In a nutshell, I went from being a relative loner at Inst High School, Belfast to championship bodybuilder within a few years.
I didn’t quite fit in with others. Definitely wouldn’t call myself “popular” either.
Can’t say I was all that academically gifted or studious, and thankfully so because I might be sitting at a desk right now!
Food was definitely a friend to me. I understand nothing about portions, and was pretty “pudgy” as a teenager. That might put it lightly to be frank.
I was 17 stone (108KG // 238lbs), inactive, and in my feelings daily.
Somewhere around the mid 16, I noticed I felt something was wrong..
My mum took me to the doctor – ran some tests – and more or less immediately got my diabetic diagnosis.
I never felt great about my body anyway, so this was just the tipping point that sent me over the edge.
By 17, a year and a half later, I was lean and already competing on stage. Funny how that works.
I say it’s funny because my ultimate goal at this time was to become a dietitian. And secretly my real goal was to be the biggest dietitian around.
Everything for me was about the prevention of death that my diabetic diagnosis imprinted “on” me at 16. But I did have some things going for me…
I pursued bodybuilding – almost religiously. And honestly, I did have a genetic disposition towards it.
I could lift heavier weights, I placed muscle on pretty easily, and I was pissed off at the world. That’s a wonderful trifecta that makes for a fantastic bodybuilder - for a time, anyway.
In 2006 I started my Food, Quality, Safety and Nutrition degree at Queens Uni, Belfast. My dietitian goals were soon in sight.
And at this time my bodybuilding career was off to the races.
I’d peaked at 19 stone, 121 KG, 267 lbs during my “bulk.” I still had abs.
Decided to compete in Mr Universe, Mr World, Mr Britain, Mr Ireland. I won.
I came second in one competition that I felt sure I’d win. And if I’m honest, it absolutely crushed the life out of me.
I fought injuries (a pec tear during a 47.5KG set of incline chest flies), and partial bicep tears.
My size helped me work the door at various clubs around Belfast.
I’ve told maybe two people this before. But at one point I was on a break doing the door, dropped my precious chicken and rice on the floor, and with no other food alternatives in sight, ate it from the floor.
I knew nothing else. It was all I had.
My size made it apparent to others that I should be a personal trainer.
Putting two and two together, I got the PT cert, and started training people out of Rockpit Lisburn.
A day would look like: Studying, training others, training myself, doing the door, bed, repeat.
I pushed myself, gave myself very few rewards, and was all round hard on myself. Again, I knew nothing else. Success had to be hard.
My personal training services were booked full due to being a competitive bodybuilder, and someone more business-inclined.
I don’t believe anyone is born to be better at business. But I felt I had some implications towards it.
I realised back then that profit kept was everything, that retention would make my career easier, and that I’d need to get over my fear of losing people to raise prices.
Some of this isn’t easy to a scarcity-minded Northern Irish kid, but at 20, I pushed through making mistakes.
I became good at sales despite a natural inclination not to ask for what I wanted.
Earlier, before the bigger internet-persona or internet-marketing age – circa 2012-14 – other trainers asked me how I managed myself, my time, and my clients.
It dawned on me that I was one of the first proper online coaches that existed in the UK. And others wanted to know how.
My Facebook™ profile showcased what I could do. I built a client culture because I gave a shit about results, knowing how much all of this mattered to me at 16. I didn’t know this was a good thing at the time, but I’d wake up a few times a week without lifting a finger to people who’d book on my PT calendar to become a client.
Must have done something right. I think.
One thing I’d hear started becoming… too often.
“Can I pick your brain”
I’d walk around a gym and instruct what I was doing to grow and keep a client base.
Started taking group calls with trainers while instructing them on culture, retention, and results.
Then I started speaking to fitness leaders and their teams. Along the way, I was cementing my place as one of the leading coaching educators in Europe.
But I still traded 50 hours on the gym floor. And the itch to systemise my life for better time profit was scribbled on a sticky-note at my desk.
If I could trade business-to-business hours instead of just the gym floor, I’d make more with my time. But I didn’t just want to do it one-to-one, or on an hourly basis.
I wanted to productise what I could teach. And thus began the very first iteration of Authority Network™.
From a single Facebook™ post, I launched a 6 month mastermind. All online with a quarterly meet up.
I ran this lean and mean. Poured myself into every crevice of this business, handling as much as possible.
Looking back I built one of the first real online masterminds in the UK, let alone directing it at a niche industry.
The pandemic hit in early 2020. While the early days were insanely uncertain for most businesses, it became a pivotal moment in the fitness industry.
We scaled to bringing in close to 250 coaches at any one point in time, maintaining the bulk of memberships for close to 30+ months.
The inner circle of this business is run alongside a small group of people I trust. It’s allowed me to build a personal brand, become an investor, and find new ways to build council in my life.
If you’re reading this, I hope it’s not new news that I am a massive (no understatement) foodie. I’ll do whatever I can to get around people who can cook. And I love cooking for others.
I became a dad in January 2021.
And as of today, I am equally happy knee-deep in a lake fishing with a few friends, as I am out shooting, as I am in the boardroom taking calls with clients and investors.
I’ve been driven by aggression as a teenager fighting against my body.
I’ve been driven by aggression to build businesses and free myself from a cubicle.
But seasons change.
And I’m currently driven by desire to connect and share.
No part of me is content to take the foot off the gas. Not at all.
But today, as you’ll meet me, I make choices from a state of peace far removed from the intensity of my early twenties.
Yet don’t mistake that at all.
I’m still pushing some of the same numbers in the gym at faster rates, and feeling better for it.
Long may it continue. And the same for you.