I believe that at some point in everybody’s life, we have that “thing” that forever changes the lens through which we see life.  For some, it’s a loss, an accident, bankruptcy, or “rock bottom.” If you don’t know what yours is, then it hasn’t happened yet. But, it will.  For my wife and I, that “thing” was the entire year of 2016. I won’t get into all the details because it’s not fully my story to share. Let’s just say it was a series of losses that forced my wife and me to say “F*ck it.  Life is too short and too fragile. We’re going on the offensive.”

At that time, I owned a successful gym in one of the most desirable places in California.  My wife had a well paying, steady job at an internet start-up (note: she had moved to Santa Barbara from Brazil twelve years earlier not knowing a word of English and getting her first job at McDonald’s…she IS the American Dream).  We owned properties, had a modest amount of money in the bank and were rich in friends and community. The events of 2016 made us realize that we wanted to do more, see more, experience more…we didn’t want to wait for “retirement.” After all, with the way things are looking nowadays, how many people have a real shot at the traditional retirement scenario?

Do you have experiences you’d like to share with mastermind groups? We’d like to hear from you.

We decided to take a giant leap of faith.  I sold my business. We rented our home. We donated more than half our belongings.  We hit the road.

After the honeymoon of the adventure started to wear off, the realization started to ring louder and louder…how are we going to SUSTAIN this?  Now, don’t get me wrong, I had a plan. Although, as Iron Mike Tyson says, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

In 2016, I met my now business partner, Doug Holt.  During our first phone conversation, he was traveling around North America in his “Adventure Van.”  I was obviously drawn to this and the lifestyle he had created for himself, so I invited him to lunch when he got back.  We have a lot in common. Collectively, we have 30yrs of sales and marketing experience, 15 years of gym ownership, and firmly believe that freedom of lifestyle is non-negotiable.  We knew what we wanted to do – we wanted to help fitness professionals break free from their local markets and attain the same lifestyles we are enjoying now. We also have the skills to do it.

This issue was that we weren’t exactly clear on HOW to do it.

If I’m honest with myself, I truly believed starting an online marketing business for fitness professionals would be easy.  The truth is that starting ANY online business is tough. There are all the challenges you would normally presume for any business – identifying your market, attaining and retaining clients, etc etc.  Going online is a slightly different beast – you’re on your own proverbial island, alone and isolated. During a hard-charging 4 month period, we were rejected, road blocked, and opportunities were squandered.  Confidence was slowly, but steadily dropping.

Now, I don’t want to paint a picture of doom and gloom here.  At the seven month mark, we HAD a profitable online business. We were taking paychecks – albeit modest ones…but better than most at this early of a stage.  We were debt free with low overhead. We just weren’t living up to our own expectations…and if I can put humility aside, our talents.

We both clocked in 6-7 days per week and did the work.  Activity was NOT the issue. If anything we were sprinkling activity over the core problem in hopes it would cure the symptoms.  The issue, in retrospect, was LACK OF CLARITY. We just didn’t know it at the time because we were too deep in the weeds. Sound familiar?

Now, I’ve always put an extremely high value on mentorship.  Along the way, I’ve had the opportunity to be coached by people I highly respect and admire – James FitzGerald, Chris Cooper, Andy Petranek, etc.  I took a step back and looked at my biggest periods of professional and personal growth and they ALL had a common theme.  MENTORS.

I was missing a mentor and, goddammit, it was about time to find one.

If you’re like me, you don’t take decision making lightly.  I do the research. I talk to people. I find social proof. My list was filled with well-qualified business coaches and I was systematically working my way through them.  When Doug suggested a mastermind group, I initially brushed it off. But, the seed was planted. After some retrospection, I realized that I had been part of, and actually run, mastermind group’s of my own without ever labeling them as such.  According to Napolean Hill, the definition of a mastermind group is…

“The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony.”

Let’s examine the issues I was facing (and these were just the issues I KNEW I had) and see how a solid mastermind group would address them…

I felt alone and isolated when working in my business.  Check

I have a total lack of clarity on what to do next and what to focus on first.  Check.

I was constantly chasing squirrels going from one idea to the next with ZERO follow-throughs to the end. Check.

I was plagued with self-doubt and fear of failure.  Check.

Nobody close to me seems to understand what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.  Check

If I haven’t mentioned it yet (I haven’t), I also had a podcast and, by far, my favorite part of each week was interviewing colleagues and thought leaders within the industry.  I was clearly passionate about it. Keeping this in mind, I started searching for a mastermind group that was filled with members similar to me. When I found one that was led by one of the world’s best podcasters and online businessmen, I knew I was on to something.  Without hesitation, I filled out the application and within 30min I had an email waiting from the moderator…”Are you free today at 2 pm?”

Yes, I certainly was.

We went through the interview process which consisted of a 30min conversation via Zoom.  His qualifications spoke for themselves. However, it wasn’t the moderator that really pushed me over the edge.  It was the members…10 other people from ALL over the world (Sweden, Spain, Canada, India, US, etc) who were either at the same point as me in the online business development or steps ahead.  I wanted to be part of THAT community. I was sold.

There was just one problem…

I mentioned earlier that we were taking paychecks.  Well, they were relatively small ones. This particular mastermind group was filled with high performers and those committed to success.  That means it wasn’t cheap. In fact, the monthly dues happened to be about the same amount as my paycheck..and a bit more. How would I explain this to my wife?  How would I justify this to my business partner…or MYSELF? Then I remembered the conversation I had had 1000 times before when introducing people to my gym…

Gym prospect – “Man, your membership rates are kind of expensive”

Eric – “Yes, we are on the higher end but if you want to be accountable to a program, it’s got to sting a little”

Well, there you go.  Walk the talk, right?  I signed up with every intention of giving this my 110% because my back was up against the wall.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I had buyer’s remorse immediately after my payment processed. What could I do or buy with that amount of money every month?  My wife and I were living simply and modestly, but funds were far from infinite. The end of the runway was in sight and this was a BIG gamble.

Then came by first “hot seat.”

For those unfamiliar with the proven format for a mastermind group, the group meets once per week at a set, concrete time.  During each meeting, members of the group are put on the “hot seat” in an even rotation. This is an opportunity for the said member to pose their questions and challenges in a very safe and empathetic environment.  In return, the group provides copious amounts of knowledge, insight, systems, and resources that coalesce into a clear action plan.

It’s a beautiful thing and mine did NOT disappoint.

Within 40min, I had 10x more clarity than I had achieved in over 8 months on my own.  All my lurking thoughts of self-doubt and fear were squashed as the group logically justified my value.  They believed…and now, so did I. I knew at that moment, exactly what I needed to do and how to do it. Within minutes of the meeting’s conclusion, Doug and I convened and we agreed.  We were put on this planet to run a mastermind group for highly motivated online fitness entrepreneurs dying to break through to the next level.

The Level Up Mastermind Group was born.  

Clarity was achieved and I was once again, my SAILS WERE FULL.  After all, I had just publicly announced (on the record) to the group that within 30 days, I would have my first paid member of the group.  Talk about accountability…the clock was ticking! We simplified. We planned. We executed….avatars, content, landing pages, funnels, SEO, email marketing…all of that was easy for us once we had clarity.  

From that point, it was game on!  

Do you have experiences you’d like to share with mastermind groups?  We’d like to hear from you.

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Eric Malzone

Eric Malzone

Eric’s professional experience stems from a decade in various sales and marketing roles that led him to open a CrossFit (TM) affiliate in 2009, Gravitas Fitness. After 8+ years of gym ownership and a deep analysis of his own “ideal day,” Eric decided to sell his gym and go full throttle into FMA.

The success that he saw during his days as a gym owner, can now be leveraged to help thousands of gym owners worldwide.
Eric Malzone


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