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304: 5 Lessons I Learned From Training Iron Man (AKA Robert Downey Jr.)

304: 5 Lessons I Learned From Training Iron Man (AKA Robert Downey Jr.)

When people find out that I trained Robert Downey Jr. (AKA Iron Man) they always freak out and want to hear the story. Well, I’m going to share how it happened in this episode. But more importantly, I’m going to give you the 5 lessons that I learned from that experience that will help you upgrade your life and attract A-list clients to your business. Listen Now!

 

Yes, I trained Iron Man and here’s the story of how it happened…

When people find out that I trained Robert Downey Jr., they always freak out and want to know how that happened.

Well, I’m going to share that story with you now. But more importantly, I’m going to give you the lessons that I learned from that experience.

I initially met Robert through one of my CEO clients. This particular client was a real estate developer who was heavily into collecting art and responsible for making Miami Beach the successful tourist destination it is today.

During our training session, my client was telling me about how Robert Downey Jr. was in Miami Beach visiting him. And he casually asked me if I was interested in training him.

I played it cool and said, “Sure.” I’ve worked with many celebrities and VIP clients by that time. But deep inside I was really excited to meet him. I even had trouble sleeping the night before.

To be honest, I’m not a fanboy and celebrities don’t interest me—unless they’re really cool people and making a positive impact in the world. (HINT: many of them are not.) But Robert Downey Jr. is different.

I grew up watching all the movies he was in…

Weird Science.

Back To School.

Less Than Zero.

Air America.

Natural Born Killers.

And the list goes on and on.

So I was excited…but also a little nervous.

We set up the appointment for 10 am the next morning.

 

Before Robert’s Iron Man Fame

It’s important that you understand the timeline here.

This was right before he did his first Iron Man movie. In fact, he was training for it when I met him.

You may or may not remember this because Robert is a Hollywood mega-star who was the 6th highest-paid actor in the world in 2017. But he went through a lot of personal and legal trouble before he redeemed himself with Iron Man.

The first Iron Man Movie hit the big screen in 2008 and launched him to immense fame.

Before that, he was arrested multiple times for drug-related offenses. The latest one happened in 2001 where he was arrested for wandering the streets while being under the influence.

Things started turning around for Robert when met his current wife, Susan Levin. He checked into a rehab and got his act together.

I met and trained Susan as well. She was in very good shape and seemed like a genuinely nice person despite being a successful Hollywood movie producer.

But even then, Robert wasn’t doing well professionally.

The story goes that when Marvel was hiring for Iron Man, director Jon Favreau’s suggestion to hire Robert was met with considerable resistance because of his recent run-ins with drugs and the law.

But that changed once Robert did a screen test for the part of Tony Stark.

The rest, as they say, is worthy enough to be the origin story of a superhero.

 

Meeting Robert Downey Jr.

I showed up to the private condominium gym a few minutes early as I always do for my clients. Robert was there waiting. He was wearing workout clothes and a baseball cap.

Although I was a little nervous, he had a down-to-Earth attitude and seemed like a genuinely nice guy. Since I was nervous too, the exchange was a bit awkward at first. Especially since I was trying to play it cool.

I introduced myself and asked him a few questions about his exercise experience and any medical issues he had that would interfere with his ability to exercise.

Then we got started.

He was on the thin side and lean. It seemed that he had been working out quite a bit. So I started him with a push up/pike combination on an exercise ball. Although not the best strength or muscle building exercise, I like to give certain clients challenging exercise like this to see how well they move.

He seemed a little nervous but gave it a try.

Robert tried a few times but his feet kept slipping off the ball. He couldn’t maintain his balance. He wasn’t as athletic as he looked.

He got very frustrated and let a few f-bombs fly.

I think he thought I was being a douche bag trainer and trying to show him how out of shape he was and how great I was.

I immediately got the vibe and assured him that I was there to help and I was just trying a few exercises to see where we should start. I wanted him to know that I was there to build him up. Not to bring him down or make him feel bad.

That’s not my style.

That put him at ease and set the tone for the rest of our time together. We had a good time training and talked quite a bit.

I named his movies that had made a powerful impression on me when I was growing up. And I also shared my own struggles with drug use.

We had a genuine bond and it was pretty freaking cool.

 

That Time I Took Down Iron Man

Robert had started training Wing Chun—the martial art that Bruce Lee had initially trained in before going on to develop Jeet Kune Do.

You could tell that he was very into it and started showing me some moves.

The funny part was that I was a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu at that time and had been competing regularly.

I got the vibe that Robert wouldn’t be interested in jiu-jitsu since he was so enamored with Wing Chun. But I had to try.

When I mentioned it, he immediately began messing around with me like we were going to spar. It was very friendly. But it was still a test.

So as he advanced on me in a Wing Chun fighting stance, I lowered my level and shot in for a single leg ankle pick. This is a simple and effective take down where you grab your opponent’s ankle and bring them to the ground.

I put Robert on his butt in a matter of seconds.

He smiled and recognized the effectiveness and power of what I had just shown him. But I could also tell that he wasn’t interested in learning.

In fact, Wing Chun has become a regular part of his physical and mental training for movies as well as being featured in several of his recent movies.

Robert Downey Jr. Training Wing Chun for Avengers 

 

Robert Downey Jr. Training Wing Chun fight scene in Sherlock Holmes

 

Robert Downey Jr. Training Wing Chun Iron Man suit test scene

 

Pretty cool, right?

I can see why he stuck with Winch Chun. Although it’s not as effective as a fighting art like Muay Thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and MMA, it looks great in movies. The flashy hand-to-hand fighting captures your attention and is reminiscent of the old kung fu movies that many of us grew up with.

Talking about martial arts and trading a few moves with Robert Downey Jr. was a cool moment that we shared and I’ll never forget it.

Well, that’s how I met Robert Downey Jr.

We worked together for several months while he was staying in Miami Beach. And let me tell you. It was an incredible experience. He’s not just a regular celebrity. He’s a down-to-earth, genuine, and caring person.  And he’s used his Iron Man fame to give back even more.

For example, did you know that he’s famous for being generous?

He’s taken time out of his busy schedule to visit sick children in the hospital while in the U.K. for the European premiere of “Captain America: Civil War.”

RDL also gifted an Iron Man-based robot arm for a boy who was born with a partially developed arm. If this isn’t something that needs to be celebrated, I don’t know what is.

 

Robert Downey Jr. gives boy an Iron Man prosthetic arm

I love working with people who have made it to the top but still make time to give back. This is the type of generosity that makes the world a better place.

Make sure you check out Random Act Funding. It’s the philanthropic organization founded by Susan and Robert Downey, that distributes kindness in the form of financial support at local, national and global levels.

Now, I want to share 5 lessons that I learned from training Iron Man.

 

5 Lessons I Learned From Training Robert Downey Jr.

1. Have Integrity

There were a lot of personal trainers at that time who were knowledgeable and skilled. But being good at what you do isn’t enough. You need to be the right type of person—a person with integrity.

Integrity is defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.

Robert and the client who introduced me to him trusted me to treat him appropriately. I wasn’t going to call TMZ or sell out to the paparazzi. They knew that my long-term reputation was more important than making a few quick bucks.

The people in your life need to be able to trust and rely on you too. When you’re as solid as a rock, you’ll find that you start attracting a different level of people in your life.

2: Be Confident

I’ll tell you a secret. No one likes a fanboy or fangirl.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Robert Downey Jr., Richard Branson, Tony Robbins, Kim Kardashian, and other celebrities appreciate the media boost they get from overly obsessive fans. But they’re not going to be hiring you or hanging out with you anytime soon. Acting like that makes them uncomfortable and makes you look like a fool.

When you behave like this, you’re basically saying that their status is so ginormous that you’ll never have the respect for yourself that you have for them.  And the worst part is that you don’t even know who they are as people. You’ve never seen them at their worst when they weren’t feeling like a superstar.

Most celebrities are painfully aware of the fact that they’re just human beings with all the same quirks and flaws as everyone else. But you treat them like they don’t put on their pants one leg at a time.

So be calm, be cool, and collected instead.

Sure, give a sincere compliment. Say you appreciate them or enjoy their music or movies. But keep it together.

Don’t act like a teenage One Direction fan if you’re not 13-years-old.

Teenage fans screaming and running after One Direction

This also applies with befriending or working with wealthy clients.

You know why I’ve ended up training so many celebrities, CEOS, and multimillionaires? In part it’s because I treat them like normal people.

People who are at the top of success want to be treated with respect. In many cases my clients were surrounded by “yes” men. I was the only person in my clients’ lives that would tell it to them straight in a respectful but direct manner.

I don’t settle for excuses even if you’re driving a Rolls Royce or a Ferrari.

I’ve even had an attorney client—a guy who only took $20 million dollar cases and up—tell me that his employees always agreed with everything he said. He couldn’t stand it and told me to be straightforward with him. I simply smiled and said that he wouldn’t have to worry.

3: Develop A Connection

It’s not enough to have integrity and confidence. You must be able to genuinely connect with someone if you want to work with the most successful people around.

While it sounds hard, it’s really not.

Ask questions about their life. And be a good listener when they answer. Another tip is to remember the names of the family members they tell you stories about.

My clients are always surprised when I remember so many details from our conversations. It’s not so much that I have a great memory. It’s more about the fact that I care.

This has set me apart from other health & fitness professionals that they’ve worked with in the past. And you develop real connections with people—people that actually care about you too.

When I left my personal training business and took off to Asia, several of my clients said that I could call them if I needed anything. While I haven’t had to do that, it speaks to the level of connection that we built while working together.

Robert also offered to show me around LA and introduce me to people after working together for a few months. That doesn’t happen without the ability to create genuine connections with people.

4: Be An Expert

It should go without saying that you need to be good at what you do. I would’ve never had the opportunity to train Robert Downey Jr., Richard Branson, Ricky Martin, or any of the other celebrities and CEOS that I’ve worked with if they didn’t think I was the best option on the market.

These are people whose resources let them afford whatever they want. And they wanted me. That says a lot.

By the way, this doesn’t mean I’m the number one all-time best health & fitness coach in the world. It’s even hard to say that there’s one person who’s the best.

Be wary of anyone who says that because they’re either ignorant or lying. Masters of their craft are always perpetual students. I’m still constantly learning from every health expert I speak to on my podcast.

The point isn’t that you don’t need to concern yourself with who’s the best in your field. There really is no such thing. But you need to be very concerned with being the best you can possibly be.  So keep learning and evolving.

Never stop because you think you have too many degrees or certifications. And don’t feel obligated to only do formal education. The best information is often found on the bleeding edge, not in textbooks with outdated information.

5: Be Prepared

This was the hardest lesson I learned from training RDJ. I had all the other lessons figured out except this one. I was a person with integrity. My clients trusted me as an expert and as a person. Even though I had plenty of insecurities at that time, I came across as confident—especially when I was working with someone. I developed genuine connections with everyone that I trained for an extended period of time.

But I wasn’t emotionally prepared to take action on opportunities that presented themselves.

Here’s what happened…

Robert Downey Jr. and I hit it off better than I expected. Our conversations during training ranged from talking about his son’s music career, martial arts, past mistakes we’ve made, substance abuse, movies, health & fitness and more.

At one point he said, “You should come to LA. I’ll show you around and introduce you to some people.”

In a matter of a few seconds I played out the scenario of me visiting LA and meeting all his celebrity friends. Instead of feeling like it was the opportunity of a lifetime, all I could think about was how nervous and uncomfortable that idea made me.

In fact, Robert seemed to pick up on it. I forget exactly what he said but he blew it off like it wasn’t a big deal.

So instead of smiling, accepting, getting Iron Man’s number and following up like a rock star, I shrank back to the comfort of my little safe space in Miami Beach.

I felt like the biggest loser.

Especially when the first Iron Man movie skyrocketed his career to one of he biggest and highest paid actors in Hollywood.

It’s important for you to know that I struggled with sever social anxiety at that time. So it wasn’t just me being a little uncomfortable. I had a serious problem.

I was an accomplished Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitor at the time. And it would’ve been more comfortable for me to do a professional MMA fight than to go to LA and mingle with Robert and his celebrity friends.

The point I’m making is that you should get yourself in order psychologically.

Amazing opportunities show up unexpectedly and unannounced. You must be prepared to capitalize on them as they appear.

So work out your self-worth issues, social anxiety, depression, or whatever other psychological malady you have.

Get coaching, cognitive behavioral therapy, talk to a priest, or whatever you need to do to remove the obstacles that are in your way.

Make sure you’re ready for when those moments come. And start now.

Training Robert Downey Jr. was an experience I’ll always remember. I loved his personality and generosity. Not taking him up to his offer of showing me LA and introduce me to his friends was a huge mistake, but the truth is that I wasn’t prepared for that at that time. I was dealing with sever social anxiety that was brought on by my brother’s loss.

But, because life always teaches you a lesson, I learned the hard way that if any of my celebrity or CEO clients ever offers me an opportunity like that again, I’d say YES without hesitating.

My message for you is to work on yourself, work on becoming an expert on your field, build your confidence, learn how to act socially, and be ready for amazing opportunities that will inevitably knock on your door.

 

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