Chapter 1: Childhood & Soccer
I was born and raised in Sydney, Australia. I was a mischievous little brat and I had an intense passion for sport. I was always uber competitive in everything I did. Most of all chess, swimming & soccer.
As a kid I loved many sports but I decided very early on that I wanted to be a professional soccer player. This dream was influenced largely by my Dad, who had come to Australia from England in his 20s and met my Mum. Fittingly, the two met at a gym where Mum worked as a fitness instructor. Looking back, it all makes sense now. 🤔
By the time I was 9 or 10, soccer became my life. I stopped participating in all the other sports and chess competitions. I left school at 15 to travel to South America, Central America and finally to Europe in search of a pro contract.
At 17 I spent time trialing with several clubs across Central America & Europe. Even if I never made money playing soccer, it was a longtime dream to travel the world playing at that level.
I was a decent player however I never even got close to playing for any of the teams you see on TV every Sunday. At 18 years old I was still trying to earn a spot on the bench with a 2nd division team in Costa Rica. The harsh reality sunk in: Manchester United weren’t calling anytime soon & I wasn’t going to be the next Ronaldo.
Being as idealistic as I was, anything less than superstardom didn’t interest me. As a kid I was the poster boy for “go big or go home”. Applying this mantra to my soccer career I hung up the boots and moved home.
Chapter 2: Triathlon
I started racing triathlons and won a big half ironman race in California when I was 18. I was approached by a sponsor after the race. I learned about these guys called “professional triathletes” who trained like animals all day every day and travelled the world racing in extreme endurance events in exotic locations.
After I met a few of these guys I became convinced they were the baddest men on the planet and my life changed forever. I teamed up with one of the most respected coaches in the USA and based myself in Los Angeles. I set my sights on a new mission: I wanted to be a world champion triathlete.
California is a popular training base for many of the world’s best cyclists and triathletes. I routinely linked up with Olympians, World Champions and other up and coming pros to train together over the years 🏊🏼♂️ 🚴🏽♂️🏃🏽♂️
After a few years in the sport I knew an Olympic distance world title was never on the cards for me. Because of my large frame and heavy build, I unfortunately didn’t have the requisite VO2 max to run 10km at 4:30/mile at the end of the race – and that’s what it takes to compete with the best.
The reason a lot of endurance athletes are so skinny and lean is because speed is a function of an athlete’s “power:weight” ratio. World class power output and endurance are two things I was able to achieve, but a competitive (low) body mass is something I never could. I battled for years to starve myself into being smaller and lighter but ultimately it was a lost cause.
A typical training week in my life between ages 19 and 22 might have included 25 miles of swimming, 300 miles of cycling and 50 miles of running, plus a few 60-90 minute weight room sessions. There were many occasions where I surpassed all of those figures in the same week, exceeding 40 hours of training in 7 days.
I woke up at 4am and went to bed at 8pm. I spent every waking minute training or eating. I took a day off from training once every 3 weeks. I rarely saw friends or went to social events. I was completely committed. It was as extreme and ridiculous as it sounds.
I raced in triathlons all over the USA and internationally, winning a bunch of races and proving myself as a top amateur competitor within my first few years in the sport – but you don’t get paid to win local amateur races, so I got a job as an ocean lifeguard in Malibu.
I would work all Summer as a lifeguard and save as much as I could, then at the start of every Winter I’d sell whatever equipment I could get sponsors to send me that season. I’d try to stretch the budget as much as possible, but I started to realize just how hard it would be to make ends meet if I kept living the triathlon life.
My first professional race was in 2014 in New South Wales in my native Australia and I got my ass handed to me. Actually, I didn’t even finish the race. I dropped out. 🤷🏽♂️
Despite showing promise early on, after a few years it became clear to me that I wasn’t ever going to be a competitive world class triathlete. I was OK, but I was just way too big. I was built for the Mr. Olympia, not for the Ironman. 😂
Chapter 3: My First Startup(s)
In my early 20s I pivoted away from athletics and became an entrepreneur.
Keeping with the “go big or go home” theme, at 22 I decided to sideline my Olympic dreams and go all-in on tech. Not even a week after my first pro race in February 2014, a friend called and invited me to join him on a business venture. We pitched a developer to join as our lead engineer and the three of us spent the next month hacking together our first app, Timeagram.
I didn’t know it at the time but I was setting off on a rollercoaster ride that would last several years and test my endurance like never before. The app took off. I stopped racing entirely. I traded in my bicycle for an ipad. I spent the next few years living in Santa Monica, known in the tech industry as “Silicone Beach”.
After Timeagram I lead sales teams at a couple of different tech startups, then later CoFounded another consumer app, FashionTap. Years later I built a couple E-commerce brands and worked on a dozen or so different projects in varying capacities.
Like many other young entrepreneurs in the tech world I was bouncing from one company to another, working frantically to scale something quickly and sell it so I could retire before my 25th birthday.
During my early years as an entrepreneur I found time for the gym a couple times a week on a good week. I stopped swimming, biking and running cold turkey. My eating and drinking habits were the same as most 20-somethings in the modern western world (ie. my eating and drinking habits were terrible).
I got fat. I completely lost sense of my identity. I grew anxious about my fitness (or lack thereof). I was unhappy. I convinced myself 12 hours work days were necessary and I wore all-nighters like a badge of honor. I would tell myself my weight gain was OK because “I was not an athlete anymore. I was a business man”. For all you ex-college athletes out there… maybe this sounds familiar?
I was overworked. I held down 2-3 side jobs at a time to fund my moonshot startups. This sedentary lifestyle seemed to work for other entrepreneurs but it took me a few years to realize that it didn’t work for me.
Chapter 4: My Revitalization
After a whirlwind of crazy ups and downs, repeated letdowns and several remarkable low points… I had a full on breakdown at age 24. I went through an extremely dark period of confusion and consternation. I hit the proverbial “rock bottom”, per se.
My athletic adventures seemed like a distant past life. Getting outdoors and enjoying a beautiful day on the trails seemed like something I would never be able to do ever again. I had nothing to show for all my ambitious business endeavors.
I was uncertain about what I was supposed to be doing with my life. I had let my relationships with loved ones deteriorate. Worst of all, I was totally miserable and wasting my precious life. Something had to change.
I left California and spent 4 months living on a farm in a secluded part of the woods in Oregon. I started training again, albeit modestly. I didn’t check my email for 3 months. I stopped working on all my businesses. I started working on myself. It saved my life!
As I turned 25 and entered into the next “quarter” of my life, I began to prioritize my happiness ahead of everything else. I swore to never lose sight of what’s important to me again.
At 26 I wanted a fresh start but I had no immediate career opportunities in Los Angeles. I had no money but I had a unique set of skills I’d acquired over two athletic careers & two notable startups.
I defaulted to serving & bartending around Los Angeles – first at foodie joints and eventually finding my way to The Four Seasons where my “time : income” ratio was more optimized.
I continued paying down credit card debts from my early 20s and began thinking seriously & deeply about what I wanted to do with my life.
It was at this moment that I felt lost & alone in Los Angeles. I didn’t fit in here. My parents & sisters were no longer here. I had recently broken up with my girlfriend. If I wasn’t in the USA for a sporting career, a startup, or a relationship… then why was I here at all?
Chapter 5: I Still Call Australia “Home”
I moved back to my native Australia and took a job with a startup in Sydney. Living back at home was an incredibly reinvigorating & reassuring experience.
It’s hard to articulate the subtle cultural difference between Australia & The United States. But as someone who’s spent about half my life in each country, I can feel the difference a lot more clearly than I can explain it.
The social & corporate cultures, the dialogue you’ll hear on the radio, the work/life balance, the way strangers interact, the way kids are raised and families are operated, the way people spend their time on weekends, the national interests & stereotypes, the topics of conversation you’ll overhear at the coffeeshops & the jokes you’ll hear people laughing over at the bars – all of these things in Australia differ vastly from the United States.
Australian culture just seems to better align with my personal values. The shoe just fits. When I’m at home in Australia, I don’t feel like “the odd one out”. On the contrary, at 26 in Sydney I felt “at home” & “at peace” more than I ever had in my teenage years and early career in America.
I took the lead on sales efforts for a Macadamia Milk company based out of Byron Bay. It was a promising startup with a fantastic product and I helped them grow their MOM sales nearly 10x in less than 6 months during their earliest days.
In true Aussie fashion I started enjoying myself on the weekends instead of working all weekend like I had in LA. I reignited my social life which at the time felt like a long lost, dead part of me.
I immediately felt a renewed enthusiasm for life, for relationships, for the great outdoors & for the adventure of it all.
At the conclusion of 6 months, I felt it was time to leave home again and set out to Los Angeles to build my own company.
If I stayed in Australia for longer than 6 months, I risked losing my green card in the States. I knew I couldn’t let that happen – California was where I had to be if I wished to seek out capital, technical talent & an enormous local market.
After tasting bitter defeat at multiple startups, I had since travelled to Oregon, back to LA & to Sydney, spending almost a full year effectively “recharging” my batteries. I was now ready to try again on another startup.
I’d always been a dreamer, envisioning world titles and endeavoring to build billion dollar startups – but obviously, none of that had materialized. After all I’d been through, I had plenty of good reasons to aim for something a little bit more realistic now.
But of course, I didn’t. I still wanted to own my own business. And despite every indication to the contrary, I had deep conviction that I could build a company that would change the world.
I knew I wanted to do something on the intersection of fitness & technology. But I didn’t know what that looked like yet, so I started with something that I knew would pay the bills: personal training.
Chapter 6: You’re Dominating
Now 27 years old, I moved back to Los Angeles. I left behind the salary and commissions I’d earned selling macadamia milk to cafes all over Sydney – so I was back to zero income.
I now had no high school diploma, no marketable job experience outside of early stage startups & about $10,000 of credit card debt. I was nearly 30 years old, literally homeless & destitute.
I got a $10,000 loan from my best mate in Sydney who believed in me and knew I’d pay him back. Without this loan, I still don’t know where I’d be today. I’ll never forget how much this loan meant to me and how important it is to have mates like I do back home.
I moved into a friend’s spare bedroom in Sherman Oaks and I worked as an Ocean Lifeguard for another Summer, meanwhile getting a second job at a local gym in LA and launching my personal training business.
This is the point when my life really, truly, actually, seriously changed forever. It was when I finally said: OK now what should I do with my career given that I’ve removed the ‘due date’ on my success?
Whatever I was going to do next, I was going to do it forever. I didn’t want to play the lottery again with a startup that was boring or uninspiring for me.
I wanted to focus on something that excited me & use my unique skills & experience to achieve some sort of meaningful mission in that space.
To determine what I loved most, I asked myself: what would you do if you knew you’d do it for 10 years and then fail?. This single question changed my life.
It immediately cut through all the noise for me. I stopped thinking of clever ideas to get rich quick without needing a college education. Instead, I simply focused on what I love to do and started there.
No more bartending. No more waiting tables. No more CoFounding consumer social tech startups. No more fashion startups or E-Comm plays. No more sales & marketing at startup CPG brands. No more interviews at recruiting firms … No more interviews at growth stage tech companies.
No more interviews anywhere.
I just focused on the one thing I love more than anything else and truly the one single thing I need in life to be happy: health & fitness.
I saved enough cash to buy a used Ford Transit Connect van and a foam mattress – then I moved out of my friend’s house and lived in that van for a full 14 months.
For a whole year, all I did was work & work out. Rent, I decided, was a luxury expense I couldn’t afford until I was making real money.
I got back into the mindset I had years earlier as an athlete: out work everyone.
I formally started “You’re Dominating” in 2018. It was initially a simple personal training company. I first marketed myself to young men but then realized I could just as easily train other demographics. So I trained all kinds of people all over LA.
Personal training is something I excelled at – and I enjoyed helping people. I already had a firm grasp on exercise physiology, training modalities, nutrition, the psychology of training & dieting. Moreover I genuinely love people and I’m enthusiastic about engaging with strangers. Given all these things, personal training came quite naturally to me.
The demand for my services grew quickly, as did my rates. I went from training 3-4 sessions at $50 per session in Summer 2018 to training 20+ sessions per week at more than $100 per session one year later.
I was able to pay off all my debts (including to my best friend – love you mate!) and I got myself a studio apartment in West LA in November 2019.
By this time, I was bringing in more than enough money to pay my bills, so I stopped working at the local gym.
I began to focus my attention away from personal training and onto a few new projects which were more scalable & interesting for me.
I partnered up with the local Executive Chef of one of the restaurants I used to bartend at (cool story for another time) and together we launched Next Level Mealz. It took off.
Then I launched an outdoor group fitness brand called DMN8 (pronounced “dominate”) that hosts workouts and events all over Los Angeles. It took off.
Then I teamed up with some of my former associates in the Los Angeles tech scene and together we’re building a technology company (project codenamed “Giganize”).
Giganize is effectively an OS for fitness & event companies. I actually use it to run DMN8. Giganize is on track to launch in 2021 and I’m really excited about it.
Chapter 7: On A Mission
More than two years have past since I moved back to LA from Sydney and went “all in” on health & fitness.
I’m 28 years old and it’s early 2021 as I type this. I live in a one bedroom apartment on the beach in Venice, CA.
Across three businesses I employ 30 people now. This year my companies will (cumulatively) generate seven figures in revenue.
These companies are very small and just getting started, but this represents encouraging progress vs the previous aforementioned startups.
Somewhere along the way these past 2 years I’ve put into practice all the learnings of my 20s. I’ve now determined what my life’s mission is.
My mission is to make the world a fitter, healthier & happier place. I want to build (or fund) companies and organizations (for profit or not) which meaningfully & measurably achieve this mission.
I have already identified a few major opportunities on the intersection of:
- what I love to do
- what I’m extremely good at
- what society will pay me for
- what will help me achieve my personal mission
I’m confident working on multiple ventures simultaneously is viable given that guys like Elon Musk & Jack Dorsey are doing a great job at it. (I think it’s critically important that the ventures compliment one another, though – which theirs do.)
I’ve not yet reached my destination but I can finally say that after many ups, downs, twists & turns… I have found happiness in my mission 🙂
I genuinely hope the story about my background and the first decade of my career is interesting & ultimately helpful for you in some way.
This is an overview of my career so far and I think it’s a good starting point for this blog.
I plan to write & record about things I’m working on, lessons I’ve learned, opinions I hold & more here. If you think that it may interest you, I’d love for you to subscribe. If you think a friend may be interested, I’d appreciate you sharing with them!