How did I become the worlds most productive man?
Have you ever thought about what it would be like if you could go back in time, and get to know your parents when they were young? You see, it always fascinates me because I grew up the son of an alcoholic, hell-raising father, and a conservative, Christian mother. They were just so different that to this day, I still can’t figure out what brought the two of them together.
Regardless, here I am, and on today’s show we’re going to do a deep dive into the making of Craig Ballantyne, and how I grew up as a persistent young farm boy, and turned those lessons of personal responsibility and hard work that my parents taught me, into a million dollar fitness business, and eventually led me on the journey that helped me get to owning the business of my dreams.
You have talked a lot about your childhood in Toronto growing up on the farm. I don’t want you to rehash the same old stories, but I do have a couple of questions, follow-ups. You’ve mentioned on a number of occasions that your dad was an alcoholic.
My father was pretty crazy fearless. Whenever he saw a keep out sign, it meant to go in.
Now, I am a conservative type of person. That terrifies me when I see a keep out sign because I would just remember him, not only would he go in, he would make me go with him, and I always thought we were going to get in trouble, and sometimes we did. I didn’t know what was going to happen.
Every day in the winter time after school I would come home, and we would go out on snowmobiles. My dad had a couple of snowmobiles, and sometimes I would drive one, and he would drive one. Then sometimes I would just sit on the back, but he drove so fast I’m glad that he never had a motorcycle, but he would drive the snowmobile really fast.
One day, he saw a fox, and he thought he would chase the fox with the snowmobile, and we ended up flipping the snowmobile. Yeah, so I might have been 10 years old, and it’s just repeated stuff like that. I don’t want to make light of this at all, but my father probably drove drunk about 100 to 500 times in his life. He got arrested three times.
He would drive me in the front seat in the pickup truck, no seat belt, drive really fast, so it was just all these terrifying moments. It was like being in a roller coaster ride all the time, emotionally and even just in terms of the things that we did. I think that I just wanted to be the opposite of that I guess you would say.
Now, you spend a lot of time helping clients and people, who are struggling with alcohol, get over that. What do you think enables you to do that now? What tools did you gain from living with that as a kid that makes it easier for you to deal with that now as a coach?
I would say that you have to understand that you can’t force help on someone like that. The only way that I can help people is when they say, “Hey, can you help me?” My mother and father argued for a long, long time, and then she just quit. She just gave up on him. I’m sure there were lots of other people that tried to get him to change.
His brother was also an alcoholic, and a drug user, so I don’t know if there’s some genetic stuff or whatever, but you know, you can’t just say to an alcoholic, “Hey, you should change,” and they’re going to listen to you. They have to, at some point, come to the realization that they need to change. Those are the people that come and work with me.
If I was working with somebody who didn’t want to stop drinking or didn’t want to change something in their family life, I’d have no hope. I’d have no hope, especially at that level, when it’s an addiction, you can’t force change on somebody.
It’s interesting you mention your mom trying, and then, at some point, giving up. I’ve heard a lot of stories about your dad, the influences he’s had on you, but I don’t hear a lot about your mom.
I would say that if it wasn’t for my mother, I’d probably be in jail.
I have no idea how my parents ever got together because my mother goes to church every Sunday and my father never went. I mean the guy invented swear words. He was a complete opposite of my mother, who is just very conservative, so giving, and all these things.
She kept me on the straight and narrow. She also really just showed me long-term thinking. She would have me, even when I got my first job, I would save some money, and put it in like a low-interest savings account. She was teaching me that stuff at like age 10, age 12.
She didn’t finish high school, and I think she had a lot of regrets about that, so she really pushed my sister and me. She worked just as hard as my father did, so I always mention that I learned a lot about hard work from my father, but my mother worked just as hard. She worked from 8 until 4 as a secretary at a big factory in town. Then she would come home, and in the winter time she would sew clothes, and in the summertime, she would be out in the garden until about 8:00 at night.
Then she’d be canning food. She was a very thrifty farm woman. I learned a lot about hard work and ingenuity from her that way. She was also very conservative, very safe, and didn’t really like the idea of me becoming an entrepreneur, didn’t really understand what I was going to school for, for exercise physiology.
You mentioned that she wanted you to move ahead in life but in a conservative fashion. Did that grate against you? Did it feel like she was expecting less of you than you were capable of?
That’s a good question. Both of my parents never were the type of people to push you into anything, nor were they the type of people to stop you from doing anything. I’m very fortunate in that it only came up once or twice.
They were supportive, at the same time, they were so busy working that they were hands off. They didn’t really worry too much. They kind of knew what we were doing, and they were just letting us go and do our own thing. The impact and influence on their expectations for me never really weighed in. I was going and doing my thing, and I knew I was going to be okay.
What about your sister? Were you sort of like very close growing up?
No, we basically fought a lot, and she’s a very strong personality. We’re probably closer than ever as adults but still not very close. She can make me angrier than anybody else in the world. She knows exactly what to say. She knows how to win those battles.
Who were your heroes and idols were growing up? Who did you look up to?
Gary Carter, who was Montreal Expo and New York Met. I liked this guy. He had this crazy red afro, and I don’t know, for some reason I really liked him as a baseball player.
I don’t think I really had heroes that I can think of. I didn’t really read comics. I read a lot of books, but I was just kind of in my own little world, I guess.
Were you very competitive growing up? Did that kind of lead into the fitness realm for you? Is that a logical progression?
I was very competitive. I’m a very poor loser so once I became an adult, I realized it’s probably best I remove myself from sports because I think it made me angrier than the enjoyment I got out of it. That drove me to perform really well, but that’s not the reason I got into fitness really. I got into fitness to get stronger, build muscle, and then from there it just became a really easy way to build a business for me.
Why was Turbulence Training so successful? What was it about that brand, and that time, and the products that you create that made it so successful?
I think a lot of it was timing. I was very lucky that I was one of the first people to build an online fitness business.
I got into Men’s Health Magazine in 2000, so I had credibility, which allowed me to take Turbulence Training to a larger audience. It allowed me to get that name in the magazine once in a while, so that was beneficial, but a lot of it, quite frankly, was completely lucky timing that when I got online in 2001, started selling stuff, and 2003 got some momentum, and then 2006 really had big success, and exponential results because I hired a coach.
There was a fraction, maybe 1% of the competition that is out there now. I’m not that smart when it comes to marketing, and I was really just lucky that I recognized a trend. I got in on a trend that was growing so rapidly, so that’s why, and then I was persistent with it as well.
Did you ever consider getting a job at another company, or were you always zeroed in on entrepreneurship?
I worked for a little bit for another company in the nutrition supplement space, and I liked that. Then I was a personal trainer for somebody else for a long time, so from about 2002 to 2005, I did personal training, anywhere from 30 hours. Then just cut it down year, after year, after year until I was able to quit pretty much all of it in 2005, 2006.
I think most entrepreneurs are not really employable. I mean I do not like to be told what to do. I want to operate on my own schedule. I want to build my own systems. I want, generally, to have most of the say in a lot of things. That generally describes a lot of entrepreneurs. Most entrepreneurs are not generally employable.
If you were to do that today, how would you do it differently? Then, what lessons did you learn on that journey, that you’re now using in ETR?
I would definitely have to be in amazing physical shape in terms of either performance or physique because you really have to, in general, stand out with that on Instagram, and then also use that in your video. I think it’s very difficult if you do not have a dramatic demonstration. Demonstration of your body or demonstration of maybe you’re really awesome, you’re fast, or your interval capacity is amazing.
You really need to be able to do something on video or even just look good in photos that allows you to catch people’s eyes because back when I started, it was very much the written word was the dominant way of marketing. In fact, you weren’t getting YouTube until about 2006, and even then the video was slow to upload and very difficult.
Now, it’s so easy to do that. Those are the two most obvious ways to stand out. Otherwise, I would go even deeper into writing, and stand out that way because there’s still is an opportunity for people to go heavy, heavy writing, and stand out with scientific explanations, and taking complex scientific stuff and breaking it down into simple articles.
What about the lessons that you learned in the building of that, and then how those are being employed today in ETR?
I think one of the biggest lessons that I learned was the ability to become a better communicator through video and audio. In 2007, I just made a video of this, one of my Instagram stories, the other day about how bad of a communicator I was in terms of video presentation back in 2007, when I put my first videos on YouTube.
That video’s been watched almost two million times. Now, I actually have a video was put out about three years ago, which has been watched 2.6 million times, and the difference in the communication style is almost night and day. There’s energy, there’s a bit of humor to the one that has been watched 2.6 million times.
That growth in me came through the Turbulence Training stuff, and so now I’m able to communicate on stage, I’m able to communicate through these podcasts so much better. It’s practice, repetition. I’ve done over 175 interviews. I’ve done hundreds of videos. I’ve spoken on stage so many more times, and presented my workshops hundreds of times.
Just the repetition, and then also going back, and taking a look, and the feedback, and improving, getting expert advice that the communication verbally and audio wise or verbally and visually had been the two biggest growth aspects that have served me now in Early to Rise.
For those people who have video and audio as sort of a central component to their marketing or their products, and they’re just starting up, do you recommend that aside from practicing, that they actually get an expert coach, that that’s something that they should do at the outset?
You need to be purposeful about what you are getting the coaching on. There’s a presenter coach, and then there’s a sales coach.
A presenter coach is going to teach you how to get the standing ovations, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be learning how to sell your products from a stage, or your products from Facebook ads, or your products through video.
You need to figure out which type of coach do I need to get, and then get one of them based on that. They’re not two completely opposite things, but they’re two different things, for sure.
You talk about your anxiety a lot, can you say now that, in retrospect, that that was primarily because you didn’t really know your body?
No, I don’t think it had anything to do with that, to be honest with you. I think it had everything to due to the fact that I had inner tendencies that I did not communicate very well or very often with people, that was angry.
Like my father was an angry, bitter, jealous man, and I had that aspect of it. I think it was almost all related to my personality issues, and being a type A person, and being laced up. I don’t think it had anything to do with business and clear path about my future.
Talk about how you made the transition and the revelation you had that you wanted ETR, you wanted to sort of changing the business path for yourself. What did that look like?
I wanted to be out of the fitness industry before I even started being in the fitness industry. It was just an easy step. It was the clearest path, but as soon as I started reading Early to Rise in 2001, I realized I want to do more than just tell people how to lose weight or work out. I wanted to help people build their wealth. I wanted to help people find how to invest in real estate. I wanted to help people do all of these things.
That was so much more interesting to me because I think you deal with a much more interesting end user than someone who just wants to go and do a couple minutes of exercise, or whose main focus is to lose weight.
Once I became a reader of Early to Rise, and knew that that thing was out there, then I was, “Okay, how do I figure out how to build my own version of this, or do something?” We started coaching people with online business course back in 2007. I started coaching other people in the fitness world, how to build an online fitness business, so I’ve been doing that aspect of things for a long time. I just didn’t really know how to get the whole ETR model going.
At the Perfect Life Retreat, you said this more than one time, but last November at the Perfect Life Retreat, you unabashedly said to the audience of 200 some that you have the gift for this. You have the gift for coaching. Can you define that?
Yeah, it’s the gift of being able to see what is right for other people. It sounds pretty egotistical, but I describe myself as the chess master, the person who can move Bobby from where he is right now to the winning position on the board. I’ve always been able to do that, so that’s why I say it’s a gift. The experience that I’ve built over the last 17 years, or 18 years, of helping people transform, whether it’s physically or financially, has just strengthened that.
It showed me more avenues for doing it and continues to back up that yes I always seem to have the right direction for these people, the outside eyes that they need. I just had this experience yesterday. Someone was saying, “Hey, I’m trying to do this consulting, and here’s what I offer people.” I said to them, “This is CUB,” confusing, unbelievable, and boring, which is something we use in our copy reviews.
Something is confusing, unbelievable, and boring, we shorten it to CUB, and I said, “Your description of what you’re offering here is confusing, unbelievable, and boring. I can’t understand what you’re trying to say, and I know you, so I don’t see how this would go and attract any clients.” Then I rewrote it for them, and it was very clear, and like, “Oh my goodness. Your outside eyes were so strong here. Thank you.”
It’s just a matter of what happens over, and over, and over again. It’s also a matter of me working so hard on myself that I figure out what works, what doesn’t to make long-term habit changes, to make them faster, and when you do that over, and over again, and you believe that you can do it, and you help a lot of other people do it, and then there’s something that’s an intangible that’s hard to describe, but I definitely know that most other people don’t have it, that that’s why I say that I have the gift for it.
Following up on that, I think if I were a business owner that didn’t know you from Adam, and I wanted a business coach, and I came to you, and I said, “Craig Ballantyne, why should I hire you as my business coach instead of Frank over there?” What is the differentiating factor for Craig Ballantyne? You talked about it a little bit already, but if you were to give a quickie 50 cent pitch, how would you differentiate yourself from other business coaches?
I would say that we move faster, and we go deeper than most other business coaches. There’s absolutely no fluff. It’s straight to the point. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t respond well to the blunt directions, who really needs to be coddled, and needs the softer side of things, there are other coaches out there who can do that.
That’s neither right nor wrong. You’re going to go and gravitate towards the approach, but if someone wants to show up, and say, “I’m ready for my marching orders,” and they want the right marching orders for them, I’m going to deliver those, and I’m going to hold you accountable to them, and then you’re going to come back.
That’s a really good fit for me and my coaching, and I’m going to be a really good fit for the type of person who looks for that, who’s just like, “I don’t want any fluff. I want to get right to it. I want to get the results as fast as possible, and you don’t have to baby me, then hey, you’re my guy.”
Is there anything to, in my mind, when you’re building that relationship, they have to trust you as a business coach, so you’re on the same page as far as communication is concerned, as you just described. How do you build that trust and relatability with the new client?
I think it’s a lot of what you’ve kind of asked about as we’ve gone through this. “Hey, you’ve mentioned this. Hey, you’ve talked about this struggle.” When you do that, you show the person, “Hey listen, it doesn’t matter what you’re going through right now, I’ve been in the same position, or worse. I have been struggling here. I have struggled with this in my life. I’ve struggled with something else in my life.
These are all personal stories I have to bring to this, and when you do that, whether you’re a personal trainer, whether you’re a business coach, people want something to connect with you there. I get a lot of people who come in and say, “Oh, you know, I grew up on a farm or my father had struggles, or this, that, or the other thing.”
The more that you share, as a coach, as an entrepreneur, the more connected people are going to get to you because they’re going to latch onto those things. That’s why I do so many of these podcasts. That’s why I don’t care about what anybody asks me. People always say, “Are there any questions off-limits?” I say, “Absolutely not, because I’ll answer anything because I don’t have anything to hide.”
Has the mission of ETR changed at all from what Mark Ford created to obviously what it is today?
I don’t think so. I think it’s still committed to high performing individuals who want to be successful in every area of life. This is not just about digital marketing. It is not just about investing. It’s not just about real estate. It’s not about getting rich at the expense of everything.
I think my recent interview with Mark goes to show that Early to Rise is on the right path because he talks about how some of the things he would have changed had he done it may be more the Early to Rise way instead of the hardcore wealth building that he did. I think it definitely the philosophy of Early to Rise has not changed.
Mark and I are two different people, and he has a wealth of knowledge that is vastly greater than mine in the wealth building aspect, so I think the delivery of some of the content hasn’t been up to the same level as Mark has had in the past, but we’ve always been working on improving that. I think we’re getting back to the best spot we can.
You have said that you want to catalyze the change of 10 million people. That’s a big number. Why 10 million?
It started off as one million, so when I hired Yanik Silver, and I joined his mastermind group, he said, “Craig, you’ve got to have this one million transformation mission in your business.” I did that, and I think we can easily say that we’ve accomplished it because we’ve had hundreds of thousands of people buy Turbulence Training and our other programs.
We’ve had some of our YouTube videos have been watched over two million times alone. I think we have a collective view of seven or eight million views now. Now I’m sure there’s multiple repeat viewers, and some of those people didn’t do anything with it, but I think we’re well on our way to 10 million. It’s impossible for me to catalog it, but I think we’re almost at the 10 million, and I think we have to raise that again.
We’re very fortunate to live in this day and age where you can reach a very large audience, even without traditional television, or speaking tours, or whatever. We are able to do that, and I think we’re going to continue to do it, and we’re just getting started, so we’ve got millions to go.
I’m wondering when you say catalyze change in 10 million people, what does success look like?
That’s a great question. What does success look like? Success really looks like, is somebody in a better spot now than they were before taking a look at our information? Do you catalog that as a five pounds lost, or an extra $100,000? It’s really a subjective and objective thing at the same time.
I’m just thinking have we had an impact on somebody, and we’ve changed their life in a positive way where they would come and say, “Hey, I read the book, Perfect Day Formula, made me more productive. It’s totally changed my life.” I mean do I have to dig deep into their finances? Do I have to dig deep into their body composition to say that we’ve helped them? I don’t think so.
One of the things you wrote back in 2011 was called Twelve Rules I Live By. The big question, I’m going to go through a couple of these because I think they’re particularly interesting. I’m wondering, do you remember that full list?
I don’t have it memorized, but I feel like I am still living by those same 12 rules.
I think of all the articles on Early to Rise, I probably have to edit that one the least. I don’t think anything has changed in there. I think I’ve only gotten stronger on some of them. Some of them at the time were written aspirationally, and I’ve just gotten better at them.
I would probably maybe cut back on some of them. I think they don’t need to be rules for my life, but I’d probably get down to like eight or ten. I absolutely, positively believe in all of those things. I live by all those things. In 40 years, it would be the same thing.
You have been called the most disciplined man in the world, the most productive man in the world, but number 11 on this list really strikes me. It’s a quote from Ted Nicholas, it says, “I will always keep the child within me alive.” How do you do that?
I goof around a lot. Most people just don’t see it. Bedros would say there’s a Craig that most people don’t see. I like to hang around kids more than I like to hang around adults, mostly because kids are just fun, and not jaded and cynical like many adults are.
That’s what I do in terms of it. Toys For Tots is another chance for us to do that. I don’t play enough games as I would like to, but I just don’t have the people to do that with. It’s always about laughing and joking. Hanging around this guy, Jason Ferruggia, he would also say that there’s a Craig that most people don’t see. It really is something I believe in, and still, try and do as much as possible.
I’m wondering, number three on this list, I really question. I do not check email before 11 AM?
That one I guess has changed. When I wrote that one, I was at the point that I was checking email every other day. I wasn’t even checking email every day, but then now I’m more in a manager position in our business, and also just in terms of the time difference between where I am, when I’m on the east coast, or I’m on the west coast, and it’s all over the place.
My coaching clients are all around the world. Now, I still do get one major thing done. I still do write my 1.000 or 1,500 words before I check email. Then I’m up pretty early in the morning. The other thing is, I don’t actually get that much email, so I’ve tamed the email beast so that now it’s not really something that interferes with my productivity.
How do you bounce back from negative comments from customers? How do you let that not affect you?
It is very difficult, and I don’t know if anybody can say that it doesn’t affect them. You just have to, you might have to have a routine. I remember one time I got a nasty email from somebody back in 2009-ish, no maybe in 2007-ish, and I went outside and I walked around the block, and I realized no one’s throwing stones at me in the real world, so everything is okay. I think it’s a matter of perspective.
Maybe you need to go and read some testimonials from people to be reminded of what you’re doing. Maybe you need to call somebody and just vent. Maybe you need to take your dog for a walk, but you just need to reframe your mind. It’s the same goes for anything. If you get thrown off track with your time management, you get thrown off track with an argument with a friend, a relative, somebody that works with you, you have to have these anchors that get you back.
Maybe it’s listening to a Tony Robbins speech. Maybe it’s listening to your favorite song. A high performer does not allow themselves to be thrown off track for very long, and they get back on track as quickly as possible.
Over the years, how you’ve gone about figuring out what your number one thing is, and what it is today, and how you’re executing it?
My number one thing is always going to be writing. I think it’s always going to be writing. It often has been writing, so I prepare the night before to make sure that I have a good block of time to go and write whatever needs to be written, whether it’s for our website, whether it’s for a book, whether it’s for video scrips. Writing at that time of day, that’s when it’s easiest for me, so that’s what I’m always going to do first thing in the morning.
Doing these podcasts is really easy later on in the day, but not early in the morning. That’s why I want to have my focus first thing, and it might vary over time as to what I’m writing about, but I’m always going to do that work early.
Now, somebody else listening, they might be thinking, “Well, what’s the most important thing that I can focus on early in the morning to do the first things first?” It’s just a matter of self-reflection into your life, into what will move you ahead fastest in whatever area that you’re trying to improve.
Then, understand what’s most important to you, and then by doing that self-reflection, and that’s kind of an overview of it compared to what we have in the course, and in our workshops. It is pretty simple. You just need to know what’s important to you, and what you should be focusing on. Often what’s a hard thing what you’d want to avoid, that’s often the first thing you should do.
It’s much like when I was training people, and whenever someone said, “I hate this exercise,” you knew that that was one of the most important exercises for them to do on a regular basis.
It’s what weak is, so that’s where they need to build it the most.
Yeah, it’s going to be the biggest struggle for them, the biggest challenge.
What are you working on now?
Working on new anxiety book, so that one is done, but I went to a publisher, and I think we need an edge to it, whether it’s entrepreneur edge, or some other angle for it, to make it a really, really great book. That’s kind of like one of my biggest challenges right now, to figure that out, and then to grow our coaching program, so it’s not just reliant on in-person workshops, but to take the program and deliver it digitally around the world, so that we can have probably 10 times as many people going through it.
It’s all very good problems that we have right now, and it’s just taking something that is proven to work so very well and making it accessible to so many more people.
Are you a big foodie at all?
I wouldn’t call myself a foodie. I’d probably eat cardboard if I could just eat a lot of it, so I’m not really particular about fancy restaurants. I just like hanging out with smart people, good conversation, so Bedros and I do a lot of traveling together, and we have a lot of good meals.
We always try and invite somebody who’s going to entertain us because Bedros and I actually are both relatively introverted. We don’t actually talk that much when we eat, so we always try and bring some total extrovert, total storyteller, and we’ll just sit there for hours and let them do the talking. I enjoy that.
Then, like you said, it’s exercise, it’s walking the dog, and I just like to read. I’d just be very happy to be in a room reading books not related to business and just reading, reading, reading a lot of the time. I’m very simple.
What are you reading right now?
One of the books I’m reading right now is “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”. It’s the annotated version. It’s only 1,200 pages, but it’s really fascinating book. My friend Simon Black is a major histor buff. The guy knows so much about history, and he brings it into a lot of his articles, and he always talks about this one, so I’m reading that one.
I’m reading the Autobiography of a Yogi, which is very bizarre. It’s definitely kind of hard to believe in some cases, and then another book that I’m reading right now is Sapiens, which has been recommended to me by a lot of people. It’s a real quick history of how we came to be.
Well, thank you, Jeff. I really appreciate those questions. I think everyone’s going to love the stories that we told. Hey listen, if anybody thinks that we still haven’t gone deep enough into one aspect of it, or you think there are more stories that you want to hear about my dad, or my mom, or my sister, or me growing up, just let them rip.
Well, there you go. I held nothing back. What did you think? Jeff and I would love to hear your opinion about today’s show, and how you plan to use my life’s lessons to inspire you to success. Keep me posted, and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send me a message on Instagram, or on Twitter.
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