big. This was a group of super successful multi-millionaires who didn’t want to hear BS from a 22 year old kid. I realized in that moment that I wasn’t going to impact them through life experience or knowledge or general information. I had to figure out another way to get into their heads and their hearts, and it was from questioning — offering powerful questions to them that they got to ponder and start working on finding the answers to. The foundation of all the work I do now, comes from an understanding that we are the experts on ourselves and that sometimes what we need is support to look deep within for our own answers.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
Dr. Eric Thomas, the Hip Hop Preacher. I have been listening to his motivational work for over 10 years. I have always looked at him as a mentor and guide. His ability to be himself, not change for the setting or audience, and still use his gift to inspire others. He is “passion driven” not an academic. His knowledge and expertise comes from within, trusting his own insight and instincts, and since I too am not an academic, this was incredibly inspiring to me and I knew that if he could speak to people beyond those exactly like him and change their lives, it gave me permission to do the same.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
My philosophy is that the “structure” is determined by the one who needs the work. While I have “lessons” and a “process” for digging into the depths of ourselves, both my 1:1 coaching and group coaching is very much in flow with the needs of my clients. Many other programs have a “syllabus” of sorts with a timeline. The way my program works is we give very broad guidelines and then let the clients do the work and see what comes up for each of them. Everyone’s journey is different, and it’s important to surrender to the process that shows up for each of them. Clients leading the experience and having them create their own journey through the coaching is essential for my business.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
This is what the work is. My work is rooted in creating more fulfilled, kinder, more impactful individuals of service. My clients are big-hearted people, and they all have a mission to bring more impact and support to the world. I am here to help them do that authentically and completely.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Authenticity: I created a group coaching program that went against the grain of what is being taught to coaches these days. Th “group course structure” didn’t work for me or feel good. So I did what coaches encouraged me NOT to do and I created a program that flows with the needs of my clients, instead of the other way around.
- Trust: When I stepped out of ownership into a gym and as a leader in the fitness space and stepped into this business of coaching and serving, I had to trust that it would all work out — and it has so far.
- Passion: My coaching career began when I donated my time to a live event as a keynote speaker. I wanted to be on the stage giving value and offered my services for free because I was so passionate about the message I had for the audience. What came of that speaking event was the opportunity to to be the in-house mindset coach for a business program.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
I actually have no regrets in life. Every “failure” has been an opportunity to learn more. If I took advice that didn’t work out, I don’t regret it, I simply see it as an ultimate lesson and growth opportunity. Every piece of advice I have received, and action I’ve taken in response to that advice has led me to where exactly I needed to be.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
After leaving the fitness industry, my income shut off (cold turkey essentially). I spent about 4 months trying to figure out the next steps. No one was giving me the answer, no one wanted to work with me or hire me for their events. I felt like I might have given up a great life without any clarity on where to go next.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard? What strategies or techniques did you use to help overcome those challenges?
I felt like there were so many people who were in need of support and uplift and inspiration and my voice had the ability to help them and serve them. I felt like the decision to try this new thing was the only decision to be made. I felt it so deeply in my heart, that the only way to live authentically was to follow this gut instinct. Also, my past experience building my fitness career reminded me that I know how to make things happen where they don’t feel possible and I knew how to take action (action is always the answer) to persevere forward.
The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?
It’s all about perspective. When you start to see that everything is given to you (me) as an opportunity to learn, grow and expand. If you can surrender to what is, take aligned action, and stay consistent, the ebb and flow of entrepreneurship will always lead you to where you are meant to be.
Let’s imagine that a young founder comes to you and asks your advice about whether venture capital or bootstrapping is best for them? What would you advise them? Can you kindly share a few things a founder should look at to determine if fundraising or bootstrapping is the right choice?
It really does come down to preference and lifestyle. If you find Joy in the grind that is bootstrapping, and you are OK with living that lifestyle — so be it. But sometimes, there is a certain level of support that is necessary in order to get something off the ground and moving. In my experience a lot of businesses hit a mark where they really can’t go any further without personnel and financials. I’ve been super intentional with how our company makes money and the investments that help move it forward. The company is growing patiently. We aren’t looking for an explosive single launch. We are growing after years of connections and growth which gives us the wiggle room to bootstrap in a way that works for my lifestyle.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Many startups are not successful, and some are very successful. From your experience or perspective, what are the main factors that distinguish successful startups from unsuccessful ones? What are your “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
- Your unique background — 11 years in the fitness industry and access to high level performers who inspired my style of coaching. Learning intentional hard work, but not just to work hard, but how to actually move the needle forward every single day.
- Network- I’ve been fortunate to consistently connect with high level performers. Being able to access these minds has allowed me to always have someone to ask an important question to when confusion sets in and I’ve needed help getting clarity.
- Intuition — I lean into my intuition all the time. Even if it is steering me “wrong” it is still sending me in my most authentic direction and I know I can easily adjust as needed. For a lot of business owners, it is their first real experience in not having a higher up — or someone to lean on. In order to be successful, you have to trust yourself and be able to make scary decisions without the need of approval from others.
- Resourcefulness — I have patiently opened myself up to allowing other people to show up for me. I enroll people to work with me more based on their skills and their knowledge rather than their money. I have patiently waited for the right people to come into my life who I can enroll in my vision for my company. This has led to a great support system for me and my vision.
- Open to new opportunities — Teaching class in NYC and a client (who is a doctor who I really respect) asked me if I would come speak to the doctors at her hospital. That clicked and showed me a new potential path, helping to validate that I can work with the highly educated and super successful. That I’m bigger than just a microphone in a fitness room and I have more to offer than that.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
I believe the biggest mistake a CEO can make is breaking trust with people in their corner. First and most importantly, their own people. If a CEO breaks trust with their staff or partners, the entire business is built on sand. Also, it is important not to break trust with clients. Word travels fast, and relationships with clients go a long way. Lastly, business has no emotion. When people let feelings get in the way of their business, they find themselves making decisions out of fear. Business doesn’t care how you feel.
Startup founders often work extremely long hours and it’s easy to burn the candle at both ends. What would you recommend to founders about how to best take care of their physical and mental wellness when starting a company?
The best way to take care of physical and mental wellness is to schedule it and make it a priority (just like business appointments are a priority). It’s really important to come to an understanding about why it’s so important to prioritise mental and physical health. A good place to start is to ask the question “what happens when you don’t make it a priority”. And, get a coach who can help you stay accountable in the journey.
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. 🙂
The movement would be for more people to do the “inner” deep work. It is a space where you have to be incredibly honest and vulnerable with your truth and a lot of people are not willing to go there. I believe, the more people who did inner mindset work, the better the world would be.
We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Eric Thomas — as I mentioned — he is the inspiration for all of my work. I would love to sit with him and chat about what keeps him going and inspires him to live a life of service.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
IG @iamnickpags or Nick Pags on Facebook
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!