We’ll get to why that is, but first, I want you to know what they called me as a kid:
Fat. Lazy. Stupid.
I grew up on a dirt road in Missouri, and I had big dreams about cars and money - what kid doesn’t? The problem was, my appetite for junk food was a lot stronger than my appetite for success.
I hated school. It just didn’t interest me. Occasionally a class would pop up that flipped my switch, and I’d ace it. But the rest of the time? I was a solid D student.
The other kids made fun of me for being dumb. Hell, even the teachers did.
When I told them that I wanted to play football at Notre Dame, the teacher pretty much laughed in my face. Apparently, colleges like that weren’t for kids like me.
I was told that I wasn’t "the cream of the crop", and I believed it! Hell, I didn’t even feel like part of the crop!
That teacher had a plan in mind for me. Society had a plan in mind for me:
Leave education at the first legal opportunity. Join the workforce. Flip burgers. Die.
Honestly, I’d rather just fast forward to the final part. Even as a kid, I knew that there had to be more to life than boring classrooms, more than a 9-5 job that I hated. I knew it, but I just didn’t know how to change my circumstances.
He wasn’t perfect - no one in my family is - but he gave me the greatest education. Something that I never got in the classroom.
My dad taught me that with determination and work ethic, you can succeed at anything.
He taught me to be competitive. He coached me on the value of controlled aggression, and the necessity of having an unbreakable mindset.
That drive first manifested itself with sports. I fell in love with competition. I didn’t just want to win ... I wanted to dominate. No prisoners. No mercy.
Playing sports got me in shape, too. I started feeling more confident. More alert. I realized that, as much as I loved individual victories, that nothing beats winning as a team.
And from there it was all great, and I became an overnight success.
That’s what we’d all like to think, isn’t it? That it’s that easy. That you can just learn a lesson once, and the rest will take care of itself.
Sorry, but that’s not how it works.
My friend Chris and I had seen a guy making good money by opening a supplement store, and we figured that would be our path to riches.
We were both athletes and liked lifting weights, so it seemed like a good fit for our first business. There was only one problem:
We were dead broke.
My dad had been financially successful with his own business, but he wasn’t about to cut me a check.
He wanted me to learn the right way - the tough way - and if he had given me that money, you wouldn’t be reading this now. Why? Because I never would have learned the invaluable lessons life taught me if I hadn’t started from 0.
That first lesson? “You can’t start a store without money”, and so Chris and I took multiple summer jobs, including painting the stripes on parking lots. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
Well, the problem was, that before you painted the stripes, you had to take out the concrete dividers, then put them back when it had dried.
With the humid & hot Missouri summer heat reflecting off the concrete, we felt like we were getting slow roasted. It was hard, and just flat out sucked.
But we made $12,000. We had enough to start our business
...or so we thought.
Because we were young guys with no credit rating, the only place that would give us a storefront required a year’s rent in advance and our rent was $1,000 a month.
Bye bye $12,000 dollars. Hello every credit card we could get our hands on.
We used what little that was to buy inventory, and furnished the store ourselves; the final touch was a used piss-stained mattress from the Salvation Army store that we put in the back of the store to sleep on.
With all our money going into the business, we weren’t going to be able to make rent on an apartment.
The store was our home, now. It was everything.
But just committing to that idea wasn’t enough. The truth is, I fell down a lot over those years.
Sometimes I fell over myself, like my ego tripping me into arguments with a customer. Sometimes I fell into depression - something I’ve struggled with my entire life and am very open about.
Once, I even fell face first onto a sidewalk. Why?
Because someone used a racial slur against a friend of mine, and for standing up to that bully, I got my face cut to ribbons as the guy attacked me with a knife.
The last thing I heard before I blacked out, was the EMT saying they couldn’t stop the bleeding and they didn’t know what to do.
I lived through it, but for a long time I wished that I hadn’t. My face was a mess of swollen flesh, stitches, and bruising. I looked like I’d been put together in a lab.
I knew that society would want nothing to do with me, now. Better just to die.
It was a chance encounter with a burn-victim at a grocery store that turned my life around. She was the only survivor of a plane crash.
She was incredible, and owned the tragedy that had happened to her. She inspired me.
I knew then that I’d been acting like a wimp. That I was capable of so much more. Stitched up face or not, I could still own my life - I just had to choose to, then take step after step to make it happen.
I switched my attitude & mindset. Instead of looking at my scars as a bad thing, I took them as a positive - people would remember me, and that’s half the battle in sales.
With my confidence back, I began to crush the supplement world. We went from sleeping on that piss-stained mattress in the back of our first store, to opening several more locations.
It wasn’t long after this that I began putting out what some people would call “motivational content.” Honestly, at first, the person I was trying to motivate was myself, but the message seemed to be sticking, and that brings us back to how I became known as The MFCEO.
It was the name of my long-running podcast project that was & still is one of the most popular business podcasts in history. If you don’t know what it stands for, it means The Motherfucking CEO.
In over 300 episodes, I taught people everything that they needed to know about how to go from broke, to building a business to any level they desire. It was all based in reality, not theory, because it’s exactly what I’ve done in my own life. Not by telling, but by doing.
Over the last 22 years Ive built a diverse portfolio which consists of majority & minority investment positions in various privately-owned companies. I share this not to impress you or to brag, I share this to show you what’s possible when you TRULY COMMIT...even when you lack the “gifts” others seem to have which was the core teaching of The MFCEO Project.
On The MFCEO Project, I taught people how to win the day through proper structuring; I instructed them on how to make a sale. I advised them on how to treat their employers, and a million other lessons, but do you know what most people took away from the whole thing?
That I use “colorful” language...that’s right - I curse.
Seriously. Thousands of hours of content about how to build a business from scratch, and that’s what some people took away from it.
But that’s OK, years ago that would have bothered me but now I make it clear I’m not for everyone.
NFL scouts have a phrase; “This kid plays like his hair’s on fire.” That was me in my youth and early 20’s. Playing with my hair on fire. Always wanting to smash every target, and dominate all competition because I was angry.
I still play to win, but what I’ve realized now is that I can’t take everybody along for the ride with me, and if they want to drop out that’s on them, not me. Some people just don’t want to listen. Some guys will look at all the work that you’ve done - all the knowledge and hours you gave away for free - and they’ll say:
“Well gee-whiz, he sure does cuss a lot.”
You know what’s really funny? You can look at that MFCEO “title” and think that I gave it to myself because my ego is out of control, and I come swinging through a window into the office like I’m in SEAL Team Six.
The truth is, the MFCEO idea came from a hilarious Kenny Powers commercial made for Sketchers by the actor, Danny McBride. The name was ironic. It was a joke. I love Danny McBride, and hell, if you can’t have fun at work, then why are we working?
That’s the thing...
Life is supposed to be fun.
Work is supposed to be fun.
Fun. Not easy.
To me, I see challenge as something to be appreciated. I see hard work and sweat as something to be enjoyed & savored.
Isn’t that what being human is all about? Think about it right now. What in your life has given you the feeling of greatest reward? I bet it was that relationship you had to work for. That marathon you had to train your hardest for. That business you built from scratch.
Look at America. This country was built from the ground up with blood, sweat, and tears. With bare hands, people laid railroad from one coast to the others. They built the tallest towers. The strongest economies. Fought the world’s most evil enemies, and gave the world its greatest athletes.
That’s right. I am unapologetically American. I am a patriot. I love this country so much that it would be impossible for me to put into words.
Does that mean that I hate or look down on the rest of the world? Of course not! There are lessons to be learned, everywhere.There is improvement to be made everywhere.
And that’s my mission now. I’m here to improve myself. I want to improve society.And if you’d like my help, I would be honored to do my part in helping youimprove too.
I didn’t put a free program out in the world so I could swim in a vault of money like Scrooge McDuck. I did it because - as much as I love winning - there is something that I value much more, and that’s winning together.
What I realized after building several companies was that the way up is in some ways the easy part. Maintaining them can be harder. Why is that?
Well, when your backs against the wall, or you’re broke and literally starving, life is giving you some pretty good motivation to work and change those circumstances, don’t you agree?
But what about when you have enough money that you don’t need to work again? What about when you have the cars, and house, and travel on private jets? What’s your motivation then? How do you keep that same hunger? That same drive?
The truth is that you don’t. How can you? You’re not literally starving. You’re not sleeping on a piss-stained mattress in the back of your first store, like I had to.
And so you need to develop mental toughness.
You need it at every level of your life if you want to see success.
What can that success look like?
It can be the success of a healthy body. It can be the success of paying off your debt. It can be the success of buying your parents a car. It can be the success of putting your kids through college, or giving them seed money to start a business.
It can be whatever you want it to be, but the fact is that winners have mental toughness. That’s the only way they get back up off the deck when life puts you down, because life will put you down.
I don’t care how good looking you are, how much your mom loves you, or how good your GPA is; at some point, life will kick your ass, and put you in a choke hold. Only mental toughness will save you.
That’s why I created 75 Hard, a free program that will build that mental strength and discipline within you.
Here’s the thing about 75 Hard. I can’t do it for you.
I can show you the weights, but you gotta lift them. I can show you the mountain, but you gotta climb it. I’m here to be your guide, but you gotta carry your own bags.
Not everyone is cut out for 75 Hard. That’s just the cold, hard facts. Other people might not be cut out for it right now, but there will come a point where they are ready, and when that happens, I’m here for you.
The Arete Syndicate that I started with Ed Mylett is no different. Ed is straight up one of the best people I’ve ever met on the planet, and after 20 years of scaling businesses, and talking all over the world, you can imagine that I’ve met a lot.
We formed The Arete Syndicate because, even though we were both putting out a huge amount of content for free, we weren’t getting the results that we wanted in helping individuals, and society, benefit from our experience - and isn’t that what we should all be doing? Trying to put back what we’ve learned into helping others, so that they can come on the journey with us?
The problem with anything that’s free is that there will always be a number of people who don’t respect it. The same holds true for any club or organization that admits just anybody, with no qualifying criteria.
Stanford is Stanford because of its standards. You have to be a top athlete to make the Olympics. Special Forces around the world have brutal selection processes. That’s why it’s a big deal when anybody gets accepted into the Ivy League, or wins an Olympic medal, or becomes a Green Beret.
Arete is an elite group of overachievers who share our experiences and skills in order to better each others lives, and businesses. We are a team. A damn good one.
Honestly, seeing those guys and gals succeed is how I measure my own success these days. Materially, I’m set. I just want to see the people that I care about win.
And that includes you. That includes America, and those that embody the American spirit.
What is that spirit? To me, it is the grit of hard work, the endless possibility of free enterprise, and above all else, the love of liberty.
That's why I started the Real AF podcast.
The truth is, I could make millions of dollars just re-hashing what I already told people - for free - on the MFCEO Project. Instead, I want to put my attention into addressing the erosion of American values.
Millions of people have died for us to have what we have today. People have suffered, and bled, and had to bury their loved ones so that you and I have the freedoms that too many people just take for granted.
That’s why I believe in Real AF. When people have died to give us our rights, the very least I can do is give my time, money, and effort to stop us sliding to the point where even more people will need to die, just to get back what we already have.
I might get labelled as politically incorrect for doing it, but what’s more correct as a human being than wanting to preserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?
I unapologetically love America, and I unapologetically want you to have a great life. I’m here to make that happen, so let’s fucking do it.
Just don’t tell anyone that I swear.