“No matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.”

Dr Carol Dweck

Nick Shaw is the co-founder of Renaissance Periodization (RP), a multi-million-dollar health and fitness company that has improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of clients around the world. Through its leading programs, technologies, and team of PhDs on staff, RP gives its subscribers an easy to follow nutrition plan that fits neatly into your schedule so you can achieve your health / fitness goals. 

Over the years, the RP team has sold hundreds of thousands of books to help people with their nutrition, training, and recovery, and to help create healthy habits. Nick has also personally coached numerous world-class athletes including CrossFit Games champions, international weightlifters, UFC fighters, Navy SEALs, and Olympians.

Last year, Forbes published a feature story that documented Nick’s journey and RP’s meteoric rise from a small business into an influential tech company with an industry-leading mobile app available on both Apple and Google. 

However, tragedy struck in January 2020 when Nick’s wife, Lori Shaw, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Lori is not just the mother to their two children, but also an instrumental part of the RP business.

Shortly after the diagnosis, the COVID pandemic swept the world, forcing the Shaw family to juggle homeschooling, chemotherapy treatments, and navigating the business landscape in the most uncertain time our generation has faced.

In November 2020, Nick published Fit for Success, a book that outlines the seven foundational habits for achievement to help anyone, irrespective of background, chart their path to success. It also delves into some of his favorite books, most valuable takeaways, and key lessons from his rollercoaster journey, to complement the insights gained from working closely with the most accomplished individuals on the planet.

In this episode, we’ll go through:

Before we begin, remember that the right bit of inspiration can completely change the trajectory of someone’s life, so if there’s a friend or loved one who needs to hear this episode, share it with them right now. 

Let’s WIN THE DAY with Nick Shaw!

🎞️ For the video interview, click here.


Resources / links mentioned:

📙 Fit for Success by Nick Shaw.

📝 Renaissance Periodization on Facebook.

📷 Renaissance Periodization on Instagram.

🧭 Nick Shaw on Instagram.

⚡ Renaissance Periodization website.

📚 The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.

🎖️ Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.

🎙️ Have a podcast of your own and want to learn how to monetize it? Learn more about We Are Members, the world's #1 community for podcasters who want to generate attention, engagement, and sales for their podcast.

No matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.”

Dr Carol Dweck

Nick Shaw is the co-founder of Renaissance Periodization (RP), a multi-million-dollar health and fitness company that has improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of clients around the world. Through its leading programs, technologies, and team of PhDs on staff, RP gives its subscribers an easy to follow nutrition plan that fits neatly into your schedule so you can achieve your health / fitness goals. 

Over the years, the RP team has sold hundreds of thousands of books to help people with their nutrition, training, and recovery, and to help create healthy habits. Nick has also personally coached numerous world-class athletes including CrossFit Games champions, international weightlifters, UFC fighters, Navy SEALs, and Olympians.

Last year, Forbes published a feature story that documented Nick’s journey and RP’s meteoric rise from a small business into an influential tech company with an industry-leading mobile app available on both Apple and Google. 

However, tragedy struck in January 2020 when Nick’s wife, Lori Shaw, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Lori is not just the mother to their two children, but also an instrumental part of the RP business.

Shortly after the diagnosis, the COVID pandemic swept the world, forcing the Shaw family to juggle homeschooling, chemotherapy treatments, and navigating the business landscape in the most uncertain time our generation has faced.

In November 2020, Nick published Fit for Success, a book that outlines the seven foundational habits for achievement to help anyone, irrespective of background, chart their path to success. It also delves into some of his favorite books, most valuable takeaways, and key lessons from his rollercoaster journey, to complement the insights gained from working closely with the most accomplished individuals on the planet.


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Nick Shaw does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give his 18-year-old self, the one thing on his bucket list, and a whole lot more🚀


In this episode, we’ll go through:

Before we begin, remember that the right bit of inspiration can completely change the trajectory of someone’s life, so if there’s a friend or loved one who needs to hear this episode, share it with them right now. 

Let’s WIN THE DAY with Nick Shaw!

James Whittaker:
What was 'success' to you when you were a teenager? And when did the possibility of owning your own business first come on your radar?

Nick Shaw:
I was really into sports and anything fitness-centric. Although, I will say the one thing that I realized pretty early on that has always stuck with me — which is really important in fitness — there's never a place that you arrive at. You're always just doing it because you like it, there's always a little bit more you can strive for, and you can work really hard.

Typically, if you work really hard (like with fitness), results come. So I guess those were two really good things to be drilled in my brain early on. And they've always stuck with me because there are so many similarities between business and fitness, and I love seeing how those they're alike.

You're right, people get way too focused on a quick destination, rather than the journey. If they carry that attitude to multiple areas, their life can quickly become a mess.

Totally. It will. I can give you a great fitness example. A lot of people, they get so stuck on a set number, "Hey, I want to lose 20 pounds." And then they get those 20 pounds off, but then what? Or they don't develop those good habits because they are so focused on the outcome. What they need to focus is on is setting good habits.

They don't develop those good habits because they are so focused on the outcome.

If you focus on setting good habits, you're eventually going to get to a good outcome, but maybe that good outcome is you lose 15 pounds, but you don't have to do anything super crazy at the end. And, for most people, that's probably a better trade-off.

You need to love the process, rather than being so focused on the outcome.

What was the gap in the market that you saw for Renaissance Periodization (RP) and how were you able to assemble this amazing team of 20+ PhDs and eight registered dietitians to help make your vision a reality?

My buddy who started RP with me was always really smart guy. I met him in college. And he went on to get his masters and later he got his PhD in sport physiology, essentially studying how do you make athletes as best as they can be. That research requires you to take a look at a lot of finer details.

And so, we started out working with a lot of athletes. You would see some folks that could just skate by with genetics, but maybe the stuff that they were doing wasn't really the best. But if you have really good genetics, you can do that; you can skate by. But if you take someone with really good genetics, and then on top of that, you combine an evidence-based program that has the best methodology behind it, you get some really crazy outcomes.

Think of someone people like Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, who are very genetically gifted, of course, but they are also just tenacious hard workers — probably some of the hardest workers of all time. If you combine genetic gifts with a tenacious work ethic, you get the best athletes of all time. So, that's really what we were just trying to combine. If you have just one or the other, that's okay. But if you combine both of them together, then you really have something. So, that's really what the gap was in the market about a decade ago.

What is an 'evidence-based approach' to nutrition and training for people who don't know?

You can find one study out there that can say pretty much anything, right? And so, if you only go by one study, you could be really led astray if you only go by that. But an evidence-based approach looks at all the combined evidence out there. You take a look at a meta analysis. You take a look at literature reviews, which can combine hundreds and hundreds of studies.

So, when you have hundreds of studies and it starts pointing you in one direction, you know that you're probably on the right track. Yet, if you only rely on one study, you may be heading in the wrong direction. And so, when you pool everything together, it just helps point you in the right direction. That's really what evidence-based is about.

In 2015, your wife Lori quit her successful corporate job to support you at RP. I'm married, you're married, so we know that marriages can be tough without the added complexity of working together at the same time! What did you focus on as a collective to make both your business and your marriage a success?

We were just really struggling in terms of the help we needed. You know how it is as a one-person business early on, where you have to do everything. I didn't know what it looked like, but I knew I needed help. Over time what we did, because as you said it can be tricky working with a spouse, right!? We focused on how we could compartmentalize things where Lori could do the things she wanted to do and is great at.

Because she left a fantastic corporate job and is a super, super smart, incredibly accomplished woman. We said, "You specialize in what you want to specialize because you're fantastic at doing that." And that's what led her into doing all of our cookbooks and recipes, and all that stuff, because she's a phenomenal cook, top-notch, and I'm very thankful for that, of course. Our approach was to give her a couple of areas that were all hers.

Yeah, the importance of having that discipline around each other's lane, so you can each focus on having the impact you want to have without feeling like you're stepping on each other's toes.

That's a real good summary. Because I mean, it is just another normal work setting, where sometimes you have to tell people what to do a little bit here and there. And if you mix that in with a spouse, you can carry over when the "work day" ends. So, it can be a little bit of a slippery slope, and that's why we wanted to segment things as best we could.

Well, it's a testament to both of your characters that you're still able to create such a successful business and have a great family at the same time. So, well done on keeping all of that together.

2020 was a year of enormous transition for the whole world, but in January 2020 your family was facing a lot more than the pandemic. Can you take us into that difficult time for your family, and perhaps what your mindset was like when you first received the news about Lori?

First of all, I'll say she's doing great now, a year and a half later, which is phenomenal news. In January 2020 she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, just five days before my son's eighth birthday. And then she had surgery in February. In March, she started chemo.

And then what happens in March 2020? COVID, the pandemic, and everything hit. And we had to take it incredibly serious because she's gone through chemo and was immune compromised to basically the highest level you can be. So we had to be really, really careful.

We're just not the type of people who are going to sit around and let life dictate what we're going to do. We don't want to sit around and be victims or whatever. So, we were just like, "Well, how do we make the most of this?" And we focused on things that we could control.

We're just not the type of people who are going to sit around and let life dictate what we're going to do.

We looked at the handful of things that you can do each and every single day that you have control and impact over. And that's what we did. That's what we focused on. And ultimately, that's what led to me writing the book Fit for Success because I was like, "I'm not going anywhere for the next three or four months. Literally, I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to take this time, I think I have some know talking points to put in the book."

I created the Success Pyramid. And everything just came together from there.

There's a mental health pandemic happening behind the scenes right now, and a lot of people are really struggling. On this show, we like to try and keep it as raw as possible from that mental health perspective to give people those insights. And totally feel free not to answer this question, if you don't feel comfortable doing so. Is there a particularly dark day or dark moment that stands out in the last year or two that you can think of?

I think just the day that my wife found out, because really it's one of these things where you just... I mean, my wife is a healthier person than I am — and I run fitness company. So, that just gives you some perspective as to just how luck, genetics, or whatever it is can play a role there. But instantly overnight, it literally just changes everything.

What I like to tell people is, it's entirely different when you're just thinking about these things. And then when you're truly thrust into having to put them into action every single day for months, if not a year on end. That was a big turning point where I was like, "It is really time to put all of these things in the practice more than I've ever done before."

That was even before COVID hit. Then you throw in COVID on top of that, and now it was like this just complete windfall of things.

Perhaps the second day was March 12th, and funny enough where we live here in North Carolina, my kids didn't go to school that day, because there was some weird water boil thing. I was driving my buddy to the airport because he was in town to visit, and that's when everything unraveled that day, and I'm just like, "Holy crap." We have all this stuff going on, of course going through chemo and all of that, that's enough.

Now, you throw in all of this!? It was a recognition that there was no time to mess around and feel sorry for yourself. It was about getting back to, "What can we control? Our kids are going to be homeschooled now, what can we do? What are the things that we can do each and every single day that are going to turn this around, so it's not just this really rough year?" And I think, knock on wood, we were able to make the most of it.

What one or two books have contributed most to the mindset that you've got today?

So, the first one that jumps out at me is called The Slight Edge. And ironically, it did not make it in the book, because I had my draft and everything completed. But this is one of the books that, when I read it, it was life-changing. Nothing in there is new or crazy, but you see that these little incremental things each and every single day — if you are consistent and disciplined with them — add up over time and you just get this snowball effect eventually.

That was when I started writing down a handful of things that I would do every single day, no matter what's going on.

And I love reading. I don't know about you, but I actually get really physically excited. Sometimes I'm like, "Oh my gosh, I got a new book here! I can't wait to read it." I know that's a total nerd thing to say, but do you get that at all?

I do. And literally every single book that I've read has changed my life in some capacity — every single one. If you just get one ideas, insight, or solution, as a result of reading that book, it can change everything for you.

Do you do audio books or hardcover?

I'm a little bit of both. So, actually I have to make a road trip tomorrow, which is a five hour drive. I was actually really excited because I have 10 hours of audio books. I know that that's probably going to cover me all the way there and probably back too, so I'm really excited for that. So, I do audiobooks if I have road trips.

When I'm done with a book, any book, I write down what I believe is the primary concept from the book. It doesn't have to be pages and pages of notes. I ask myself, "What would the author think is probably one of the most important points here in this book?" And I try to just make a list of those. Every now and again, I'll just flip back through it. And so, this is a really long-winded answer, if we circle back to you had mentioned two books.

The other book that has made a big difference for me in terms of my mindset is Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink. When you think about it, anything that happens is on you. And when you think about it that way, it doesn't matter if someone is five levels below you in an organization, if they mess up, it's on you because you should have taught them better. At the end of the day, all roads lead back to you, the choices you make, and how accountable you are.

At the end of the day, all roads lead back to you, the choices you make, and how accountable you are.

So, if mistakes are made, don't blame other people. This is something that my kids tried doing and I'm like, "No, no, no, no, no. We're not going to blame other people." They're nine and seven years old, so, maybe it'll sink in eventually! Or maybe I repeat it enough that they do get it. Hopefully one day they'll catch themselves and think, "Oh, I'm not going to complain. I'm not going to blame other people. What can I do to fix the issue?"

You touched on the victim mindset, which greatly undermines any ability people have to be able to create whatever circumstances that they want. What do you do from a practical perspective to help get people out of that victim mindset and into more of a success or growth mindset?

This goes back to the second principle in my book, which is the 'internal locus of control.' So, if you have an external locus of control, you tend to be more of that victim mentality where things are happening to you and there's nothing that you can do. I just, I don't agree with that. I mean, I don't care what your circumstances are — and I definitely understand and have lots of empathy for people who are in bad situations — but if you take that external locus of control, it does not lead to good outcomes in terms of your mental health, physical health, and all this stuff. It just doesn't. And this has been proven time and time again in all sorts of studies.

So, you have to look inside and be like, "Okay, whatever's happening, it might be objectively bad, but what can I do about it? There has to be something that I can do." And maybe it's really small, but even those really small things starts to put you back on the right track. If you can do those little things, probably gain a little bit of momentum, probably start to feel a little bit better about yourself, probably become a bit more hopeful, because now you know that what you do really matters, and now you're on the better track. So, that's really, I think just the biggest key, if I had to give one that would be it, hands down.

You've worked with UFC fighters, Navy SEALs, Olympic athletes, a whole bunch of different people. What is the common trait that the top 1% of people have and how coachable is that trait?

They are tenacious hard workers. And I like to think that I'm a hard worker, but being around some of these folks is another level.

Tomorrow my road trip is to visit Rich Froning, who's like the Michael Jordan of CrossFit. The amount of work he puts in puts me to shame. So, we mentioned earlier, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, and it's like that with Rich Froning because he trains literally 4-5 hours a day, pretty much every single day.

They know what it takes to be the best, so they just always put in that work.

And if you really stop and think about it, if you work out an hour a day, you're doing well, multiply that by three or four, and it just, I mean, it's crazy, not to mention just how disciplined they are.

They know what it takes to be the best, so they just always put in that work. And it really doesn't matter how they're feeling, they just do it anyways.

You talk a lot about the importance of self-belief in your book. What role does environment, like where you live, where you work, and the people you hang around, play in that self-belief?

Yeah, it definitely plays a role. And if you're in a bad environment, it's going to be tougher. The odds are stacked against you. Now, we can acknowledge that. But at the same time, there are things that you can do. Again, this goes back to the internal locus of control. I guarantee there's little things that you can do to start to fix that. It may be that the odds feel overwhelming against you, but then it goes back to The Slight Edge principle — just start doing the little things.

It's going to seem like you're probably not getting anywhere, but if you have a long-term time horizon — and you're prepared to just do these little things each and every single day — you're going to be better off. And I'm not guaranteeing success of course, because we can't do that. But if you approach it the right way, your odds of beating those circumstances are going to go up exponentially.

What about your own process for setting goals personally or for your business? Is there a certain system or structure that you use to set those goals?

With your business, we have a roadmap of what we need to get done and the North Star we're aiming towards. We then break that up into chunks of what needs to be done in a given month and quarter to get there. We also implement feedback we can see in real time on the app store for our mobile app based on what our users are telling us.

On the personal side, it's a mix of short and long goals. Usually on the physical side, I'll need something to train for. On Memorial Day, there's a workout called "Murph". That's my couple month thing that I've been training for, just so I have something. After that, it's like, "Hey, how fast can I run a mile?" Just something to guide me on that right track. Because if you don't have any specific goals, it's easy to get lost — a day goes by, a week goes by, a month goes by. So I really think goals are helpful on the business and personal side.

For entrepreneurs, the ability to duplicate themselves seems to be the difference between average entrepreneurs (who are always on the brink of burnout) versus those super high achieving entrepreneurs. What was the biggest step that you took to be able to duplicate your own expertise so the company could grow without hitting a ceiling?

Well, I was definitely guilty of what you said, of not knowing what to do early on, and that's where we got to the point about burning out, because we thought that we had to do everything ourselves. One of the biggest things was realizing that we know a little bit about a couple of things, but there's so much we don't know, so let's bring in some other people — other experts — because that's what they specialize in, that's what they're good at, and that was really the biggest change.

The other thing would be some automation stuff that opened up our world to being able to focus on other things. And it just became this snowball effect that once we had more time, we're able to better focus our efforts elsewhere. And that's a great thing to do all around.

Yeah, to help make you redundant, so you can take some time off if need be.

Absolutely. I would agree with that a hundred percent.

Fitness often talks about a 'recovery phase' but many people people — especially entrepreneurs — very rarely do a good job of incorporating a phase of recharge and recovery in their regular routine. What does recovery look like in a business sense? Have you ever implemented something like a de-load or recharge phase for you as an entrepreneur?

If we go back to 2015 and 2016, our kids were pretty young. And if you have kids, you understand that's a full-time job, having small kids. They take up a lot of time and energy. So, if you factor in that with trying to train and trying to grow your business, and we were teetering definitely on the point of burnout. We needed constant help because it just seemed like we were always so busy. And by 'busy' I don't necessarily mean in a great way, but just busy. Whether it was customer service, or little things here and there, and we had to really fix that.

Once we were able to fix that, I looked back and I thought about where I'd been the last couple of years. And it's like, "I have this." And I think this is the end goal for a lot of entrepreneurs. Not that this is an end goal for me, of course, there's always more to achieve and strive for, but at the same time, I just have a lot more flexibility and freedom over my own time.

Before this podcast, I was picking up my kids from school at 2:00PM. I was sitting in the carpool line for literally 30 minutes. Before that, I was reading. It's like you have that freedom. That's my downtime, I make sure I have that time every day where I can read and do these things. I make sure I workout every single day.

For entrepreneurs, and I understand, it's a really delicate balance — because in the beginning you have to go, go, go, go, go, if you want to be successful. You have to put in that work to create that initial momentum and success. I get it. Been there, done that.

But at the same time, you eventually realize that if you don't take some of that time off and step back a little bit, your output goes down. You're not putting out very high quality work. And if you, instead of just cramming the night before and skipping on sleep and all that stuff, if you maybe just got the sleep and relaxed a little bit, you wake up in the morning and the amount and quality of work that you can now do is better. And it's a hard thing to learn. I did it wrong a million times and probably still do, of course. But once I started to realize that a little bit, I was like, "Wow, this is where I'd probably need to try to trend towards."

Let's now switch gears and focus on the health and the nutrition side. What are the biggest myths about health and nutrition that need to be busted in 2021?

Do you have six hours!? No, it's alright. So, we want to talk about, I guess a couple of main ones. One would be the idea that carbs are bad. They're not really inherently bad. In fact, there are very few foods out there that you could classify as "bad". Trans fats are an example of something that is probably very, very bad for you. Other than that, it's this balance and moderation thing. And if you understand that, everything else is so much simpler.

Because the nutrition industry is crazy. I'm telling you, it's crazy. People love this dogma, and they just get in these camps and they're not willing to change their mind or anything. And it's like, "No, I'm keto. And if you're not keto, you are a bad person." It's like, "Oh, okay."

So, if people ask me, "Hey, what do you think of keto?" we start by talking about the good. We might mention how, because it's low carb, it's probably helpful in that it will make you feel more full, because you're eating more proteins and more fats, and you'd probably be still eating a good amount of veggies. So, these are great things.

It's not that carbs are inherently bad, but guess what? Most things that taste really good have a lot of carbs, have a lot of sugar and salt, and usually have a lot of fat. Think about donuts and pizza, and ice cream. It's not that carbs are necessarily the fault behind them, it's just that they are very calorically dense, which means they're very easy to overeat because they taste delicious. Our brains are wired that way and we want to keep doing it.

The best way to be healthy — and have a normal, healthy body weight — is to eat high quality foods.

And so, that's probably the biggest one, because people like to say that, "Oh, calories don't matter." I mean, calories do matter. At the end of the day, it's probably the biggest chunk of the puzzle. But the best way to be healthy — and have a normal, healthy body weight — is to eat high quality foods. And if you do that, you don't have to get crazy restrictive. You can follow the 80 / 20 rule. And again, if you do that, you eat mostly higher quality foods. I always do air quotes around "good foods" — lean proteins, fruits and veggies, healthy fats, things like nuts, avocados and healthy carbs, rice and sweet potatoes. If you eat mostly those things, it is almost impossible to over eat.

Some of those fad diets that seem to pop up every year, would they be an example of something that would not be as evidenced-based as what you just mentioned there?

Typically, here's how something like that works. You can find some studies on some of these things, or maybe there's some evidence that points towards that they might do something, but people love to extrapolate these things to the nth degree. And they're like, "Oh, well, if it showed this tiny promise of evidence approved then, well, obviously that is the main thing that you must be doing, and you must fast for 24 hours. That is the magic key to everything in the world." And I go, "Okay, maybe."

Here's the good thing about fasting. When do most people tend to overeat? Usually it's later on at night. You're out with friends, family, or you're sitting down and watching Netflix or whatever. And all of a sudden, a bag of chips has gone before you even realize it because you just watched two hours of TV.


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Nick Shaw does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give his 18-year-old self, the one thing on his bucket list, and a whole lot more🚀


Again, there's nothing really magical about fasting. It's just, does it help you stay on track? Does it help you stay more compliant? And if the answer is yes, then great, it's an awesome strategy for you.

But again, it goes back to these diet camps that people love to get in and someone's like, "Oh, well, I did fasting and had these awesome results. You must do this now." You're like, "Well, what if I really like eating breakfast?" They're like, "No, no, that's stupid. It doesn't matter." And you're like, "Well, don't we have some wiggle room in there to meet people where they're at?"

The health and fitness space is just crazy at times, man. It's crazy.

In your book you mentioned how beneficial it can be to find a healthy activity that you love. For me, I love nothing more than going surfing or having a hit of tennis. We can burn through a whole ton of cals, and it's actually really fun. You're not forcing me to go and do something that I hate. So, as a result, you can stay fairly fit by doing some of those endeavors.

So, what type of exercise should people be doing when it comes to health goals?

Yeah, you nailed it. This book is more intended for people who are not your hardcore fitness folks. So, if I were to have written in this book, you must lift weights and you must do these things, people are going to say, "Look at that advice from Nick, that's stupid." I don't even like doing that. I don't like being in the gym.

If someone liked doing tennis and surfing, I would say, "Hey, that's awesome." Because you can do those things, and you can be in really good physical shape because they're very active, and that's a fantastic thing. So again, really, it's finding what you like to do. Because if you said, "Hey, Nick, do you want to go play tennis? And then go surfing." I'm going to be like, "I've played tennis one time in my entire life and I've never surfed." So for me, that's going to be a terrible day! "But hey, I'll meet you in the gym and we can go pump some iron." That's my idea of fun. So, we are two different things, right? You like different things. So, it'd be silly for me to say, you must do this.

Now, on the flip side of that, I would say, if you wanted to give some bare bones advice, try to lift weights at least twice a week. It doesn't have to be crazy heavy or anything like that. And then, just try to find some activities that you like, whether it's sports, hiking; all that stuff is great. There's no kind of one thing for every person.

I would suggest the lifting because I just think there's so many benefits around it, but again, you also have to realize not everyone likes it. For example, my sister doesn't really like lifting weights. She prefers to go run. I'm like, "Okay, cool." I have no issues with that. I'm not going to tell someone that it's mandatory to lift weights, but I think there's a lot of benefits that come from lifting weights.

Is there any technology or research that's come out in the last year or two that really excites you in terms of human performance?

There's just, there's a lot of that stuff coming out now. It seems like everyone's focusing on that. There's this rise of home gym stuff, and you have things like the Mirror or the Tonal.

I've been getting hammered by Facebook ads for the Tonal!

You and me both. I don't think I'm their target market, but I'm getting those every single day. Listen, I think something like that would be great for people. And here's the thing, a lot of people are scared to go back to the gym. I have a home gym, so it's totally different. I might be maybe a little skeptical of going back into the gym. I understand that. So, I think that's a really cool trend that Peloton and companies like that have done. You connect and you join these online classes, and it gives you that sense of community.

We work with a lot of CrossFitters. And the cool thing about CrossFit is they just have this really tight knit community behind them. My mom had never worked out for her first 60 years of her life. And I said to her, "Mom, why don't you go try CrossFit? I'll buy you a membership at the gym." It's 20 minutes away. And she loved it, because she could go and she could socialize a little bit. Of course, this was before COVID. It's been a little tricky to get her back in there. But it's one of these things where you're going to get some lifting, and you're going to get a lot of cardio. If you're moderately interested in those things, it might be worth checking out.

What are you focused on as a parent to ensure your kids grow up motivated, happy, healthy, and adaptable?

So, I consider myself extremely, extremely fortunate, because my kids love to read. And I don't know if they got that from me. My son could read at age four. I mean, it was phenomenal. I can't take much credit for that. I wish that I could!

My wife was out of town and I took my kids to Target. I told them, "You can pick out whatever book you want." And I knew they would be excited by that, but also they can have a book, and they'll sit and read it for like an hour or maybe even longer. And I think that's probably the coolest thing that I could possibly hope for. My son almost has never really played video games and he's like nine. So, I'm just super fortunate about some of that stuff that they love to read.

Other than that, I try to just make sure that they're active a little bit.

So, the one thing that actually, so this goes back to the whole control thing, when COVID hit, I had them trained in jujutsu, just because I think it's such a good skill to learn, self-defense for life and it just builds confidence. It helps develop that discipline of just being a good person. If you're going to train jujutsu, chances are, you're probably a pretty good person, because if you're not, you're going to get choked out a lot at your gym or whatever. So, we made it a thing. We tried to train... No, I'm not going to say every single day, but we kept training. And I just want him to be active. And if they read beyond that, I think that's pretty good start.

Final question: what's one thing you do to Win the Day?

Read, every single day.


Resources / links mentioned:

🌱 Want more Nick Shaw? Check out the YouTube or podcast version for the full interview, including the Win the Day Rocket Round.

📙 Fit for Success by Nick Shaw.

📝 Renaissance Periodization on Facebook.

📷 Renaissance Periodization on Instagram.

🧭 Nick Shaw on Instagram.

⚡ Renaissance Periodization website.

📚 The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.

🎖️ Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.

🎙️ Have a podcast of your own and want to learn how to monetize it? Learn more about We Are Members, the world's #1 community for podcasters who want to generate attention, engagement, and sales for their podcast.

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”

– Winston Churchill

In the pursuit of giving you everything you need to take ownership of your financial, physical and mental health, I try to interview and share the stories of a diverse mix of guests. However, I’ve never interviewed someone like who we’ve got today: Coss Marte.

When she was six months pregnant with him, Coss’ mother immigrated to the US from the Dominican Republic. Settling in the Lower East Side of New York City during the 1980s, it was a brutal time, with skyrocketing crime statistics that made headlines around the world.

At 11 years old, Coss began using drugs. Just two years later, to make ends meet, he was selling crack on the streets. With a complete lack of positive role models, and an environment riddled with crime, there were few legitimate avenues available to him. Yet, despite seeing people killed and regularly witnessing extreme acts of violence, Coss survived as he inched his way up the food chain.

Eventually, at 19 years old, he was at the helm of one of the largest drug delivery services in New York City. Through a team of more than two dozen couriers, dispatchers, and street soldiers, Coss distributed vast quantities of cocaine and marijuana to all segments of society – from public housing residents to cops, judges, and doctors, but especially Wall Street executives who had the salaries to match their insatiable appetite for his product.

At its peak, the business was earning more than $5 million a year. Coss’ drug venture was so successful that he needed eight mobile phones just to store the sheer number of customer contacts.

Eventually, the law caught up with him, and 23-year-old Coss was sentenced to prison and forced to turnover all proceeds from his criminal enterprise. It was the latest and most severe of a string of arrests that had seen him incarcerated 10 times since he first began dealing drugs as a 13-year-old. Giving up the lavish lifestyle was tough but, since Coss had become a father for the first time, the feelings of abandonment from his baby son – whom he had to watch grow up from behind bars – was the worst.

While in prison, Coss was told that his cholesterol levels were off the charts and he would die if he didn’t start taking care of his health. Six months later, through a rigorous fitness regime from the confines of his cell, Coss lost 70 pounds and helped dozens of other inmates to do the same.

His physical transformation had reignited a flame of ambition, and when released he launched ConBody, a fitness program that would help get people in the best shape of their life, while offering employment for people who had just left prison so they wouldn’t have to face the constant rejection that awaited them.

Since then, through his studios and online programs, Coss has trained 50,000+ people from around the world. He’s an author, a TEDx speaker, and recently launched a crowdfund for a nonprofit that helps equip formerly incarcerated people with the skills to succeed in the digital world so they don’t need to return to a life of crime.

This is a different and more somber style of interview than I’ve done before, and while we cover many of the raw aspects of Coss’ past, none of it is used to glorify the life he used to lead. It’s a wonderful tale of redemption and shows how the right accountability and focus can brighten even the darkest situation.

Note: Prior to the interview, I asked Coss to avoid mentioning anyone or anything from his past life that could jeopardize his or his family’s safety.

For the video interview, click here. For the podcast interview, click here. For the written version, read on.

James Whittaker:
Great to see you my friend. Thanks for being on Win the Day.

Coss Marte:
No, thank you so much, James, for the opportunity.

To kick things off, take us into the Lower East Side of New York City during the 1980s, and what it was like as a 13-year-old kid selling crack on the streets?

It was a crazy time. I remember seeing drug lines down the block, and I remember it was a normal thing to see. The community was part of it, and I grew up thinking it was some sort of job. People would say, “Yo, the cops are coming,” and somebody would blow a whistle down the block to warn everyone. Some people would scatter, and sometimes the cops would just turn a blind eye to what they were seeing because there was so much craziness. It was just insane.

I remember seeing buckets filled with drugs coming down from the roof, and people on the street would put their money in the bucket and it would go up and down all day to service everyone in the lines. It was just crazy.

And that was obviously a notoriously crime-ridden part of New York City that made headlines around the world. Were there areas of the city where the police just refused to go into?

You would see the police, but you would not see them doing anything. There was just so much going on that it became normalized – they would walk by prostitutes and just say hi to them, to keep it moving. I felt like they just couldn't control what was happening and they were part of the problem as well. They were doing corrupt stuff. They were taking money under the door or robbing people. I've been robbed by cops before where they take my money and just don't report it.

How did the drug game work as a street-level dealer? Did everyone have their own turf where other crews knew they weren’t supposed to be unless they were trying to take it over?

Yeah, every corner was owned by somebody. But it’s not like the movies where somebody from one corner comes to the next corner and they get shot. Although if you sold drugs on that block, you would have a problem.

I remember having a fight with the guy who sold drugs in my mom's block, and I sold drugs two blocks away. I was walking into the building and saw a common customer, so I served him. Somebody told the other guy, and we got into a fight. He pulled out a knife and started chasing me. It was just things that you would never imagine happening, but it was happening, and there were no cameras around.

Nowadays, people are worried about the cameras watching them. Back then, there were no cellphones with cameras. Everybody had a beeper, and that was it.

Much easier to get away with things before all the surveillance?

Absolutely.

Is there an incident that stands out as particularly brutal that people who haven't lived that life might not have any idea about?

I had a friend/neighbor get shot and killed. He got shot three times in the head, and I was down the block. I was just standing on the corner, and shots rang off. It was over a girl and a cellphone. It was just crazy to see how things could escalate for something so minuscule. Thinking about it now, people would fight for someone stepping on somebody's else’s Jordans [shoes]. “You step on my Jordans, it's an automatic fight,” so it was things of that nature.

I've seen a lot of crazy stuff. There's just so many stories that I could get into, especially with me and my business partner from back in the day. I remember we went to Central Park, and there was a horse and carriage there. We were walking around with our mink coats and joking around with our pimp sticks. And we just had so much money that we were like, “Yo, let's try to bargain with one of these horse carriages and take them back to our neighborhood, so we could sell drugs right from the horse and carriage.” There was a borderline under 42nd Street where they weren’t allowed to go.

So we gave this lady $5,000 to take us to the block, and the kids in the neighborhood started feeding the horses apples and carrots, and we gave everybody money. We were literally going down 5th Avenue having crackheads meet us in a horse and carriage so we could sell them drugs.

We were literally going down 5th Avenue having crackheads meet us in a horse and carriage so we could sell them drugs.

We even took the horse and carriage through a McDonald's drive thru. It was crazy, but we got away with stuff like that.

How would people know that you were the dealer? Or did people recognize you at that point?

At that point I had a delivery service, so I was getting calls all over the city from people who wanted drugs. So while we were riding down 5th Avenue, we were like, “We're about to hit the corner of 14th and 5th. Jump on the horse and carriage, and then jump off.”

And then we were heading to Houston Street: “We're on Houston and Broadway. We're here. Meet us on this corner.” It was like something out of a movie that’s really hard to describe.

It would make for a good movie at some stage in the future! Was there no concern about any of those people wanting to buy drugs possibly being undercover cops? Or was the war on drugs, and the big clean up of the city, done later?

Yeah. Rudy Giuliani [Mayor of New York City] was a man who was against crime. I remember as a kid just being stopped by cops constantly for not doing anything. I've probably been stopped by cops on stop-and-frisk about 200 times just because they knew I was up to no good, but sometimes I was just going to the store or going down the block or just minding my own business.

They stopped me because they said, “You fit the description” or “Somebody said you had a gun on you.” But I never really carried guns at that time. It was crazy.

Eventually you make it from street dealer to head of a crew making more than $5 million dollars a year. How did that transition happen?

We basically changed the way we sold drugs. I remember make little pieces of paper, and writing my number on it, and giving that out to people. In the early 2000s, the neighborhood started getting gentrified, after 9/11.

Nobody wanted to live in the Lower East Side, and I remember landowners offering people like $20,000 just to move out. Then they would fix up the apartments, and rent them out for $3,000 a month, which is crazy. And that’s still happening today.

So gentrification happened quickly. People, mainly white hipsters, started moving in, and they had a lot of money. I remember increasing my price from selling $20 bags to $50 bags, and then $100 per gram, and they just kept escalating like that.

I would buy a kilo for about $20,000 and make $100,000 off of it. And we'd move a kilo in a week.

I did what I could to make sure the person was not a cop. I would hang out with them – meet them in a bar, smoke a blunt with them, and give them my card with a coke sample on it. We would exchange numbers, and that's how it expanded.

But I did get caught through phones, but that's a longer story.

So, at that point, you had this whole business. You got dozens of people on your payroll. You've got drivers, couriers, people working all the different phones as dispatchers. What about the product side – where did that come from, what could you sell it for, and who were you selling it to?

I'm not going to say where the product came from specifically, but everything is derived from South America. It was being delivered directly through mail, people on planes, and that’s how things operated. I would buy a kilo for about $20,000 and make $100,000 off of it. And we'd move a kilo in a week.

You were also dealing to Wall Street executives and other corporate clients. Were they asking for certain drugs that you weren’t currently selling, which you then added to your portfolio?

The only thing that we added to our portfolio was weed. We didn't really have that many categories. When I was younger, I had messed around with hashish, heroin, e-pills, and acid, and all that stuff. But once we started the delivery service, we just straight focused on coke and weed.

Who were the best customers to have?

Those Wall Street people. They had a lot of money. They would move into the city and pay $3,000 a month for a 200 square foot studio apartment. It was crazy to see that. I've never seen people spend money so frivolously.

And there were actually a lot of Australians moving in. I remember them saying back home they paid like $150 a gram for coke. When they came to the city and we told them $100 a gram, they were like, “Wow, can I get 20?”

And it was just like, “Oh shit. This person going all out.”

So you had these people who were moving into New York City, and they were our best customers. They had professional jobs, but they all partied. And then the word got out. Even doctors. I've sold to lawyers, judges, cops. You name it.

At its peak, you were bringing in $5 million a year with more than $2 million in profit. What was your life like at that point – were you happy or were you wanting more?

I was always wanting more, and I was pretty greedy. I had a cold heart. I didn't even care who was hurt by my drugs – I just wanted the money, and I wanted to keep growing. It was crazy. I spent money frivolously and didn't really care what was going on.

I knew the money would keep going and coming, and it was fun. I was not sad at those times! It was a lot of crazy partying and messing around in the streets, and that was just the mentality that I had. I didn't care who I had to step over or hurt to get that money.

That notion of living for the present, rather than trying to set yourself up for the future. Is that why the idea of quitting while you were ahead never entered your mind? Or maybe it did enter your mind?

It did. I definitely wanted to get into some type of real estate. I tried to get my real estate broker license when I was younger, but I had a [criminal] record so that prevented me from entering that business. I was looking into buying foreclosed houses, and buying stuff, and I got caught up with my friend. We spent a lot of money.

When did you realize the whole operation had come undone or was about to become undone, and you were facing some very serious consequences?

It was the day I got caught – it was a total surprise.

We had all our dispatchers setup in condos, with cars and a salary. All they had to do was answer the phone and just tell the people where to go. They had the packages that they handed over to the deliverers. One dispatcher went behind our back, took our business card, and made a new phone number on the card. He then gave those cards away to try and steal our customers. One card ended up with one of my clients who had my personal number.

So this client of mine hits me up, and I used to hang out with this guy. He's like, “Yo, this guy gave me a card. It's a new number now and the product is not the same.” And I'm like, “What are you talking about?” because our product was always grade A. We didn't cut anything. It was straight from the ship to your nose, and that's how we delivered it.

Our product was always grade A. We didn't cut anything. It was straight from the ship to your nose, and that's how we delivered it.

He was like, “Yeah. They're serving green bags.” And I'm like, “That's not my bags. My bags are clear.”

I asked him for the phone number on the card he was given. I called the number and heard a dispatcher that I employed answer that phone, and I was like, “Yo, what the fuck are you doing?” and he quickly hung up. That dispatcher had all the phones in his possession at the time.

I had a connection with T-Mobile, and we only used prepaid phones, so I went and turned off all the phones and started again with new cell phones. But the phone number he had started was being tapped by federal agents. I had taken that phone number and started operating with it because I thought it was all the customers he stole from me.

So that's where the investigation started. They had a year-long investigation on me. They had a bunch of cell phones from all my drivers, but didn't even know that there were six other phones that we were operating with. The reason we had so many phones was because each one only held 1,500 to 2,500 contact numbers. Back then, you couldn't hold tens of thousands of contacts in a phone.

And we just kept pushing it. I remember not trusting anymore dispatchers. I started doing a lot more myself, and that's how we got caught.

I remember going to the stash house to drop off some weed. As I walked upstairs, I was getting a whole bunch of calls from clients. So, I was sending all my drivers out, and one at a time they were getting picked up. I don't know if you remember the Nextel phones with the walkie talkie, but when it didn’t go through it used to go “beep, beep” when they were busy, like someone was on the phone. And it kept doing that, so I kept sending other drivers to different places because we had a list of 50 people waiting for us, but it kept happening.

That night, after my ninth driver was unresponsive, I said, “Fuck that. I don’t know what these guys are doing. I can’t wait, so I'm going to go make these deliveries myself.”

So, I grabbed a whole bunch of packages, but as soon as I got downstairs, I saw this white… I'm in the middle of the Bronx, like a straight black and Hispanic neighborhood. You don't see white people there, but I saw this big white guy, and he was standing outside the house. He pulled out his badge and said, “This is Federal Agent Joseph King. Your whole operation is over.”

And I'm like, “What the fuck?”

He said, “You’re Coss Marte, right?”

And I said, “I don't know what you're talking about.”

I turned to run, but they quickly tackled me. They pulled out their warrant, went upstairs, and knew exactly where everything was stored. One of the drivers had told them where everything was stashed. I just knew that somebody had told because, when they brought me upstairs, they were like, “Don't worry, we know everything.”

They knew exactly.

I had about 500 pairs of Jordans, which I sold to start Conbody. The cops went exactly to the pair of sneakers where all the drugs were at in that box, and they opened it up. Game over.

Wow. So you were arrested and initially faced a life sentence because of the three-strikes-law that imposed a mandatory life sentence if you had two prior convictions. Due to equal parts luck and some changes in government, you ended up with a seven-year sentence with a non-parole period of five years. What was it like in court, just sitting there waiting to see how much of your life was going to be taken from you?

It was nerve-wracking. It was definitely one of the most nerve-wracking situations that I’ve ever faced. I've been in shootouts, I've seen people pass away in front of me, but to be in cuffs and see a judge who decides the future of your life… it’s like they can kill you right there. And once you're away, you're not alive, and that's how I felt.

You're off to prison at that point. It wasn't the first time you'd been to prison, but it was the largest sentence. How was your first night on the inside, knowing that it was going to be a long time before you'd be able to see your son again?

It was sad and it’s what hurt me the most. I remember that day I got arrested, I spent pretty much the whole day with him and my wife ... Well, she was my fiancée at the time, and we got married when I was inside prison, but divorced when we got out. But yeah, it was hard. If anybody has kids, you feel it in your heart.

And then also speaking to him over the phone was tough. I taught him his ABCs over the prison phone. And he would also come to visit me and say, "When are you coming home?" And that broke my heart, to hear him cry and have to tell him, "I can't go home."

What's an average day like in prison?

You try to forget about the real world. You're living in a different planet in there – it’s just a different set of rules. There's a lot of racism going on in US prisons. There's black gangs, Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, and all types of gangs running stuff. Sometimes you end up in a housing unit that's full of mostly Bloods, sometimes you're in a Crip house, sometimes you're in a Latin King house. You just have to be ready to adapt.

I knew how to adapt because I was a kid when I first went to prison. I remember when I was a kid, I had a fight every single day because I was not part of a gang. The adults are a bit more lenient in terms of you not being in a gang, but that meant you still couldn't do things like use certain phones.

In prison, there were three pay phones: a neutral phone, a Spanish phone, and a black gang phone. I was not in a gang, but I was always hanging out with the Spanish gangs, so I was okay to use the Spanish phone. Sometimes other gang members would take away that neutral phone, so if you're not part of that unit, you couldn't make a phone call.

I've seen people extorted for food, have fights over TV. Actually, a lot of fights over the TV – someone might be watching the Spanish channel, whereas someone else might want to watch regular news, so they just go up to the TV and change it. You just have to be ready to fight. It's crazy.

They say, “Pull out your gun.” You don’t have a gun, but it’s what they call knives. Your knife is your gun, and that's what they’d say.

Was it more violent inside or on the streets?

It was definitely more violent inside prison. In the streets, you could be incognito, especially after things changed with cell phones and delivery services. It was not that corner-to-corner type of issue from back in the day.

Were you able to work and earn wages inside prison?

Yes, I was working as a customer service agent for the Department of Motor Vehicles, earning seven cents an hour.

Seven cents an hour?

Yes, that’s an hour. My monthly wage was $40.

That's crazy. How do they justify seven cents an hour?

I have no idea. It's all a robbery. It's a money-making business. The department pays the inmates a certain amount, and the prison take a cut. So they could say like, “Hey, we'll deliver all the customer agents for you for $10 an hour rather than $20 an hour.” And then you get paid whatever they tell you you're going to get paid.

I was working as a customer service agent for the Department of Motor Vehicles, earning seven cents an hour.

You’re stuck because you want to do something while you're inside. You have to do something, just to keep occupied. And if you don't work, you get in trouble too.

There are so many ways you cease being human when you enter the prison system.

Yeah. It's part of the law. Basically, to be incarcerated, you’re subject to being enslaved.

Well, five years in, you're only a couple of months away from being released, but an unwarranted assault from a guard lands you in solitary and stacks more time on your sentence. How that did happen, and how did you keep the faith?

I was devastated when I ended up in solitary confinement. I had two months left before my release, and I remember one of the officers beat me up and threw me in solitary confinement with 24-hour lockdown. I was devastated. I felt hopeless. I thought I couldn't get out of the situation, but then an officer came to my door, opened up the food slot, and passed me a pen, paper, and an envelope. I quickly grabbed them so I could communicate with my family.

So, I wrote a letter to let my family know about the whole situation, and how this officer set me up and beat me up. As I sealed the letter, I realized I had no stamp to send it out and I became even more restless.

I sat on my bed and started banging my head on the wall, just frustrated. Hopeless. It was not until three or four days later when my sister found out I was in solitary. She wrote me a letter and said, “We found out you're in solitary. Everything is going to be all right. All I want you to do is pray.” My sister is super religious, and she told me to pray to Psalm 91.

But I was like, "Fuck that. I don't need god and I don't need religion. I need a lawyer. I need to fight this case. This guy is trying to set me up."

It was not until a couple of days later where I decided to pick up the bible, which was the only thing in the cell. The bible is the only thing that follows you around through your whole prison sentence, and it was this bible that she gave me early in my incarceration in Rikers Island.

To be incarcerated, you’re subject to being enslaved.

And I turned to Psalm 91, which states, “He who dwells in the shelter of the most high will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord. He is my shelter and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” And as soon as I read those words, a stamp fell out of the Psalm pages, and that gave me chills.

I don't know. I was struck by awe, and I kept reading, and something weird happened to me. I was in 100+ degree weather, a super-hot cell, frustrated, but every time I read the bible I felt like I was in cool 70 degree weather, and sitting in the Caribbean. Every time I began reading, I escaped that cell. I got lost in the words, and I read the bible from front to back. I'm not a super religious person, and I'm not trying to convert anyone, but that is what happened to me.

Through reading the bible, I started realizing that what I had been doing was wrong. I felt like drugs were okay to sell. Previously, I had felt like I was not doing anything wrong – that it was the system that was wrong. I thought I was the victim in every situation.

And then I started realizing that I was affecting not only the thousands of people that I sell drugs to, but I started thinking about their families. I started thinking about my family. I started thinking about this web of destruction that I'd created, and I felt so much regret. I said, “I want to get back in some sort of way.”

I came up with the idea of ConBody in that cell. Then, I lost 70 pounds in six months, while helping 20 other inmates lose more than 1,000 pounds combined.

So, I started this whole workout program in the prison yard. I knew then that it’s what I wanted to do when I came home: a prison-style bootcamp. In my cell, I wrote a mini-business plan and a 90-day workout plan. I said to myself that I would do what I wrote, and I did.

About a year later, I came home and put it into action. I started training classes in the park, then rented out studios, then eventually opened up my own studio. It escalated to building an online workout platform where I now train thousands of people all over the world. Today, we've trained more than 50,000 people. But the most beautiful thing is that we've hired over 40 people coming out of the prison system, and none of them have come back into the system.

That's incredible. In New York, aren’t 53% of released prisoners likely to be back inside prison within three years?

Yes, and that's just three years. Within five years, it's 76%. Within eight years, 82% of the people will go back into the system. So more than three out of four people will go back, and I'm a proven statistic. I recidivated, and it a lot has to do with the lack of opportunities that you receive when you get out of the system and come home.

So you were inside and came up with what you thought was a solid business idea, but it was only when you got started that you realized just how good it was. How were you able to spread the word about ConBody? And were there any principles or lessons you had from your former life that were able to help you build it?

Yeah. I remember when I got out of solitary confinement, I had to do this group class for a couple of months called ASAT – the alcohol, substance abuse treatment program. In the middle of the class, full of inmates, they ask us what our plan is when we come home. I remember getting up in front of the class and telling everyone, “Look, I'm going to start a prison-style bootcamp. I'm going to hire people coming out of the system.” And I told them the whole idea of ConBody.

They all laughed and thought I was crazy, but that got me mad. I said, “This shit is going to fucking pop off! I know how to build the business from the ground up.” And that was just my mentality: that nothing was going to stop me. I was determined to make this thing happen.

My mentality was nothing is going to stop me.

Then I came home and used the same marketing and hustling skills that I used when I was selling drugs. I was going up to random people and giving them my business card. Any females wearing yoga pants who were jogging down the block, I would chase after them and pitch them left and right! I just kept doing it, and from there it started escalating.

Did you find people who were currently incarcerated and go into the prisons to train them as personal trainers? Or was it once they were released, you were able to train them as personal trainers and bring them into Conbody?

Yeah, once they were released. At the start, I was doing everything myself – teaching all the classes and running the whole business. I couldn't afford to pay anyone in the beginning stages. It took me a little over a year and a half before I hired my first guy. Then, one of the guys who I was locked up with that saw me lose a lot of weight, he contacted me immediately when he came home because he’d read about me in an article and became my Facebook friend. He hit me up and said, “Hey, yo. Can I be a trainer there?” So I brought him on board, and it kept spreading like that.

I love it. And this year, you started a crowdfunding campaign for Second Chance Studios, which has raised more than $60,000. What's your aim with Second Chance Studios, and why is it such an important project for you?

One of the biggest issues when people are coming out of the prison system is that we have a lot of manual labor jobs, and that's pretty much the only job you can get when you come out. One out of five people unemployed in America are formerly incarcerated people, which is crazy. That's millions and millions of people with criminal histories, and that correlates to people going back. Especially during COVID time, anybody who had a manual labor job pretty much lost their job. So now with the technical skill side of it, we want to launch Second Chance Studios so we can hire and train people to do podcasting work, video production, and audio engineering.

We want to have corporations hire these individuals once they’ve gone through our program and solidified their training. That would also be helpful for me because I want to hire people with those skills for the ConBody side, too.

It's perfect timing with the pandemic and the push to remote work, where people can offer their expertise from the comfort of their own home.

You've been a TEDx speaker, an author, and done all these amazing things. How long ago was it since you were released and able to start doing all these awesome ventures?

It's been a while. March 2013.

I have the utmost respect for the journey that you have been on. It was obviously a very difficult upbringing, but the bigger the setback, the bigger the comeback.

There seems to be a resistance to helping formerly incarcerated individuals develop skills and earn money. It’s like people would rather be afraid of them from a distance, and it remains a taboo subject. Yet, we need that change to happen if we’re to have a meaningful society. If you had one change to make to the prison system, what would it be?

I think we need to believe in redemption. Everyone in this planet has committed some type of mistake, something immoral or something bad. Not everyone's perfect, and we need to realize that we all commit mistakes. If we didn't commit mistakes, we wouldn't learn from our mistakes. But our system in the US is all about punishment. It’s a correction facility, and we need to correct the problem.

To do that, we need to recruit people who care. Instead of bringing in correctional officers who just want to beat you up with batons and turn you more into a criminal, why not have trained correctional officers and staff members who really care? People who want to correct the problem, to train and reform individuals, and who believe in second chances.

Hopefully sharing your story on platforms like this can help initiate that change.


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Coss does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give her 18-year-old self, his favorite book, and a whole lot more 🚀


Final question. What's one thing you do to Win the Day?

Working out is the biggest thing for me. I feel so accomplished when I wake up in the morning and go for a run or workout.

Resources / links mentioned:

💪 ConBody

🎧 Ex-Dealer, Ex-Junkie Podcast

💚 Second Chance Studios

📚 ConBody: The Revolutionary Bodyweight Prison Boot Camp, Born from an Extraordinary Story of Hope

🎤 TEDx Talk

📸 Coss Marte on Instagram

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