“Who’s this jacked dude talking about Harry Potter and Star Wars?” I wondered in 2013, when I was an 8th grader in Vermont.
At that time, when I wasn’t lifting or playing hockey, I was exploring Youtube or reading fitness blogs. It was only a matter of time before I came across one of the contemporary greats: John Romaniello.
I devoured everything he wrote. He was not the typical fitness guy spouting on about squats and deadlifts.
“I fear three things,” his article jumped, “and three things only: clowns, spiders, and the worst…clown spiders.”
That year, I wrote—for the first time besides school assignments—a scribbled, bullet point journal entry in an old composition book called: Rosie’s Rules for Life, written in direct response to an article John wrote called Roman’s Rules for Life.
His book (a New York Times bestseller) Engineering the Alpha: A Real World Guide to an Unreal Life, was the first fitness book I ever read, depositing down the gravel which would form the foundation of my fitness fascination.
He inspired me not only to lift weights, but to read, think, and walk through life with eloquence and a unique flare.
Over six years after reading his book, he has become my boss, my mentor, my Obi-Wan Kenobi, and I his young Padawan.
If you’d told me in 8th grade I’d be hanging out his NYC highrise apartment, helping create content, brainstorm projects, and develop courses, while getting to ask him questions about Arnold—who wrote the forward to his book—I would’ve bodychecked you into a snowbank—a very middle school David move.
But, here we are.
How the fuck did we get here?
Yes, there was a lot of luck involved. But as the maxim goes, attributed to the stoic philosopher Seneca, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
The process may not be repeatable—everybody has their own journey—but the lessons from my peregrination can help you acquire your dream job or internship, grow your network, and find your Obi-Wan.
“When you focus on developing skills and relationships, the outcome of the project is irrelevant. You can’t lose.”
Tim Ferriss regularly echoes this on his podcast. In 2018, it inspired me to substitute teach, but this year, its context changed. After re-reading Ferriss’s latest book Tribe of Mentors, I saw a theme: Top performers seek out and pay for the knowledge they want, from the mentors they desire. One example is investor Graham Duncan, who featured in Tribe of Mentors: “I invest a disproportionate amount of my income in paying for an ever-growing collection of trainers and coaches.” Like many things in life, it comes back to taking initiative, leaning into situations others won’t.
In March 2019, when John advertised one-on-one writing coaching on his Instagram story, I dove in head first. A conspicuous financial investment (his time’s not cheap) for a 20 year old about to leave for college, I invested a large portion of the money I saved up in my gap years. But when I considered the upside, it quickly became incontrovertible.
First of all, I would get to work one-on-one with John. His expertise in writing, and in particular the type of writing I want to do, is unmatched in the fitness industry. After developing my writing skills on this wee little blog over the previous two years, it would be the first time I would get feedback from a professional writer.
Heading into college, it’d revamp my academic mind. I hadn’t written with a deadline since June of 2017. Somewhat fearful of how my writing would stack up at a world class institution like NYU, seeking out professional help would swell my skill set.
Additionally, I knew I’d be moving to New York City, John’s home base. I had zero professional connections there. I supposed, after working with him one-on-one, by the time I got to NYC he would have ideas for where I could work or intern, or introduce me to others who could help me.
I would develop two things: skills and relationships.
My writing improved immensely, elevating my prose, and enhancing my process.
From when we initially started working together, our common interests gelled us together. Our coaching sessions went long, as we got into discussing topics like relationship advice and Harry Potter to which he gave me a great piece of guidance combining the two: “Never get into a serious relationship with a girl who’s never read Harry Potter.” We bonded, I deduced, for the same reasons I was drawn to his work at a young age.
Most importantly, who I was allowed me to excel in our work.
All the hockey coaches who instilled a strong work ethic and the teachers and mentors who grew my aspirations to learn prepared me to be the person who could excel in a one on one writing mentorship with a professional writer, and to ultimately serve the John Romaniello empire.
If you’re continually focused on improving yourself, when the right moment comes—the chance to introduce yourself to an idol, or apply for a dream job—who you are will have already brought you success.
About a week before I left for New York, I got a text from John before our weekly writing discussion: “I’d also like to talk about a potential internship when you get here… with me.”
Two months into our work together, he’s taught me—in addition to continuing to improve my writing and helping grow my business—the ways of fashion (I bought jeans everybody), public speaking, and a few dashes of stand-up comedy.
What can you do to surround yourself the people you want to work with?
Often, you can hire them. Suddenly you’ll have the world’s best at your fingertips. Investing in improving is rarely a regrettable resolve. Perhaps they advertise needing help. Or if they don’t, reach out and see if they do.
If who you are is ready to serve them, then it’s a matter of putting yourself in the situation to converge at the same place, at the same time.