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They told me It was impossible and I did it anyway” With Ramon Castillon of Row House

Personally, I don’t feel it’s necessary to confront your naysayer for a reaction. By doing so, you’re giving their opinion more value than it deserves, while holding you hostage. All that matters is what you want and what you believe. The minute you seek approval, you put a ceiling on what you can accomplish because […]

Personally, I don’t feel it’s necessary to confront your naysayer for a reaction. By doing so, you’re giving their opinion more value than it deserves, while holding you hostage. All that matters is what you want and what you believe. The minute you seek approval, you put a ceiling on what you can accomplish because it is dictated by someone else.


As a part of our series about “dreamers who ignored the naysayers and did what others said was impossible”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ramon Castillon

With nearly a decade of experience in the fitness industry, Ramon Castillon began his fitness career at 24-Hour Fitness as part of Corporate with a focus on pricing and strategy. Following his time at 24-Hour Fitness, Ramon joined Basecamp Fitness where he scaled the company and accelerated the growth from one to five locations. Today Ramon is the President of Row House, the leader in the boutique indoor rowing space. Ramon graduated from Stanford University in 2004 with a BA in Economics.


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us your ‘backstory’?

Definitely. I was born and raised in Oakland, CA, but both my parents are from Mexico. They came to the United States as migrant farm workers where they met and settled down. From childhood to young adulthood, I watched how hard they worked and the personal sacrifices they made in order to provide a better life for me. That experience is ingrained in my DNA. On top of that, I was raised amongst the inner-city grit of Oakland in the 80s and 90s, which set the tone for how I operate. I have a deep respect for hard work and making sure you never fall short of giving everything you’ve got, while also being willing to take risks.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes, over the last two years Row House has quickly expanded across the U.S. with studios open in 20 states. Many markets already have more than 3 studios open. Rowing is truly one of the most effective workouts that is accessible to all fitness levels. Because of this, the brand will continue to break down barriers that often keep people from starting a fitness routine. Plus, on a personal level, I know the impact a healthier lifestyle can have on your work, relationships, and mental health.

In your opinion, what do you think makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd?

Rather than positioning our members against each other during workouts, we work together to push each other outside our comfort zones. We go further together versus individually. To do that, the programming we offer not only delivers a great workout but also provides an inclusive and authentic experience. We have everyone row in synch — as a team, similar to what is needed in competitive rowing. For a boat to effectively drive through water, everyone needs to grow together. That doesn’t mean each person is producing the same output in exertion, but it does mean they remain in unison. Everyone has a purpose in the boat.

Ok, thank you for that. I’d like to jump to the main focus of this interview. Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us? What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?

When I was in college, I applied for a finance program that helped minorities find opportunities within large financial institutions. It helped open doors at traditional investment banks. At the conclusion of my interview, the interviewer said I should consider another path as I was not cut out for that environment. Needless to say, it did not sit well with me. The program was meant to open doors for students of my background, but instead tried to shut me down before I could even get a foothold. Thankfully, my upbringing helped me persevere. I thought about my parents’ hard work and dedication to ensure I didn’t become another statistic in Oakland — and moved forward.

Personally, I don’t feel it’s necessary to confront your naysayer for a reaction. By doing so, you’re giving their opinion more value than it deserves, while holding you hostage. All that matters is what you want and what you believe. The minute you seek approval, you put a ceiling on what you can accomplish because it is dictated by someone else.

In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong? 🙂

By graduation, I was recruited into one of the most prestigious programs at a top investment management firm. The program was essentially an accelerated business school with real-world experience. It led me through all facets of business, domestic, and global.

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?

My father. He had Rheumatic Fever as a child, which damaged his heart; and in his 50s had a series of operations including open heart surgery during the era when doctors split your chest open. Before the surgery, he fought through a great deal of discomfort to provide for his family and had many health scares leading up to it, but never once focused on the bad. During hard times as a young adult, his consistent advice to me was “just be happy”. It was his way of saying why waste a breath on this earth being down when there is so much good to enjoy. Any time I hit a rough patch, I hear that phrase, his voice crystal clear in my head, and instantly crack a smile.

It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share the story with us?

My Dad had his first open heart surgery when I was in 6th grade. His recovery process ran into several complications which meant I needed to become more independent. My mother worked two jobs for the county and Air Force, plus took care of my father and I. To get to work on time, she’d have to drop me off for 6am mass, where I then walked to the morning extension program at 7am, and finally to middle school by 8am. This routine happened on repeat for a year. With everything my mother was juggling, I realized the best way I could help was by getting myself to school — and holding myself accountable to complete my homework.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 strategies that people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible? (Please share a story or an example for each)

  1. Don’t compare yourself to others — the minute you start comparing yourself you lose sense of your true self. Every person’s path is unique. Embrace it and enjoy the experience.
  2. Talk to yourself in a positive manner throughout the day. It’s easy to find yourself in a cycle of self-doubt, which inhibits learning and operating outside your comfort zone. Every morning literally tell yourself you are a badass that will win. And if you fail, remember it’s only temporary. Winston Churchill has this amazing quote on failure which is “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
  3. Train every day to be prepared for when you need to be resilient. If you don’t mentally rehearse for adversity, it will paralyze you. Make the necessary investments to handle those stressful times. As I’ve taken on more responsibility and Row House continues to grow quickly, I’ve prioritized my sleep, diet (my wife proudly converted me to plant-based), and fitness routine. By investing in my mind, spirit, and body, I’m more balanced when dealing with the impossible.
  4. Find a coach and commit to the process. This one is tough because change is not an overnight process. Coaching requires time, repetition, and some tough times as you go outside your comfort zone.
  5. Enjoy the journey. Remember to appreciate the fact that you get to grow, that you get to make choices, and that you get to decide who you want to be. Remember that NO matter what, NO one can tell you what to feel or do. The greatest gift we have is free will so own it every day.

What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?

There is a Spanish saying, “No hay mal que dure cien años, ni enfermo que lo resista” which means there is no pain that lasts a 100 years, nor anyone who could outlive it. So rather than dwelling on pain or disappointment, you better just move on and focus on what is next. Dwelling isn’t effective as you won’t outlive it, so might as well charge forward.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

More investment in helping individuals of different backgrounds through higher education institutions and workforces. The more doors we can open, the more opportunities we create to achieve the impossible.

Thank you for these great stories. We wish you only continued success!

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