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Engineering the Alpha: How to Find Your Unique Path

Written on April 15, 2013 at 6:21 am, by Eric Cressey

One of Yogi Berra’s most enduring quotes is: “When you get to a fork in the road, take it.”

While the quote is certainly a comical one, it has a great underlying message: you’re going to have to make decisions in life.  You can’t just stand still and wait for someone to get things done for you, or life to magically unfold before your eyes. In other words, you create your own destiny.

The word “create” is what today’s post is all about.  There are a lot of things that have to take place for you to even get to those forks in the road that’ll shape your life – and certainly the ones pertaining to fitness.  Whether it’s your journey to get/stay fit or your aspirations of being successful with a career in the fitness industry, what you do now is setting you up to be in a better spot when those opportunities (forks) come up in the future. 

There isn’t a single path, though.  Let me elaborate with a story about John Romaniello, one of my best friends in the fitness industry.  It’s especially timely, as he is released a new book today that will likely end up on the New York Times Best-Seller list.


Roman and I met back in 2001 and immediately hit it off.  We were both guys who’d struggled with being overweight as teenagers, and had found fitness as something that didn’t just help rescue us from those frustrations, but also gave rise to the possibility of a career in the fitness world. We’d push one another with everything from training logs, to what we were doing in continuing education.  Eventually, with a few other fitness friends, Roman and I helped co-found Rugged Magazine (now retired) to get more opportunities to hone our writing abilities.  We though we were so cool that we wore sunglasses inside, too.

While we had similar goals of being successful in the fitness industry, and certainly enough in common to be good friends, our experiences in the early 2000s were dramatically different.  I got my undergraduate degree in Exercise Science and Sports Management, and my graduate degree in Kinesiology.  Roman’s undergraduate degree was in English/Psychology.

As we entered the real world as business owners, we went to working with different populations. I became a shoulder/elbow geek and specialized in baseball strength and conditioning, and Roman went to the trenches with the general population and focused his attention on helping people improve body composition (lose fat, gain muscle).

I caught the powerlifting bug, and Roman competed in bodybuilding and did some modeling.

I had one girlfriend in my four years of undergraduate studies, and one during my graduate degree. Roman probably made out with more attractive girls than I even spoke to over those 5-6 years.

My writing is more “sciency,” and at times very technical.  It’s also rated PG.  Roman’s approach has a more conversational tone; he isn’t shy about throwing in an F-bomb here and there, or using modern cultural references – movies, for instance – to make his point. And, he’ll even cover some controversial topics.

We’re both workaholics, but via different methods. I like to work consistently; I’m someone who fidgets when I don’t have something to do. Roman’s a guy who works in bursts, logging an absurd number of hours over a few days, and then does a better job of decompressing and enjoying life when the work is done.

In spite of these differences, we’ve both managed to turn out okay, both socially and professionally.  I’ve been married over two years to the love of my life, and Roman is engaged to his. We’ve both had successful in-person and online businesses. We’ve both written a ton of articles and books, and done some angel investing in start-up companies. We might have been great friends who supported one another, but our successes have been via remarkably different paths.

At risk of sounding narcissistic, I am often asked “How do I get to where you are?”  It’s a hard question to answer, as I’m 31 years old and still have a lot of things I want to achieve in life – so I guess you could say that I don’t really know exactly where I “am.”  More challenging, though, is getting up-and-comers to realize that the correct path is going to be different for everyone.

While I can certainly give some suggestions on how to best prepare for the knowledge side of things, the truth is that everyone will respond best to a different course of action. They all have unique personalities, learning styles, and specific goals. That’s what it’s so important to encounter a lot of people to determine your way in the working world – or to simply fine-tune your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs.

You read EricCressey.com because you like the perspective I offer, but it’s important to recognize that what you might learn from me should be supplemented by what you can learn from others, including guys like Roman. It’s just like coaching different clients/athletes; in the quest to get them to all have good technique, you’ll need to use different cues to figure out which works best for that individual. The single-most important thing you can do to get to want to be in any aspect of your life is get out of your comfort zone and seek fresh ideas that’ll challenge your status quo.

That’s why I’m so excited to throw an endorsement to his new book, Engineering the Alpha.

This project, which was co-authored with another good friend, Adam Bornstein, highlights ways to make your life more awesome. It covers fitness, nutrition, psychology, career development, and even interactions with the opposite sex. This book talks about a lot of the mistakes Roman (and I) made in the late 1990s, and can save you a lot of headaches and wasted time. It’s extremely well researched on the training, nutrition, and social behavior sides of things. And, for under $20, it’s a pretty darn good bargain for such an entertaining and educational (“infotainment”) resource. Oh, and the foreword is written by some guy named Schwarzenegger; you may have heard of him.

Check it out here.

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15 Responses to “Engineering the Alpha: How to Find Your Unique Path”

  1. Chris Says:

    Eric, this is an excellent post and Engineering the Alpha sounds like an awesome resource. I’m wondering if you cover anything on change because I know you like the Heath brothers. I’m, 34 years old, am already working on a second career, and you’re right, no one can tell me the correct path. I’ve read many personal growth authors from Robbins, to Ziglar, to Maxwell, to Carnegie etc. But, despite my attempts I remain what I would consider unsuccessful and find myself questioning my path. If you read, work, play, are reflective, etc. but still aren’t sure what your real path is what’s the course of action? I know you can’t answer that, but that’s sort of where I am. I know my strengths, weaknesses, interests, leadership style, etc. quite well but still don’t feel I know my path. There’s only one thing I’m truly passionate about and that’s performing (training and sports), but no one’s paying me for that. I’m just not as good of a coach or teacher as I am a participant. I take direction and follow through much better than I provide direction and develop programs. Will I find value in Engineering the Alpha?

  2. Jake Johnson Says:

    Every positive review I see makes me more anxious to get my hands on the book, it sounds awesome.

    Nice write up, Eric.


  3. Tim Says:

    Mr. Cressey- very cool write-up.

    For whatever reason, I never would have guessed you two were really good friends. But that is so often the way and I guess the point here anyway.

  4. Nicole Says:

    Do you have to be a man to enjoy this book?

  5. Shane Says:

    Didn’t know you guys are such good friends. Both you guys are great role models for fellow trainers like me, even though you probably didn’t intended to be.
    A heads up for anyone who has not seen Eric in person, if you ever get a chance, do it. Did on Saturday if Frisco , Texas( yes that guy with the Texas,aussie accent)and he is awesome. And very helpful. One of the best coaches going around. Oh yeah I am buying this book.

  6. Aprill Ann Says:


    The book sounds great! I’m reading Arnold’s book right now in addition to my CSCS text. I’m an English major myself so I’m excited to get Roman’s perspective.

    I noticed that the cover seems directed toward men (the bulk of the lifting types). However, does the book offer insight that is actually more unisexed? Almost everything I read is directed at men, the large portion of the audience. I can glean large quantities of information from these sources, sure, but with the proposed subjects on this cover — like hormones — I’m wondering how much applies to me?

    Thank you Eric. I love your blog. Read it every time you write.

  7. Eric Cressey Says:

    Thanks, Shane, for the kind words! Great to meet you this past weekend.

    You’ll love the book.

  8. Eric Cressey Says:

    Hi Nicole,

    No! You can definitely benefit from this a lot even if you’re a female. You still want to manage insulin and the rest of the hormonal environment to be healthy.

  9. Eric Cressey Says:


    Yes, it could be a great fit for you.

    One question: have you ever thought about hiring a business coach to guide you?

  10. Eric Cressey Says:

    Hi Aprill,

    You’d still like it! As I mentioned to Nicole in an earlier comment, you still want to manage insulin and the rest of the hormonal environment to be healthy. The training program is solid, too.

  11. Johnny Says:

    This is very refreshing and a great example of reflection…something workaholics (I’m sure many who read this blog regularly) need to do more often. Thank you for this today!

  12. Shane Says:

    Looks pretty sweet – cool concept.

    The trailer talks about becoming more of an alpha male, whereas the description of the book makes it out to be entirely composed of nutrition + exercise.

    Is that the way that this book is saying it will make us more alpha, or is there another self-help component to it too?

  13. Eric Cressey Says:


    It definitely has a bit of a self-help component, but the majority of the focus is on training and nutrition.

  14. Mark P Says:

    Will definitely check out this book.. Thanks Eric!

  15. Eric Cressey Says:

    Enjoy, Mark!

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