Become a Learning Machine: How to Leverage Books to Supercharge Personal and Professional Development

by Mark Fisher

Estimated Reading Time: 10 Minutes

I’ve been reading (or listening to) an average of two books a week since August of 2010. At the time of this writing, I can safely estimate I’ve read more than 1200 books over the last twelve years.

I don’t say this to brag. In fact, my pride in this number is outweighed by self-consciousness. Inevitably, it’s met with more eye rolls than high fives. Common reactions include:

  • “There’s no way anyone can retain that much.”
  • “That’s not enough time on implementation.”
  • “I think it’s better to read one book over and over so you can truly master it.”
  • “How dare you, books are meant to be savored!”
  • “You’ll never fill that gaping hole inside no matter what you do, you sick, sick f*ck!!!”

These concerns are reasonable. 1200 books in 12 years would be overkill for most humans. I’m not suggesting everyone should consume at this pace. Nor do I want you to feel bad if this isn’t a logistical possibility. For people with different family and professional obligations, the amount of time I can devote to reading (and listening) isn’t an option.

But with all due respect to doubters/haters, there are a lot of assumptions built into these concerns.

You can create systems to maximize retention and implementation, even at this volume. Furthermore, the approach outlined isn’t at odds with re-reading; I encourage reading books over and over. As to the need for “savoring books,” I can’t argue if the goal is purely pleasure. And admittedly, chewing on complex ideas requires reflection, and therefore, time. But as we shall see, much of the magic in this system comes from utilizing micro-pockets and savage consistency, not speed reading hacks.

To the last point, in regards to my sick, sick fuckery… I am, alas, without defense. 🙂


Since adopting a disciplined habit of reading and listening to books, my professional and personal life have skyrocketed.

I can’t attribute all of that directly to books. And my commitment to education hasn’t shielded me from many missteps along the way. But I shudder to think how my life would have turned out if I hadn’t embraced this habit.

In this post I will cover:

  • How to decide what to read
  • How to find time to read
  • How to turn that knowledge into action (and results)

WHAT To Read

The first step is to curate a “To Read” book list. My personal book list is a never-ending queue derived from:

  • Recommendations from mentors (“virtual” and real life)
  • Recommendations from colleagues and peers
  • Other books
  • Reviewing my library for books that were impactful that I’d like to re-read

As I consider whether or not to read a book, I’m essentially looking for two outcomes:

  • Will I gain tactical ideas I can put into action to improve my life and my businesses?
  • Will it help me become a better critical thinker so I make better decisions?

Broadly, the first bucket is “skill acquisition/vocational” reading: management, digital marketing, customer service, etc. The latter bucket is ongoing “liberal arts” education: philosophy, psychology, biographies, etc.

As an example, at the time of the original edition of this article, I was reading John R. DiJulius III’s excellent customer service book, Secret Service. While reading this “vocational” book, I was taking lots of notes on potential action steps to improve customer service at MFF and BFU.

Concurrently, I was listening to Steven Pinker’s book, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. This book falls squarely into the domain of “liberal arts” and social philosophy. It’s not going to (directly) provide takeaways for our phone scripts at Mark Fisher Fitness. But it’s challenging me to think deeply about what it means to be a human. This makes my brain more fertile for right-brain associations that could lead to great ideas.

To be clear, I don’t balance my “vocational” reading with my “liberal arts” reading on a strict one-to-one ratio; rather, I use it as a general guideline.

Some other thoughts on WHAT To Read:

  • As mentioned, I do a fair amount of re-reading. I have no real algorithm here, but I’d estimate about 1 out of every 15-20 books are a re-read. There are a handful of books I’ve read five times or more. This allows me to balance breadth with depth.
  • At any given moment, I have an educational focus derived from my most recent quarterly goal-setting exercise. Examples have included management, public speaking, and writing. Once I’ve decided to go deep on a topic, I will read aggressively on the subject. To see how I approach goal-setting, check out this article HERE. For my thoughts on leveraging strengths vs. mitigating weaknesses, check out this article HERE.
  • For a list of my favorite business books, check out this post HERE.
  • In addition to the “To Read” book list, I also track the books I’ve read. Reviewing these lists helps me decide what to re-read, as well as easily source recommendations when asked for suggestions on a given topic.
  • To see my favorite books and learning notes from 2022, check out this post HERE.
  • Around two years ago, I started integrating more fiction. I particularly enjoy hard science fiction, though occasionally rotate in more “serious” contemporary and classic literature.
ACTION STEP #1: Create a List to Capture Book Recommendations

WHEN To Read

Once you’ve established a list of books to read, your next step is planning when to do your reading (and/or listening).

Below are the times when I do most of my reading/ listening. Let me again concede, I have created a life situation that lets me leverage my superpowers for book consumption. And even I don’t do all of these times every single day. But hopefully, regardless of your personal constraints, these lists will jog your brain as to where you can realistically fit in more reading.

When I Read Books:

  • First thing in the morning for 25-45 minutes
  • On weekends
  • On plane rides
  • Before bed

When I Listen to Audio Books/Podcasts:

  • Morning walks
  • Easy cardio (incline treadmill walking)
  • Cooking breakfast and dinner
  • Commuting
  • Walks on the weekend
  • Long car rides

Some other thoughts on WHEN To Read:

  • THE BIGGEST TAKEAWAY: Much of my reading (and listening!) comes in micro blocks. With the exception of plane rides and long car rides, the above pockets of time are all 10-30 minute blocks. Don’t be afraid to read five pages (or listen for five minutes) and put the book down.
  • Starting in 2020, my audiobook consumption dropped dramatically, as the “listening” blocks are now usually devoted to podcasts, 80% of which are fitness business podcasts, with the remaining 20% being general business, personal development, and social philosophy.
  • I don’t read very fast. Particularly since I’m usually stopping to take notes and/or reflecting on how the book applies to me. The key isn’t speed, it’s consistency.
  • During my morning read times, I will often listen to a given audiobook while reading the same book. This allows me to read the book while having the text narrated to me. I can turn the speed up or down based on the density of the content.
  • On the occasions I do have time for long stretches, I usually switch books every 30 minutes or so. This seems to minimize mental wandering.
  • Some people just can’t seem to get into audio books. I admit, I still learn better from reading than audio books. However, every master was once a disaster. Over the years, my ability to stay focused and retain information has drastically improved.
  • Audio book apps like Audible allow you to speed up the narration. While 1.8x is very comfortable for me, most people can easily train their way up to 1.5x.
  • In addition to downloading books on Audible, I have a subscription to a service called Scribd which offers a large number of audiobooks for an affordable monthly fee. The library isn’t totally comprehensive, and the app itself is buggy at times. But it’s been an affordable way to supplement my audiobook habit.
  • Long car rides are my favorite. If I’m driving home to NJ, it’s a three to four hour round trip. Since it’s all highway driving, I can push the speed to 2x and still retain well. Effectively using one’s commute is one the easiest ways to get more education. This is called “Automobile University” in personal development circles.
  • Do you lose some retention at that speed? Perhaps. But if you catch your mind wandering, you can hit the “30 seconds back button” a few times and re-listen. I’d rather retain 80% of 150 books than 90% of 20 books. Plus I re-read my favorites anyway.
  • Not everyone will be able to average 10 plus hours a week dedicated to education. Regardless, most people can be more effective AND efficient within the context of their life’s logistics. 
  • I read exclusively fiction before bed so I don’t get wound up.
ACTION STEP #2: Commit to reading as a habit. Starting each day with 15 minutes of reading and/or audio booking on your daily commute will drastically increase your weekly total.

HOW to Read: Turn Your Reading Into ACTION

As I read a book I’m constantly asking myself, “How can I apply this to my personal workflow, to MFF, or to BFU?” I’m relentlessly looking for ideas to incrementally improve every element of the businesses.

These days I’m rarely the person responsible for executing the idea, so I think of myself like a squirrel looking for “acorns” to hand off the team. In fact, I call this process “Looking for Greatness Acorns.”

While there’s a time and a place for “liberal arts” reading that fertilizes your brain, the end product of your “skill acquisition” reading should be action steps. Knowledge alone doesn’t produce different results. Different actions lead to different results. In fact, reading lots of books can be a trap; endless “continuing education” can be a form of procrastination.

As you read or listen, you’re looking for action steps to improve your life or your business. There’s nothing wrong with highlighting or making notes of interesting ideas or quotes. But those won’t move the ball forward.

To effectively remember, organize, and prioritize your action steps, you must have (or create) a trustworthy system to capture your ideas. In my case, those action steps first get jotted down in my notebook. After that, different action steps will call for a number of potential next steps.

Examples include:

  • A discrete action I can take immediately in less than five minutes
    • Ex. Adding a book recommendation to my book list
  • A project that I can complete in one work session of 30 minutes or less that I decide to prioritize
    • Ex. Create a budget for a potential business venture
    • ACTION: Schedule for sometime in the next two weeks when I have time in my daily schedule
  • A more ambitious project that will take more than one work session to complete
    • Ex. Writing a blog post or creating a new program for MFF
    • ACTION: Add to my “Ongoing Project List” to decide how to prioritize and ultimately schedule as multiple work sessions in my daily schedules
  • An idea that needs discussion with a team member
    • Ex. A new idea to consider integrating into our new member on-boarding
    • ACTION: Add to my “Meetings List” for discussion in my next meeting with our Membership Director
  • For more insight into how to organize your action steps into various lists, check out this article HERE.

Here are some other thoughts on HOW to Read:

  • I use an app called Captio to take notes as I’m listening to audio books. When I have an idea for an action step, I pause the audio book, jot down the note, and Captio automatically sends it to me as an email. Whenever I next process to inbox zero, I will either execute immediately OR transfer the note to the appropriate list for future action. Captio is particularly useful in the car, as I use the voice dictation feature to capture ideas without having to pull over and type.
  • As mentioned, my “liberal arts” reading doesn’t always lead directly to action steps. However, even here my retention is pretty strong. My secret? For better or worse, I engage people in conversation about what I’m reading. This forces me to summarize what I’m learning and ask other people for their thoughts on a given topic. Thanks ever-patient friends! 🙂
  • Another technique I use to improve retention is periodically reviewing summaries of my favorite books. While I happily re-read my favorite books once every year or two, I will also periodically search for executive summaries of a favorite book to remind myself of the most important points. Similarly, I will sometimes listen to podcasts with the author being interviewed about the book, or watch a 60-minute long YouTube. These act as great refreshers.
  • Many of my best ideas/ discoveries are unrelated to what I’m reading. As I read a book, I’m constantly asking myself, “How can I apply this?” During these moments of pausing and reflection, my subconscious mind seems to be scanning the business horizon for threats and opportunities. Much like a student driver learning SIPDE (Search, Identify, Predict, Determine, Execute), I find myself naturally thinking about the big picture of our businesses and the months (and years) to come. Even though my mind sometimes wanders away from the book itself, it’s dedicated time working on the business.
ACTION STEP #3: Create a trustworthy system to capture potential action steps for later organization, prioritization, and execution.


“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none, zero. You’d be amazed at how much Warren reads — and at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out.”

― Charles T. Munger, Warren Buffet’s business partner

Admittedly, our access to media has changed in the past 15 years in profound ways. So while Munger’s quote could expand to include non-book reading people who are learning all time, overall, the sentiment holds true: wise people are lifelong learners.

In closing, here’s my two-part framework for personal fulfillment:

1.) Being a student

2.) Being a servant

As a student, I seek to learn about myself and learn about the world, so I can more effectively be of value to those around me. I can’t effectively be a servant unless I’ve actually developed skills. One can have great intentions, but if you’re not skilled at anything, it’s hard to be a great servant. Hence, you have to be a great student first.

Books have been my foundation in this joyful pursuit.

We are in a golden age of education. Books are cheaper and more accessible than they’ve ever been. The vast majority of us have smartphones in our pocket that let us listen to any book, adjusted to our ideal listening speed. Even the advent of wireless headphones over the past few years has made this pursuit even more convenient.

In addition to books, I also attend conferences, take college courses, hire coaches, and of course, do my best to learn quickly in the School of Real Life Experience. Certainly magazines, newspapers, podcasts, blog posts, and even social media can also play a role in one’s development.

But as a true book lover, and as someone who has seen it transform lives, my hope is you’ll be able to take action and apply some of the suggestions in this article. And I wish you the same success, joy, and fulfillment it’s brought into my life.


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Read the Transcript

[00:00:00] Hello, fitness business nerds. What’s up? Welcome to another episode of the Business Phen Unicorns podcast, and today I’m super stoked to be back here again with Ben Pickard. Hello. Hello, friend. Thanks for having me. I’m so glad you’re now a regular on this podcast because I just love picking your brain and we get to work together on a regular basis, maybe more than I work with anyone else on the business Unicorn scene.

You and I get to work together, so when I get to share what we’ve been thinking about on this podcast, it feels we’re really pulling back the curtain to show behind the scenes of how we think about our work at Business pH unicorns. So anyway, thanks for being here, my friend. Before we dive into today’s topic, which is gonna be about how to use a business coach, which I’m really excited for, I wanna do a quick little, just shout out a little mini commercial because we are now in, we started enrollment for Unicorn Society.

And if you’re listening to this, when this podcast was released, we’re in the middle of our early bird enrollment for Unicorn Society, which means we have a few spots left. We have a spew few spots open to join our unicorn society. And Ben, do you wanna tell him a little bit about how early bird enrollment works?

Yeah, a hundred [00:01:00] percent. So early bird enrollment for Unicorn Society will launch on May 29th, and typically we only open enrollment twice a year, once at the end of the year for a January start, and once in the middle of the year for a July start. Because we don’t wanna, honestly, we wanna focus on serving our members, not be constantly selling.

So early Bird, you get a bit of a savings. And some perks. And then early bird will close on Sunday, June 12th, which is also my birthday. For my birthday. Join you to Unicorn Society. Oh, what a gift. What a gift. And then registration officially ends on Sunday, June 19th. Got it. So if you wanna save some money, and we’re talking about like saving literally hundreds of dollars, sign up before the end of the enroll period.

And even if you’re not sure if you wanna join Unicorn Society, then just fill out the damn application, follow the link down below, fill it out, and then we’ll have a conversation. And frankly, you’ll probably have a conversation with Ben as your first tip to decide whether it’s a good fit, so you don’t have to have major mind up.

When you apply, applying does not mean we take your credit card and you’re in [00:02:00] applying means you have a conversation with us to see if you’re a good fit for us and we’re a good fit for you. It’s like a first date, and you’ve heard us, I’m sure on this podcast if you listened to any of them at all.

You’ve heard us talk at length about what Unicorn Society is, but Ben, just in a nutshell, who is Unicorn Society ideal for you? Unicorn society is ideal for training gym owners. Who offer a mixture of one-on-one small group or team slash large group training. Ideally, you’ve got a, a couple of team members in place.

You’ve got a handful of clients, radius, semi established business, and that doesn’t mean you have to be making 80 grand a month semi established. This means like it’s not your first rodeo and you’re looking to grow your business, not just I want 10,000 more leads, but you’re looking for like, how do I improve my leadership?

How do I get. Operationally efficient. How do I standardize client experience across the board? How do you like plug all the little holes that often end up on our to-do list but don’t become a huge project? So we’re really good at helping. And I say this cause I’ve done a ton of interviews now and I was a member of helping people who are like already established, have their feet under them, [00:03:00] but are really now trying to make the leap to, let’s make this a real business, so to speak.

A grown up, yeah, a grown up business. And that means like someone other than you is gonna answer. Member phone calls and emails, but you wanna have the same beautiful standard of customer service. And there’s a lot going on with, yeah, beyond just how do we grow revenue? It’s how do you get the pieces in place so that you can grow revenue more easily.

Yeah, said my friend. We’ll leave it there. So friends, click the link down below on the show notes. Visit and click the link to learn more about Unicorn Society. Apply. Have a conversation with Ben. See if it’s a good fit for you, and if not, we might have other ways we can help you. So just be in touch.

This leads us to today’s topic, which is funny. We actually planned this topic before we were going to talk about Unigram site enrollment, but it dovetails beautifully with today’s topic. So today we want to talk a little bit about. How to use a business coach, like how to actually get value from working with a coach.

Cause a lot of you out there have never worked with a coach before, and many of you out there offer fitness coaching and sometimes nutrition coaching. But [00:04:00] working with a business coach is a little different. And so I wanted to talk about what we’ve learned in terms of the clients we work with that really get a lot out of our services.

So maybe let’s just start with this. Who do you think. Business coaching is ideal for Ben, and actually it’s not that different, the question we just asked, but just maybe talking a little bit bigger picture, not just about unicorn society, but generally speaking, working with a business coach, who do you think should consider finding a business coach?

Yeah, it’s a great question. I’m heavily biased that I want to go so far as to say, like almost everybody knowing that yeah, business coaching is an extremely broad spectrum. That is an unregulated profession. So instead of my super coppo answer, I do think it’s really a good fit for people who are like open to having their ideas challenged, know they wanna get to some sort of destination, even if they haven’t perfectly clarified that, but aren’t really sure of how to get there.

And possibly even if they believe that they can get there as I like, yeah, true coaching as we, [00:05:00] me and you have to discuss, but maybe not for everybody. Like we’re not just, it’s not just saying do this and this. It’s not like on the consulting end of the spectrum, so to speak. It’s helping people get clear on their goals, helping identify obstacles and helping commit to consistent action and stay accountable.

So, Even if again, cop out answer, even if you don’t have a crystal clear goal, a really good business coach, case in Point U, that’s why I was a member of her so long. Helps you actually clarify the goals. What do you really want and how can you get there? Because there’s the obvious stuff of business coach can help give you better referral strategies or help you get more testimonials or help you get more leads and those are kinda like checkbox items to a certain degree.

But like really good coaching is getting not just one layer deeper, but I think I’ve actually worded your skills to people like you just cut right through everything I say and get right to the heart of the matter and be like, it sounds like you’re struggling with this and it’s holy shit. I didn’t even realize I was struggling this, I was operating on the assumption that once I get X, then I’ll have Y.

What I’m really looking for is, is this business a ref [00:06:00] accurate reflection of my amazing vision I have for my community? Yeah. I wanna go back and repeat something you shared, but I think is a great paradigm for our listeners to think about, which is, you mentioned fifth three things that great coaches do, and this is not just unicorn, sorry.

This is, we’re talking about coaching as a whole and the great three things that great coaches do is help people identify what they want. Whether that’s goals, a vision, a clear vision of what you want, help them identify and overcome obstacles. Notice what’s getting in the way and get it out of the fucking way as soon as possible.

And number three is to commit to consistent action. So ideally when, if you’re thinking about getting a coach, that you are someone who you think would benefit from ha being more clear about where I’m heading. Having a thought partner to help identify and overcome obstacles more quickly and hopefully more efficiently.

And I want someone to hold me accountable to taking consistent action. So number one thing we hear when working with clients at all is that they mainly want a coach to help hold them accountable because as the owner of your own business, You’re not accountable to anyone. You got no boss. You got no one to report to.

And as coaches, we’re not your boss, but we get to be a [00:07:00] really powerful mirror to you to say, Hey, this is what you said mattered. This is what you said you’re gonna do about that thing that mattered. So did it happen? And if not, we’re not here to judge you. We’re to help you get curious about your own behavior, your own mindset, your own habits, right?

And get curious about how they might change if you’re not getting the outcomes you want from the way you’re working. So I just wanted to re highlight that. Those three things you shared I think are so, I. Critical, Ben, and let’s dive into a little bit. So once someone decides to work with a coach, how do you see people really extracting value from that experience?

Certainly, we’ve already listed a few, but just going a little bit further, maybe give some examples of ways that you extracted value from coaching, or you’ve seen people extract value from our coaching. So yeah, dive in a little deeper. Yeah. I think the first one that comes to mind is what you said about being a thought partner.

Because owning your own business is lonely. Yeah. It’s definitely not all that it’s cracked up to be. Don’t get me wrong. I love that I’m self-employed and there’s all sorts of perks with that. But it also comes with [00:08:00] some things that could easily be perceived as cons, and one of those cons is you don’t have someone in your office building who’s like your co-manager or whoever, corporate works where you can just be like, Hey, can I run this by you for a second?

Because you can’t always run everything by your team. And sometimes even with their best interests, even with their, even if they’re trying to give you their best interest on it, like sometimes they just don’t have all the right information for it to be valuable feedback. Sometimes the thing you wanna run by them has to do with it.

Yeah. It’s about them. Exactly. My trainers have tons of ideas on lots of things, and many of them are great and many of them are not. And oftentimes it’s when it’s like outside of their lane, then it gets a little bit. Blurry and it’s less their hearts for that, but someone at peer, at your level who you can have those deep conversations with to be like, I’m really struggling with X.

Can we talk about it? Like those are some of the best coaching calls I’ve had is when they come in with, I’m struggling with this thing and I’m open to discussion about it. And having that thought part and be like, as you said, I heard you say [00:09:00] it, you’re interested in X, but it looks like you’re doing Y.

How do we help you navigate that? And even if nothing else, just having that person to. Like sometimes all it is reinforcing that does sound like a good idea. What’s the next step? But in that case, you’re still taking something that could have been you mulling it over for three weeks before doing something on it and be like, cool, I’m gonna make sure that’s done tomorrow.

Like you just gained three weeks of progress time and that happens multiple times a year. So anyways, first one is a valuable thought partner because it’s lonely as fuck at the top, so to speak. Yeah. The second piece I’ve found really valuable for having a coach is, And this is like how to use a coach, but it’s not a great use of coaching time to be like, can you tell me about x?

Especially at Business for Unicorns when we have so many done for you resources and videos and courses already created, but using a coach in a way where you’ve absorbed information from one or a couple different places and you need to like it’s jumbled and give you through [00:10:00] it all in a bucket and it’s just a cluster fuck and you want to bring it to the meeting and be like, Hey, I’ve got this bucket of stuff I think is useful, but can we help get it organized?

Yeah. Synthesize, organize. Yeah, exactly. For some reason I have image in my head about a kid’s beach bucket full of like different toys and we need to get them in some sort of order for the benefit of the sandcastle. Not sure. Yeah, I think the thing you mentioned before, I think was a great example of the kind of thing that people bring is, I think you mentioned a few minutes ago, or maybe I just made up in my head, was referral structure, referral and strategy that I would love for, the best way to use a coach, and this is true for example, for us, is that someone comes to say, here are the last three referral programs I had.

Here’s one I just saw on the Facebook Live. You all did, or from our retreat, I got that idea, and then here’s two others I read about. How do I take all this information and decide which one do I do next? Perfect example of how to use a coach as a thought partner and to help streamline like your synthesizing of information.

We’re not there to reverse, which I think you said is not. The way to do is come to a coaching call and be like, tell me about [00:11:00] referrals. Help me understand referrals. That’s not the best way to use their time with a coach. Come with some ideas, and if you really have never done a referral program before, maybe you can start a call like that.

But if every call is about, tell me everything you know about this topic. The knowledge is not the best way to, to use a coaching call. You can Google us, listen to the podcast, read our blogs, go to Mark’s YouTube, take one of our courses, especially if you work with us. There’s so much done for you stuff, and that’s the way most coaches work these days.

Yeah. The knowledge is free. It’s the processing of that information and right sizing it for you, then that’s what a coach can do best. So I just wanted to like Yes. End your answer. So keep on. Yeah. That’s not the antithesis of how we’ve been taught in school. Like you wait for the teacher to give the lesson.

So the method of content delivery is a human telling it at you. And coaching is best served for like the. Area where the two area, the two circles of the Venn diagram, I overlap. And then figuring out how you can roll out that initiative in a way that fits [00:12:00] your business and your values. So a hundred percent.

Yeah. So I said having a a thought partner, super valuable. Having someone to synthesize information for you. And the third one, where we’re gonna get a little more deep here is putting it on just having the emotional support. I can’t say enough how valuable it is to have somebody who you know is just like in your corner.

And I’m not texting when I was a client. It’s not like I was texting you every day or something, but it was really n nice to know if I really am struggling with something that like somebody’s got my back. Because it often feels the government doesn’t really have your back as long as you pay your taxes.

They don’t really give us your tax money and shut the fuck up is basically the message that I hear. Again, you can bring some stuff. And you’re, and for the context, you’re even in Canada and think that, so in the US it’s even worse. You’re even more on your fucking own. Sorry, keep going. Yeah, that’s a good point.

But like I said, you can sometimes bring some stuff to your team, but I don’t know. There’s a boundary there, I think, with a lot of things. [00:13:00] But you can sometimes bring things to a spouse or a parent. I know I’ve talked to a few, be a few members who they’re a family member is basically like, they’re like, CFO or FI or financial officer.

But even then, yeah, I know if I bring work stuff to my wife or she brings it to me, like we’ve both got a lot of biases for each other’s behavior. So it’s not like I’ve even trained myself to some, I don’t do it as much recently, but if she brings me something, I’ll sometimes pause the conversation, be like, Are you looking at for advice or do you just need to feel hurt?

And more often than not, it’s actually the latter. Mm-hmm. So you still got emotional support in other areas. But I know I started my business when I was 24 and I’ve been self-employed since I left school. And like, and we have a son who’s now 11. I’m 33. So the reason the li, the reason this has been so beneficial for me, and I’m imagining there’s other people out there with similar, yet different.

Past of life that this will resonate with is I’m three years into a business learning everything I can, trying to scrape things together to make it work in like the [00:14:00] scrappiest fucking business ever, as many gyms are. And then the friends are in life situations where, yeah, I’m not sure, like my job, I think I’m gonna quit, but I might go on vacation.

And it’s like that peer network, at least when I started out, wasn’t to the same degree. Yeah. Like there was misalignment there and it wasn’t for better or for work. They just can’t relate. Yeah, they just can’t relate. If you have a corporate job, you work for someone else. It’s hard to relate to someone who works for themselves that, and we wake up at early as hell in the morning, so it’s like, I don’t really want to go drinking, which is when most good conver like you, it was hard to go your way.

So this is my roundabout way of bringing it to like having that emotional support from someone who you know has your best interest in mind. Whether you like the thing that just came outta their mouth or not. I know it’s. Best interest in mind and but can also see the whole picture from an unbiased point of view.

There’s like true coaching, as you’ve told me many times. There is no agenda. Obviously we want the person to get to their goals, but how we get there is not set in stone by any stretch. So having that person who’s got your back and you can bring them pretty much whatever, knowing that [00:15:00] even though to a.

An observer. These might feel like completely different buckets. Like we know that work and life don’t completely separate. Yeah. We’re not two separate people. No. Yeah. Unless we’re in the Apple TV show severance. And then you are two separate people. Have you watched severance show? No. I really like, I like Apple people.

Well, we’ll go on a tangent. I wanna start a new pod, a new podcast about severance. So listeners, if you. Haven’t watched the episode, the TV show Severance on Apple tv. Go watch it. It’s wild. It’s about this topic. Okay, so yeah, I’m gonna add one more thing to your list cause I, I think that’s a fantastic list, right?

Like emotional support, thought partnership, et cetera. Those are, I think, all fantastic reasons to, people can benefit from coaching or ways people can benefit from coaching. The other thing that I think is really important, I’ve come to this after having. Been a business coach for many years is I think the best kind of business coaching offers you, dear listeners, both coaching, which Ben described here as a non-agenda, open-ended question, motivational interview [00:16:00] approach to helping you explore yourself.

Get curious about your choices. Get curious about your mindset, get curious about your habits, get curious about what’s working and not working for you. There’s a pure coaching element that I think business coaching has to offer. Then I think also really good business coaching also offers some mentorship and consulting.

I think business coaching has to do all three, and for me, mentorship is working with people who’ve also done what you’ve done. Let’s actually have some subject matter expertise and experience running the kind of business that you’ve run. And so that’s one piece of it. And that way, as a business coach, I can not only help you explore what’s working and not working for you, but can I also, I can also say, here are three ways that I’ve tried to attack this problem and three ways I’ve seen other people try to attack these problem.

Let’s work through all these different options and find out what’s best for you. I’m bringing some mentorship. To the conversation as well. And the third piece, consulting is exactly what it sounds like is someone who’s actually has enough expertise, they can help you diagnose problems and actually offer some solutions.

[00:17:00] Right? And sometimes I offer solutions that are not things that we’ve done at Mark Fisher Fitness that are not things that I’ve seen other. Unicorn society members do. They’re things I just thought of because I’m an expert in some areas and I have a brain that works and is thinking about these things a lot, right?

And that’s just straight up consulting. I’m gonna bring all the data I have and experience I have to the table and help you diagnose a problem in your business and offer some solutions. And I think all three are really important for business coaching. These days. I don’t think it’s enough and back. I think if you would’ve asked me this six or eight years ago, I would’ve probably said that the first bucket was enough.

That just offering pure coaching is enough, and I think it can be depending on the kind of person you’re working with, et cetera. I can talk a lot about that, but I think for most of you, dear listeners who own gyms, the kind of thing, the kind of value you want to extract from a business coach is someone who can offer you all three, who can offer you those big picture questions and those motivational interview open-ended questions.

Someone who can offer you [00:18:00] examples from their experience and some mentorship. Yeah, someone who’s maybe 10, 15, 20 steps ahead of where you are in your business and someone who has some real subject matter expertise and can be a real consultant in helping you solve problems, gain knowledge, et cetera. So yeah, I would say I.

I guess what I’m suggesting there is that you will get more value from a business coach if they are well-rounded in all three of those areas. Does that, is that tracking? Yeah. I’m just gonna reinforce that if you didn’t clarify it, because on the pure consulting end, it can be like, Hey, we’re not converting enough of our members from a low Bay area offer to a membership.

What do we need to do? A consultant can go in, review what they’ve got and be like, this is good, this is, fuck. Just do that. And on the other end of the spectrum, a coach can be like, What makes you wanna approve your conversion? There can, obviously, that’s a bad question, but there can be some good open-ended questions.

Yeah. But the marriage is beautiful because then you can have someone who has the industry expertise to be like, yep, this is the step that’s missing it. It needs to be changed. But then they can factor in the other stuff around like, how does this fit into [00:19:00] your time? How does this fit into your capacity?

Because I’ve seen some coaching programs out there where it’s like, you just need to do A, B, and c. And so, but if you have a kid at home and you’re coaching 30 hours a week on the floor and you’ve also got a laundry list of other to-dos, it isn’t so much the question of like, everybody knows they need to try to convert people.

There isn’t a magic script for this. The obstacle is often a capacity or a limiting belief or a mindset thing, which is where that coach being able to shift gears until, let’s talk about the big picture here for a minute, is so much more valuable. We’re not just a dictionary of answers. It’s how does like life and business fit together in a way that.

At the end of the week, hopefully your bank account is bigger, but you’re also more fulfilled and not burnt out. Yeah. Yeah, I think it really well said. Cause there’s some plenty of times where, you know, both of my work with business coaches and then me in my own work as a business coach, like it’s very clear that the topic just requires some expertise.

Who has some knowledge. If someone comes into a call and I’m stressed about finances and I pay all of my coaches, 80% of the revenue they generate per hour. I don’t need to [00:20:00] ask you any open-ended fucking questions. I don’t need to explore. I don’t, I just, we need, I need to tell you that is wrong. We need to.

Fix that. This is a, this is a bad choice that was made. And we can, I can acknowledge and validate all the reasons why you may be made that choice, right? But ultimately I don’t need to explore. Whereas if someone comes to me and says, they’re just feeling really burned out, they have too many plates spinning and they don’t feel good about the.

Father that they’re showing up as in their life, then I need to have a real coaching conversation. That’s a real chance for me to switch gears and dive into what’s working and not working in this person’s life. And that’s a whole different skillset. So I, I think those are two very extreme examples of very different conversations, and I think the, you can get more value from a business coach.

If they’re able to put on those different hats, and as we both suggested, a lot of business coaching out there only offers one. And again, this is not a commercial for us. Of course, we think all of you should work with us. That’s not a hidden agenda here. But at the end of the day, if it’s not us, we wanna make sure that you’re finding people out there to work with that can put on these different hats for you.

That I would say [00:21:00] run away from the programs that tell you they have some secret formula to success. If you just follow their formula, everything in your life will be fantastic. Bullshit. I also want you to avoid the ones that are also gonna just be like, we get together every month and, and drum circle and write poetry about our business problems should also run from that as well.

I think the reality is you need, I think business coaching should be a mix of those things. I love a drum circle, I love poetry, but it doesn’t solve all of our problems. It solve a few. Yeah. Yeah. And even just to, yeah, you made it sound like those were two opposite questions, which there are, but even on the, Hey, you’re paying your coaches 80% of gross revenue or per session rate.

There’s probably a PDF out there that is, yeah, just fire everybody and pay them 33% or 40%. And coaching can then dance that line between, here’s the problem that needs to be solved, but here’s how we actually roll that in out in a way where your coaches don’t all fucking quit and it takes you three months to get new ones.

And there’s an impact of that. And yeah, the, we can’t stress enough. It’s the marriage of all the, it’s being [00:22:00] able to walk the whole spectrum. That is a strength. It’s not a is better than B, it’s, they’re all useful at different stages. Yeah. Yeah. So I think that’s it. I think people can get more. I think our whole hypothesis here, this podcast episode is people, you can get the most value from a coach when they have a big toolbox, right?

And a proven track record of helping people using more than one. Tool and the tools we think matter are straight up coaching, consulting, and some mentorship. A combination of those things that are really valuable. Maybe let’s just wrap it up with what are the kinds of results you’ve seen people get working with a business coach?

Maybe just thinking about yourself, certainly some of our insider members or just anyone else working with a business coach out even outside of us. What are the kinds of results you’ve seen people get who’ve been able to work with a business coach successfully? Yeah, the most obvious one. Is revenue cuz I haven’t yet to meet a gym owner who doesn’t want to increase the revenue.

Like we just had a testimonial recently from one of our members who through working with us, no, did he get through Covid [00:23:00] relatively unscathed. He also tripled his gross revenue. So that’s a monster win. So yeah, there’s the obvious answers of, yeah, we will help you make more money. And we have tons of case studies and testimonials of how, going back to the emotional support piece, I, I don’t wanna name names on the podcast, but.

Like a laundry list of members who, it’s like that thought partner and that support partner. Really huge. Even if all I did was validate their ideas, which is not how every coaching call goes, but sometimes it is. Having that person where it’s, yes, we’ve, I’ve got these systems in place and we held you accountable to doing that thing.

I feel more confident in my ideas. I improve my team meeting structure. We’re. Not running around like chickens with their head cut off. I don’t think anyone’s actually verbatim said that to me, but that’s my interpretation of how they were operating before. Yeah, and there’s something to be said for not just, Hey, yeah, you’ve got more money, but it’s also, yeah, you’ve got more freedom and you’re more organized and expectations are clear.

Like when A happens than we do B, than we do C. And having that in place would a gym owner can then go on vacation. Or another [00:24:00] person can do consultations or someone handled sessions while you were away. The list goes on of all the benefits for that, but it really is coming around like freeing up time, which is not just your time as the owner, because we work with your entire team.

We treat your business as the client, not you as the client. The whole team is, oh, that’s so much better. That works easier. There’s a better structure for everything goes. Yeah. Said. Yeah, I think that’s it. I don’t think I have much to add is that I think the main benefits I’ve gotten from working with business coaches, I’ve seen people get is that we are able to identify our challenges more quickly, build systems.

To help our business run more efficiently, more effectively, with a less effort over time. And because of all that, I’m more clear and strategic about how I spend my time. That is a thing I’ve seen over and over again, and that all of that has a ripple effect into my personal life and my family, to the team members I work with.

So having those systems in place that make expectations clear, makes everyone more efficient with their time. And because of that, We can have more life outside of work, [00:25:00] which is why we work to begin with for many of us. And I think that’s great. I think let’s leave it there, my friend. Again, this dovetail beautifully with enrollment for Unicorn society, even though we weren’t planning this.

So again, if you wanna work more with us and you’re a gym owner who wants a business coach? We can do all the things we talked about here and more. And so go learn more about unicorn sided. Click the link below, fill out the application, have a conversation with Ben, and let’s see if we’re a right fit for each other.

And if this podcast was valuable, leave us a five star review everywhere you listen and let us know what you want us to talk about next. Ben’s gonna be a regular on the podcast now, so email him ben business Email me mike lip Let us know what guests you want us to have, what topics you want to cover, and we’re excited to.

We’re excited to serve. Yeah, so let us serve you. Awesome. Thanks for a great conversation. Thank you, Ben. I’ll see you on the next one.



  1. Tyler

    Great, practical write up. Consistency over speed is huge. Remind me of a mantra I say to myself often, “If it’s important give it less time, but more tries.”

    • Mark Fisher

      Love that mantra!

  2. Mark

    Great post, Mark. I can relate. I’m a (audio-)book junkie myself and look forward to use every minute I’m commuting, shopping or sometimes even when I work out.

    I love the idea of summarizing what you read in conversation. I will try that.

    Thanks, also for the good conversations in Vail!

    • Mark Fisher

      Love it brother. Glad to hear you enjoyed it. And looking forward to staying connected!

  3. Heidi

    I had a phase where I was listening to audio books during my hour of stength training. Complemented with reading a book during cardio on the treadmill. 1.5 hours of reading a day. 10.5 hours of reading a week. Not to mention the other times I’d just sit down and read! Thanks for the article. I’m going to cry back into this habit.

    • Mark Fisher

      Awesome Heidi, that’s a serious time investment. Impressive!


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