“I was 280 pounds, alcoholic, and carried an 8-ball of cocaine in my pocket”
Updated: Aug 4
Yesterday. I got a call from a man with a lovely little Southern lilt in his voice. "Hey, Rick, a mutual friend of ours gave me your name, and he said I should talk to you about a new company that I want to launch." I said, "Okay, let's talk." and he went on to describe what he had.
He had developed a protocol for wellness and fitness that involved a ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, and a very specific workout protocol using weights either at home or in the gym.
And he said, "I've been talking to another agency about how to how to do this, and they think I have a really strong protocol that that takes advantage of some trends in the health space, and because I'm focusing on men (and eventually women) over 40 that that's a good target to go after, and they would establish me as an authority."
"And they had all of these examples of all these amazing films. They've done really slick polished things and nice websites and e-commerce and all that kind of stuff. They're really really impressive. But before I pull the trigger on that, my friend said that I ought to talk to you because you do things a little differently."
I said, "Well, let's unpack this a little bit more." So he went on to describe the mechanics of what he does: the physiology behind ketosis and and how it gets the body to burn more glucose, causing you to drop weight faster. And intermittent fasting, combined with this ketogenic diet does this, and his work-out protocol tears down muscles does that, and you have these recovery times . . . the mechanics of all his stuff. And I said "Look, those same mechanics are available in every program involving ketogenesis or weightlifting. There's some variability with them, but the mechanics are the mechanics, and so you are operating, right now, in a very commoditized space with a very commoditized kind of story, and as on-trend it as it is, and as on target as the folks that you want to market to are, I don't think those are the critical success factors here. And you can make it as glossy and glitzy as you want. but if you're still commoditized you're going to struggle to be really successful. I would want to identify something that gives you a much stronger lever to achieve success. I know you're about to drop a lot of money on this. You don't want to lose it. Let's explore how to enhance your odds of success.
I asked him to tell me how he arrived at his story—how he arrived at his program. And then shit started to get real.
He said, "Well, about five years ago, I was 280 pounds, and an alcoholic. I drank every day and carried an eight-ball of cocaine around in my pocket almost everywhere I went. And I would time my usage of my drugs and my drinking so that I wouldn't be peaking my high when I was showing up to work or seeing my wife. So, you know, I timed it" He had a very elaborate routine he had worked out in his life. "And in the middle of it, I was in the pit of my despair—it was hell. And at some point, you know when I was in the deepest darkest place of all that, I heard a voice and it said 'I didn't put you here to do this.'
So he had a decision to make. And he decided to listen to that voice. He said, "I lifted myself up and I did research, and I got in the gym and I started studying nutrition. And thank God for my wife of 15 years because I don't know how she stayed with me as long as she did. But she was there for me and she encouraged me along the way—couldn't have done it without her. And over the next three years. I totally totally transformed my life."
"I restored my relationship with my wife—it is stronger than I could ever imagine it being, my body is stronger and healthier, and I am in the 1% for my age bracket for fitness and endurance
among men in the world, and in my spiritual life. I grew up in church and I become totally disconnected and lost, and I restored that connection to my spiritual connection in my life." I asked him to send me some before/after pictures, so he did. And yeah, at 280 pounds, he was not a healthy-looking man. Not only was his body bloated, but there was a sadness and despair in his eyes. He looked terrible. But in his "After" picture, the man looked like a superhero—like his body had been chiseled out of marble.
And I said, "Well, I think we have stumbled on something here. I think that's the story that you need to tell. He said, "Well, I told that story to the other branding guys and they said, 'Nah, nah, no, don't don't go there—people don't want to hear that. It's too painful. That's too much."
I said, "Well It may be that it was too painful story for them to hear. Maybe it made the ad agency guys uncomfortable to hear that story. Maybe they weren't ready to face the darkness of the pit in their own lives the way you faced yours and that limited them—it constrained their options for telling your most effective story. But that's the story you have to tell. And that is going to be the lever to take into the marketplace, because you don't have all the resources of the biggest brands that you're going to be competing against. But that's okay.
David did not slay Goliath with a stone He slayed Goliath with his heart. Give that same rock to a hundred different men, and it wouldn't have had the same effect. But if you gave it to David—a young boy who was on a mission? Who had a calling for something greater than he was? That rock had a velocity. It had an aim. That's what killed Goliath.
And you need that. And that's what you have. You have a mission in your story" He said, "That's right. I want to change the world of fitness for men over 40. I want to inspire people around the world to to say 'You are not in too dark a place to recover—don't give up on yourself because I didn't give up on myself. And this is what happened to me, and if you will follow these steps I have proven for myself to be true, and taken myself from that deep dark pit into the light that I find myself in today, that you can have a similar result. If you commit yourself to it the way I committed myself to it." I said, "Brother that is what we're talking about. That's the story."
Let me ask you something friends. If you gave me a million dollars to launch his brand.
And you gave that other agency 3 million dollars . . . who do you think's going to win?
Them with the glossy this, fancy that?
Or a man on a mission, with a real story of truth and emotion?
That's what I'd bet on. How about you?
Be Unforgettable, Rick Julian Chief Creative Officer