About The Episode:
Kawan Karadaghi brings loads of evidence to you during this episode by explaining how important it is to have mentors in business and in life. Learn how it’s the importance of showing up, learning from your peers, and recognizing what reinforces you to be an outstanding entrepreneur to grow you and your business.
Listen to the podcast here:
About Kawan Karadaghi:
Kawan Karadaghi stumbled into fitness and journeyed his way into becoming a master trainer. He wouldn’t be where he is without mentors and business partners. He now owns and helps operate gyms. Kawan now serves as a guide to help others find their strengths. He also hosts a podcast called ValueVerse to talk about the stories of mastery, growth and success.
Watch the episode here:
Why You’re Missing Out if You Don’t Have Mentors | Kawan Karadaghi
I’m pumped to talk to someone who is a Master Trainer and entrepreneur. What is he training? Of course, he’s a trainer. He wants to see you fit and healthy, and this man talks about mastery, growth and success because he’s an entrepreneur and owner of Anytime Fitness. Kawan, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me on. What an intro. I got to live up to that.
Everybody who’s reading, if you love the content that Kawan’s bringing, please share this with three of your friends. That’s how we grow. That’s how we help more people. Right, Kawan?
Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more.
Master trainer, tell me what that means exactly?
I got hired as a trainer, and I had zero sessions under my belt. They gave me a t-shirt and it was too baggy. That’s what drove me to do it. I saw these guys walking around that said “Master Trainer” on the back of their shirts. I said, “How do I get that?” They said, “You got to get 2,251 sessions under your belt before you can get that shirt.” I wanted that shirt. It was one of the things I wanted the most in my life. It was just a symbol for me to say, “This was something that you can’t buy. There’s no shortcut. You have to earn it.” I started off with zero sessions. I focused. I say, “This is something that I want. I want to get good at this. I don’t want to do things halfway.”
I gave it my all. I asked the guy that certified masters, “What advice would you give to a newbie trainer?” He said, “Throw yourself at it. Give it your all.” That’s what I did. I went all in. I chased that shirt, and I eventually had 2,251. The guy who actually got me the gig gave me that master trainer shirt. It’s like they give you a samurai sword or whatnot. It was this magical moment. I got that. I kept training, and I eventually hit the 10,000 mark years later as well.
I’m always curious about this because I’m sure there’s data behind this somewhere, but why 2,251?
When I eventually reached 1,000, it was like in the beginning, everything was a little challenging to do. You had to design the workout. You had to get ready for the client. I would write a lot of my stuff down. When things were taken or things didn’t go your way, it was like you were out of sorts. It was only until about 1,000-plus sessions where I started to get what they call unconscious competent. You just do it in your sleep or blindfolded. It was right around there.
When I hit 2,000, I was like, “I see why they made this so far out because everybody calls themselves proficient or master at something.” It’s only when you acquire that many hours. I think that’s a sweet spot. I don’t know what system they had, but even as a master, I always say, “You’re still learning.” Mastery is a beautiful concept, and you should always strive to attain it. I feel like it’s something that you consistently and constantly try to stay at as well.
I know you talk about mastery all the time, too. I assume you reference what you’re talking about here, but what’s your definition of personal mastery?
If I had to put a one way, I would say it’s working on highlighting your strengths and then also improving your weaknesses. Understanding yourself, who you are, where you want in this world, what you’re good at and what you will do to pass that along. I say, “Know thyself.” Having knowledge of yourself and the gifts you’ve been given, also some of the things you don’t want. What are you going to do with those? How are you going to make that work for you? Too many times, I see people going around not acknowledging that. I feel as personal mastery is all-encompassing of your strengths and weaknesses.
You’re going deep on me. I appreciate that. If you’re reading this, this is on YouTube too. To see Kawan’s face as he was talking about this, I was like, “Oh my Lord, it was almost like the samurai master,” as you’re delivering this. I wanted to get down and roll out a carpet or something like that. How do I do this? You’re dead on in everything that you’re saying. I’ll have some fun with this and be like, “Tell me more, Kawan.” It was awesome. Thank you for that. Knowing thyself, that’s something that is always interesting to me because I feel like it’s a never-ending journey in that. I also know that your circumstances and your environment are constantly changing.
This was even in my book that I wrote years ago, Situational Ethics. It’s like, “How do you really know if you’re going to go to the right or the left at a fork in the road unless you’ve actually been to that very specific fork before?” You can almost know yourself at any period of time, but it’s almost like I have known myself. Now, I’m getting even deeper on you. I have known myself to do this, to do that, to think this way. As I face the scenarios, I can prep and I can train like you do to face certain scenarios in life or in fitness, whatever, but how do we respond? How do we know we’re going to respond until we get to that moment in life?
As you said, “Everything’s changing,” and I love you said, “Situational ethics.” I think that’s so true. It’s funny when I transitioned from trainer to business owner or entrepreneur, which in essence, as a trainer, you are that because you’re the business. The clients are your customers, and then you have to automate things and get budgets down. That transition is so ever-changing because there’s so much more to deal with in business. Decision-making happens quickly.
I feel as though that flexibility, fluidity and being able to use your gut, your intuition, and then the rational decision-making at the same time to go to that right direction, having people around you that are a little bit smarter helps as well. I try to leverage as many of those and then make my own independent decision. It’s a great and fascinating thing. You’re going to go with what is also the right thing and what’s best for the outcome.
Talk about those deciding factors at those decision points. From what I read about you, you opened your business with zero clients, right?
When I started, I had at least one single client, which is still crazy. You figure that one single client for me was bringing in $1,000 a month in revenue and that’s it. I had two newborn twins, a family of four, $1,000 a month. The math just doesn’t work, and I was getting laid off. What was your story around like, “I’m going to open this thing with zero clients,” and it’s a gym of all things too?
Going back, I met my business partners I owe a lot of my credit to. They were the ones that push me continuously until this day and to take on so much. I wouldn’t be anywhere without mentors and partners in my life, honestly. When we moved down to San Diego. We’re all from LA. Opening up, first of all, I ran for two weeks in San Diego. I don’t know why, but that’s just what happened. It was like, “I guess this is where I moved down to.” I left that six-figure salary and moved to a place I didn’t know anybody except for my business partners. We had zero members and clients. When I went in, it was an empty warehouse from the ground up. Zero people. We said, “We’re going to start marketing,” and then the calls started coming in.
What a beautiful day and what you have has that one client was paying that you know at that point that at least you can replicate or create someone else. We said, “Okay.” We knew gyms and we knew that we had to provide a comfortable workout space, and we said it’s like, “If you build it, they’ll come.” When we looked at demographics, we knew that the population was there. We knew that there wasn’t that much competition, so we said, “Okay.” We just believed in it. We said, “We know we could do this.” Going back to Tyler podcast, why I love it so much because we went all in. We just said, “We left it all.” What I would have prayed before is like, there’s some burning desire backed by faith. We said, “We can do this. It’s doable.”
The Anytime Fitness model helped a lot because of their franchise. This is about making the calls. I’m picking up the phone and then doing those good old-fashioned sales and saying, “Are you looking for a gym? What’s going on?” Adding value and getting them to come in and believe in it. These people were signing up with no gym built. They basically took a leap of faith and say, “We’ll do it.” We got the first client and we were so stoked. I was part of the call, and it was one of the worst calls in history, probably because it was mind-bogglingly nervous about it.
In other, because you were on it, is that what you’re saying?
That’s pretty much what I’m saying. Do you know what I mean? We always laugh about it until this day, but we were so excited about it. We chased that. We said, “Let’s keep doing that.” The beautiful thing about selling or doing anything in business is if you believe in it, and you think it’ll improve someone’s life, then you’ll go to bat. You’ll do whatever it takes because you know it to be true in your heart.
I love how you said, “We went all-in on this with the new gyms.” That’s cool. It made me think there are always these fallback plans, and I’ve said this before. An episode of the show was Burn the Net. Function without the safety net because you’re going to perform better, stronger, and with more focus than anything else if you don’t have that fallback. People will confuse that sometimes with a backup plan would be that way, but that’s because it’s back in there. A contingency is a different story, and I’m sure you probably had a lot of contingencies based upon this because contingencies to me, are still a way to move forward. It’s saying, “If we hit this speed bump, this is how we’re going to deal with it.” I’m sure there were probably speed bumps in your first year as you open this thing. What was it like doing that first year?
The panic attacks, lack of sleep and constantly thinking. It’s not too far from a military boot camp. I’m very supportive of our military. It’s not per se as difficult, but it was just as challenging on all fronts. Your psychology and the philosophies you have, what you think you knew about business, your belief system, it all gets challenged. You can’t hide. You can’t hide, shy away or try to misguide because it’s all out there. Everybody knows, your business partners know, so you have to be in transparency, you going to be in honesty, call on your highest standards source speak, and have that work ethic. It was tough in the beginning, and we all were super stressed out. The fascinating thing about human beings is how we adapt to situations.
You probably know this even better. Showing up is half of it right there. Show up consistently, learn and keep going through it. Don’t give up. Don’t get discouraged or not believe in yourself. Keep working. Roll your sleeves up, get that 2,251 hours. That’s what it is. The more you build that, that’s how you get better at anything. That’s all I did. I told myself, “I sucked at it. I wasn’t good. I missed this. I missed that.” One of the biggest things that I try to do is improve daily on either mishaps or things that I dropped and just say, “I need to get better at doing this.” Eventually, you start to catch up. You start to get better. To answer your question, it was definitely one of the most challenging things that I’ve been through, but the growth from that was amazing.
That’s mental toughness 101 right there. I remember that first year, trying to feed kids, pay electrical bills and find revenue where you can. Is this the same as you that first year? You probably have a certain standard of a client now. “I’m going to charge this much, and this is who I’m looking for.” You’ve opened three gyms from what I see. Back in year one, same here likely, is that we would just take anything that threw money at us because it’s your first year and you’re trying to make ends meet. I definitely was not very selective year one, but I would always say, and how you said, “Keep moving forward,” but my forward was saying, “A year out, this is what it’s going to look like.” I already had this vision in my head, almost knowing that this is going to suck for the first year.
I’ve got a little bit different view on it, but you hear a lot of these similar stories. I realize in hindsight that it didn’t have to suck as bad as it did if I would’ve done some other things, but I learned, so you and I can give advice, which is why we’re talking here to everybody else that’s reading. That first year, you almost want to take anything that throws money at you just because you need to pay your bills.
You need to create a business in that sense. Take yes, as they say, and so many negotiations boost our brand. If there’s a sale and there’s somebody that’s willing to do business with you, take that yes. I can’t even imagine doing it with raising twins. Kudos to you. That takes some real toughness right there. Not only mental or emotionally, and wherewithal to do that is as awesome. Nice work on that. I look back on some of these, and I was laughing because you say you didn’t have to suck. It’s so true. It was just so dreadful coming in sometimes. I had to do everything,
I was walking one time and I came to this realization. I realized I was looking back on those days, and I was like, “I’m so glad that I went through that,” because it kept me humble. It taught me to know everything about the business because I was in it every day. Being in that environment allowed me to have more ownership and stake in it because I understood it well. I almost feel like it was something that had to be done.
That’s part of knowing yourself too. How would I have gone through that differently? Now I understand because I’ve gone through it exactly. I’ve had so many people work for me over the years too. I didn’t know Jack as far as how to do any of this stuff, but then you go through the fire. I remember somebody who worked here years ago because Reach Out, I feel, is a really great place to work and everything that we do. It was more my fault because I would hire out of compassion because I would see people with hardship. It’s like, “That was like me, and I got through it. That means that I can help you.” It’s almost like the misguided compassion, in a way.
The thought that I always got from them was not so much of entitlement, but almost as if they needed to be or were supposed to be in the same spot that I’m in now without having to go through those periods of life education. It’s like you’re never going to understand. When you look around, and I know this now too. When we look back on those days, it’s like, “It could have been easier?” It could have been easier if I knew that I had the right mentors in place. You had your partners. Right?
You had people to lean on. I didn’t have many people to lean on until a year after when I hired my first business coach. During that first period, if you’re going it alone, I don’t know if you had mentors around besides your partners at that point in time. If you don’t have those people to help you make those decisions, or you’re like, “This is just something that I got to go through,” then yeah, it’s going to be tough. I had a post on this.
Also, those that are starting, one, dog yourself for the people that are ten years ahead of you because they’re ten years ahead of you. They’ve gone through this stuff already. It’s okay to be where you’re at right now. Second, don’t try to bring those people down to your level because they’ve gone through all that stuff already, and you can learn and look up to them, then at some point, you can crush your own journey.
First of all, having the right mentors in place is key. I feel nowadays, too many people don’t take advantage of that. They don’t approach people that have done kind of what they want to do. I always took on that role of students. Until this day, I don’t think I know everything that needs to be known and nor do I want to be that guy because that’s when you get in trouble. Having mentors and people that have done it is key and what you said is so true. You don’t want to compare yourself to somebody. That’s their journey. That’s what they’ve gone through or went through. Yours is your journey to live and to go on your own. It’s your road to mastery. It robs you of the individual thing that you have to go through because I was guilty of doing that when I was younger.
I was too. That’s why I say it. “Look at all this stuff that they have. I’m going to go after that, but why?” You then start to think, if you can pull yourself out of yourself for a moment, like pull yourself out of your own ass is really is what it is. Why do they have all this stuff? It’s like, I’ve got an Aston Martin now, but this is material sure. I drove a Saturn years ago. The lowest of the low of the GM vehicles is what I was driving because it’s all I could literally afford. The car was $18,000 new. That’s what it was and that’s how I helped building things. What was one of the biggest key things that you learned during that first year from some of your mentors that you had around?
On the business side?
Business or life. For me, it’s all together.
Growing up, I was very fortunate to have people that took an interest in me. When I look back, I have them to thank because it takes somebody to care about you and say, “I want to explore this a little bit with this person.” They didn’t have to, but they did. Growing up, I had that, and he helped me find the voice of finding my identity, believe it or not, through acting. It’s what I wanted to do essentially in the beginning. That allowed me to search within myself to see because I was directionless growing up. I didn’t know. I didn’t do great in school. People were like, “What’s this guy? He’s just a rebel and he’s not going to amount to much.” It takes you as the person to answer the question that those mentors are asking of you or the universe, life, whatever it is you believe in.
For me, it was about answering that. Some of my first mentors, “Have you ever thought about acting?” No one had ever really taken an interest in me like that before. I was shocked that somebody even thought I could do that. I said, “No, what’s acting? How do you do that?” I looked into that. I eventually moved to Los Angeles. I met my other mentor in Virginia, then he got me. He knocked on my door one day and said, “Do you want to go for a run?” I said, “A run?” I was smoking a pack a day at a time. I was like, “I don’t want to go on a run ever.” He pushed me. He just was unrelenting. I look back, and I said, “That guy, he pushed that message there.” I answered that. I met a buddy at the gym. We became friends. He was a trainer. He’s the one who gave me that, and I asked for a trainer shirt. He said, “Have you ever thought about being a trainer?” No one had ever thought about me like that. I said, “How do you do that? What’s that about?”
It was the perfect storm because it happened at a time when I was facing this financial crisis where I was forced to make a decision, where I was going to move back to Virginia where I’m especially from, to just call it quits. That’s how I stumbled upon it, and it was literally someone taking an interest. I then met my fitness manager, who also took an interest and developed me on the business side of things and taught me what training was and the science behind it. My business partner, who was a manager at the time, had asked me, and he said, “What do you want to do with your life?” I said, “I want to make this much, and I want to do these things.” He said, “It’s not going to happen with what you’re doing. Have you ever thought about opening up your own business?” I was like, “No. How do you do that? What’s that?” That’s it, to break it down in a nutshell.
People show up in your life and they come and go all the time, but there’s going to be those ones that take an interest or show you something. It’s really up to us to answer that calling and to be that role of student and to recognize it when it’s there. That’s what I did. I followed what people told me to do and I just did it. I got out of my way. It’s like you said, “Put yourself outside of yourself.”
It’s a hard thing to do, especially when you’re in it at the time and recognizing this because you’re right. It’s good mentors that come in your life that will continuously reinforce you. You can go anywhere, and you can get a word of affirmation one time. You can get a word of affirmation on a one-night stand. To have that continuous affirmation from somebody that sees you and what you can be and who you are is something that’s special. This is coming back to what we were talking about earlier. Don’t start to try to be like, “I should be them already.” They’ve already gone through this stuff so that they can help you recognize it. You will be where they are and probably surpass them if you can shut up and listen for a moment.
It’s shutting up and listening. Listen to people that are done or doing what you want to do. That’s exactly right. Listen to them and implement what they tell you to do. Don’t try to derail, go and do your own thing or challenge it. You can ask questions and challenge these if you don’t think that there’s something right there. In essence, it has taken on that role. I was fortunate to have my mom that ran her own business. I call her and be like, “This is going on. This is happening.” I read a lot of books. Books on business, how to deal with difficult situations, and conversations. I feel like I’ve been going to college for four years. I read every day on good business books. That will do wonders for you if you implement that as well.
What are some that stick out for you?
It’s all in my head. Good to Great, Jim Collins. You can’t knock that. That’s one of the ones that I did it. There’s been so many that I’ve read over time. I’ve been on Tim Ferriss, Tribe of Mentors. Tools of Titans was great. They’re just books that can give you different perspectives, which I think is key in business because you’re going to be stuck if you only see things one way. That’s why it’s so important to have that those mentors that say, “Look at this. This is kind of what’s happening here,” and you’re like, “It’s not what I saw. I saw my ego taking over where I’m rigid in this.”
That’s what a lot of people have. They get to this place where they’re not trying to learn anymore. They’re not trying to be that sponge. When did that stop? If you’re trying to be a successful person and this person’s done it like you said. First of all, don’t compare it because you haven’t put in the work. That’s like saying, “I’m going to shoot a perfect free throw every single time.” How many free throws you’ve been shooting? If you haven’t shot a certain amount, by the time you get decent, you need that practice.
Some things you realize over the course of time, too, that you’re just never going to be good at. That’s an important lesson to learn too.
You don’t want to do major and minor things. You want to go to where you’re good or where you’re potentially going to be great at. That’s exactly right. You don’t want to chase down the thing that you’re going to be average in. Find the thing you’re good at. To be honest, do you want to be good at everything? How do you even do that? That’s so hard to do. I feel you’re just going to be overall average. Find 1 or 2 strengths and run with it.
Another book for you to start reading, you’ll probably enjoy this with your list that you have already, is Tim Grover’s Winning.
That’s Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant’s trainer, right?
Do you like that one?
I am going to put that on my list right now.
Everybody else who’s reading, put it on your list, and Tim, you’re welcome. You’ve got a podcast, ValueVerse?
It’s funny you asked. The pandemic hit, and I was sitting around. I had all this free time, and I said, “What am I going to do?” I say, “You always wanted to do something on social media. You always want to reach out and add more value.” I said, “That’s definitely something I’m going to do.” I started growing my Instagram account and I started posting daily. I got some good feedback from that, and I thought, “This is cool. Now how do I want to do more? I want to affect more people. How do I create a space where people can have these open conversations and, in essence, to add even more value?” It took me almost a year of procrastinating. I said, “How do you do this? What’s a podcast? What is all this?”
Finally, one day, I was down with the flu, and thankfully it wasn’t COVID. It’s so funny. When those things happen to you, it makes you realize what matters. I don’t know if you’ve ever gone through something where it makes you stop and think. Me sitting in bed, I saw my life, and I was like, “What am I doing? What else can I do? I’m going to decide and I’m going to do this podcast.” I threw a name together and then I told myself the most important thing to do is start. Do something. That’s when I launched it.
There’s something to be said about that. In 2020, everybody and their grandmother launched one, and most of them probably only lasted about 5 or 6 episodes and that’s it. If you’re going to do it, that’s the same thing in training or anything else. Consistency and longevity and those things. I guess it’s true with anything. There are some people that I knew that would start into it and then realize, “I really don’t like it.” That’s okay. If it’s something that’s going to add value, if it’s something that you feel like you want to do, that you should do, then that’s where you have to continuously go at it because it is going to suck. It’s like your first year in business.
The first couple of episodes came out and I was jazzed. After a while, in the 6th or 7th one, I was like, “This is getting a little tiring.” I outsource my editing and my show notes because I knew myself. I would say, “If I do these on my own, they’re going to become chore-like, then I’m going to fall off.” I said, “Do only the thing that you love doing,” which is connecting with people, having these conversations like you and I are having, “And then that way, you just get to walk. That’s what I’ll do.” After that, I did hit that wall where I was thinking, “What am I doing? Why am I doing this?” I love connecting with people, and it always brings me back to that. It becomes fun when you delegate properly and don’t have to tie yourself to the stuff that you don’t want to deal with.
Speaking about delegation, you’ve got three gyms, and you’re planning on opening a 4th and a 5th. Coming out of 2020, some people will be like, “Are you crazy?” That’s solid. I like that you’re doubling down, which is phenomenal. What made you have that crazy thought coming out of like, “I’m not open. I’m not making money right now from memberships. Let’s just open more gyms.”
I have my business partner to thank for that. He’s an Italian. The guy was constantly adapting. He’s always on the lookout. He’s our expansion guy, and he’s always searching and adapting. I feel in the pandemic, there was two types of people. There was the type that got heavily affected or just didn’t adapt. Then there was a type that adapted and used it not for their advantage but to propel themselves into something else or to do something.
When that happened on the first go around, we shut down. When we’re allowed to reopen, we built the outdoor gym, and we consistently looked for opportunities. We were looking for places that were doing too well. We would hand them a proposal or a letter of intent and go from there. We changed our strategy from opening and building them from the ground up to either acquiring existing ones or ones that were already built out and allow for that faster expansion. We rolled with the tide, with the waves, and found opportunities where we could. That’s what you got to do.
There are so many creative ways to expand, too, especially when it comes to acquisitions. There’s a lot of people that are starting to teach on this now, but almost like $0 down, you can buy a company. That’s true. When you can find that, especially with seller finance deals going on nowadays, it’s the easiest way to add revenues. It’s to acquire too. It’s also the fastest way.
The good thing about Anytime is because it’s in the Anytime Fitness realm, you would have other owners that were either willing to sell or just wanting out for whatever reason it was. We were very fortunate in that as well that people were saying, “I’ve done my time with it. I’m in a good place, and I want to head out of the gym business.” We say, “All right.”
Go find Kawan at TheValueVerse.com and listen to his show. It’s going to go on my subscription list, too, because I enjoyed our conversation. I appreciate it.
Me as well. Thank you for having me on. You’re ready to host, and you got a great show as well. Thank you.
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