As Mr. Inspiration this year, who, or what, are you inspired by?
There have been a lot of people in my life who have inspired me. Great athletes who push the limits of mental and physical strength as well as great thinkers, leaders and innovators who have changed the world and the way we live. People like Roger Banister, who in 1954 was the first person to ever run a mile in less than 4 minutes, an accomplishment that all the experts said was an impossibility. Once he broke that record 7 other people also broke it within the next 18 months. Now, high school students regularly run a mile under 4 minutes. People like Steve Jobs, who didn’t just develop a smart phone but created a tool that has really become our second brain, that we hold in our hands allowing us instant access to all of the world’s information. How different will the world be when we don’t have to take up brain space remembering dates, facts and figures anymore but can now use that part of our brain to think about ways to improve our world using this new, limitless information we have access to. People who change how we think and live inspire me the most.
Do you think there is a difference in the male fitness image between Western and Asian culture?
There may be slight cultural differences on the outside in terms of how people dress or style themselves but the human brain has been hardwired on what is physically attractive and what is unattractive. It’s how we survived as a species over millions of years. There have been so many studies to prove conclusively that what is considered beautiful to the human eye is the same regardless of race or nationality. When people realize we are all more the same than we are different it allows us to start appreciating what is really beautiful about people.
What made you decide to come to Vietnam?
I chose Vietnam because of the incredible opportunity it represented, to create something totally new and fresh in my industry and a country. I have operated fitness clubs in countries all over North America and Asia and wanted to do something unique that no one else had done. Create something that did not have to fall into the traditional ideas about what a fitness center was. Vietnam has all the ingredients for creating new innovative businesses. A fast developing economy with a large, young population who are eager to learn how to improve the quality of their lives. When I arrived in 2007 there were only small mom & pop or government operated gyms. No one had established the industry yet and that was exactly what I was looking for. To come into a market and make a difference in the quality of people’s lives by creating something new and unique; combining healthy modern living with entertainment. Showing people how living better and healthier does not have to be about discipline and sacrifice but is about integrating the things you enjoy in a way that enhances the overall quality of life.
What are your most awkward experiences in Vietnam so far? How about the good ones?
One of my most memorable and awkward times I recall is having our first large event at a coffee bar to announce we would be opening a club in D5 soon. There was at least 500 people at the event and part of the announcement was to have a live singer and dancers. So as they started singing the first song and as the back up dancers were dancing my business associate bet me $500 I would not go on stage and dance with them for the entirety of the next song. I told him to give me the money and when the first song ended I ran up on stage just as the singer started her next song. The problem was I did not realize it was a slow love song and the dancers had left the stage at the end of the first song; so there I was on stage alone with this girl who had no idea who I was; and I start grooving with her during this very slow love song. I look out into the audience of shocked faces and mothers covering the eyes of their children to see my partner laughing so hard he nearly fell out of his chair and the girl singing looks at me in horror wondering who the maniac is on stage trying to ruin her show. It ended up being the longest song I have ever heard but I stayed up the whole time trying to dance sexy and look like I was part of the show… Unconvincing as I was.
As for the good experiences, I have had too many to list. Every new club we have opened, every member’s life we have touched and every one of my team members lives we have changed has been a truly amazing experience that inspires me every day.
What are your tips for getting motivated to go to the gym as many business men often lead busy lives?
The most powerful system I have developed for accomplishing anything is a 3 step system I call “OWN.” In English when you OWN something it is yours. You are its master, so I created a system for accomplishing any goal you have in life whether it’s getting the body you’ve always dreamed of or accomplishing a goal at work or with family. OWN stands for: Outcome, Why & New Action Plan.
The O in OWN stands for Outcome. You must have a crystal clear outcome of what it is you want to accomplish. Have a vision of what you want to achieve that excites you and inspires you. It’s not good enough to just say, “I want to be healthy.” You need to be able to clearly visualize in your mind what that looks and feels like.
The 2nd step is the W in OWN and that stands for Why. Make sure you have a big reason why you want this outcome. If you don’t have a compelling reason to do something then you won’t achieve it so I get people really clear on why they want that outcome before we move onto the third step.
The final step is the N in OWN. N stands for New Action Plan. I show people how through their old actions they have not achieved the life or physical goals they want and we work out a new plan that they feel empowered to achieve. It’s an amazing system for helping people achieve their goals.
You see, every time I find someone who does not have the health or vitality they dream about I find they never have a clear image in their mind of what that really looks like and they lack a compelling reason for achieving it. They focus too much on all the work they need to do to achieve their goal, which completely overwhelms them, and they give up before even starting. They will say things like, “I know I should exercise but I just don’t have the time.” We know this is not true because all of us have the same 24 hours in a day. Some of the busiest and most successful people in the world live the healthiest and highest quality of life. So how can you not have the time? It’s because when you focus on all the tasks you must do to get in shape rather than the outcome you want and the reason why you want it, you will never be motivated to see it through and live the life you have dreamed of.
Are you happy with your current build? What do you feel you could improve? You inspire men to have a dream career and, at the same time, have a dream body, how do you do that?
I have found that a person can accomplish so much more when they are happy compared to when they are unhappy so I have learned to not attach my happiness to any one thing or goal. I choose to live in a pretty happy state most of the time by focusing on the outcomes I want in life rather than the things I don’t. That being said, one of the key philosophies I apply to my life is, “constant and never ending improvement.” I want to continue to grow and improve every day of my life until the end of my life. I don’t subscribe to peoples limiting beliefs on health, aging or career.
My method for inspiring people is to get them to ask some new questions. I have found that success always leaves clues and if I am not getting the answers I want or living the life I want then I need to get around people who are living the way I dream of and start asking myself some new questions. To have the career of your dreams, get around people who are successful and model what they do. To have a dream body, get around people who have the body you want and do what they do. Instead of asking yourself why you don’t have the career you want or the body you want, ask yourself what actions can you take today in order to have the career and body you have always dreamed of. You will find it was not a mystery, it was just asking yourself the wrong question.
Your business is becoming very successful. With new clubs opening in Vietnam, this means that you will have to devote more time to new projects, how do you find time for family?
Again, I focus on the outcomes I want in my life. I am currently building two new amazing clubs, one near Hoan Kiem lake in Hanoi and another at Pico Mall in Than Binh in HCMC, as well as 3 other businesses I am going to be launching in 2013. I want an unbelievably successful company as well as family life so I don’t get caught up in all the tasks I have to do. I simply ask myself how can I integrate the things I love most in my life (career, family, friends and personal growth) together to enhance the quality of my life? This allows me to come up with clear, compelling and empowering answers. One of those answers is that my life is about integration, not discipline. When I integrate the things I love most into my daily life, I enjoy my life more. The second answer I get is that I focus on enhancing my life, not sacrificing the things I love, to achieve a goal. I do this by doing things that bring high value and fulfillment to my life and eliminating the things that don’t bring value. The final answer I get when I ask that question is that my life is focused on achievement and not complexity. I focus on my outcomes and not the complexities of getting there. So just with a new, better question I can handle so much more responsibility while enjoying the process.
What do you do to find balance in your life at the moment?
I get a clear focus on all the outcomes I want in my life. Health, career, relationships, money etc. and use the OWN process. When I do this it allows me to create a more balanced life. I have 7 key areas of my life that I focus on and continue with my philosophy of constant and never ending improvement.
Have you always been into fitness? If you did not have this career, what else would you do?
That’s a funny question to me. It’s like asking if I have always been into breathing air. Living actively and exercising is what the human body was designed to do. It’s just like breathing air; it’s in our nature. Imagine asking a fish if it has always been into swimming. Seems kind of funny but in our modern society we have created unnatural, inactive ways of living and it’s severely affecting the quality of our life. Just like a fish who decides not to swim any more is going to die, a human who believe fitness is some additional activity they need to do, and not their natural way of living, is also going to die prematurely.
As for the career question, I see myself as an entrepreneur who is passionate about enhancing the quality of people’s lives. What ever the industry looks like, I will probably have some involvement at some point in the future.
Being a successful businessman and attractive, I believe people are attracted to you a lot, how do you handle that?
I don’t try to be a celebrity. It’s not who I am and not my passion in life. Being chosen as a role model is a great honor and inspiring people to live better by doing things I am passionate about is very fulfilling but I don’t get approached by a lot of people like a celebrity would.
Do you miss your hometown? What do you miss the most?
My home town is wherever I choose to call home at the time. I have never identified myself as being from a certain place, I truly view myself a global citizen. Someone who is a part of the human race rather than some ethnicity or cultural heritage. The heritage I care about the most is the one I am creating for future generations, not holding on to past traditions. I have a home in HCMC and one Hong Kong, as well as the US, but I identify HCMC and Hong Kong as my current homes and don’t think much about the place I was born.
There are places all over the globe that I love and I don’t spend any time thinking of the “good old days.” Today is the best day of my life and tomorrow will be even better.
Do you consider staying here permanently ?
Vietnam is, and will be, an amazing place to be over the next 50 years and I will spend a lot of time here for sure but, as you can tell by my prior answer, I see the world as my home and could never be bound by borders of countries. I would go to the moon or Mars to live for a while if I got the chance.
Some businessmen are not comfortable with the media, how do you feel being your company’s brand representative?
I feel honored to represent the company I love so dearly and to inspire people to live better. Without the media I could not achieve that outcome so I have to be comfortable with them. The media has an objective: to sell news. That is what they do so it’s up to me to give them interesting news they can sell. In my case, I try to always provide content that enhances people’s lives in some way. I think if you stay focused on that outcome then the rest will take care of itself.
Could you list the 3 most meaningful things in your life at the moment?
I have always believed that it is the not the money or titles you get in life that will be of value to you. It is the relationships you build and the experiences you share with the people you love that will mean the most to you. So, for me, the three most meaningful things in my life today and for the future are:
– My relationships with the people I love.
– My life experiences and who I share them with.
– The legacy I am creating and leaving for future generations.