The show designed to answer the question, “What does it REALLY take to succeed?

EP02: Casey Wright | NinjaZone

How a gymnast mastered mindset and turned her mother’s intuition into a fitness empire.

In this second episode of Disruptors, Bobby and Casey talk about what it took to scale NinjaZone from 1 location in the United States to over 300 locations worldwide. They talk about how mastering your mindset can take you from a simple idea to a multimillion dollar fitness empire. 

Episode Transcript

Bobby Hicks: In this episode of Disruptors. We have a really special guest. Her name is Casey Wright . She’s the founder of Ninja Zone.

[Intro] I’m on a mission to find entrepreneurs who are disrupting the industry. I’m looking for game changers. What does it really take to succeed? Welcome to Disruptors.

Bobby Hicks: Now, the Ninja Zone, can you explain to us a little bit about what it is in more detail?

Casey Wright: Sure. You did a wonderful intro. It’s really a sports fusion program. It was originally designed to rebrand and remarket a gymnastics-like program for boys, but since just the emergence of parkour, American Ninja Warrior that everybody knows about, and then traditional activities, such as martial arts and gymnastics, it was just the perfect combo. We started inside one of my gymnastics facilities. It really all started, (when) I was sitting on the bleachers watching my daughter take class and I had my son, who was in a pumpkin seat, (while I was) talking to another mom, and the mom was like, “Man, my son would love this and my husband would never go for it.” So that was the idea. How do we just rebrand and remarket something like this that appeals to kids and parents and everybody. So it worked and it’s evolved a lot since that day, but that was it. Yeah.

Bobby Hicks: See, you have a really incredible idea. I love the concept, but I feel like what we were talking about earlier, is that a lot of people have great ideas. Ideas are a dime a dozen. What we really lack are people who can execute and actually turn those ideas into something tangible. How did you take this from an idea and create like a real product out of it?

Casey Wright: It’s funny you say that. I loved your introduction with Willy Wonka’s glass elevator because that’s exactly what it feels like to take that idea to the next level. There’s things out there, you’re like, “Well, anybody could do that,” or that “Anybody could have come up with that idea.” It’s being willing to fail and being willing to fail in front of people that you know. It was tough. When I first decided like, “I’m going to leave a lot of what I’m doing and I’m going to take this chance.” and just almost be a different person in a way to launch this new business. It was tough and I had people that didn’t always support the idea quite frankly. They all ended up coming around, but that’s why people don’t do it. It’s just (the) fear of failing and looking stupid.

Bobby Hicks: Yeah. I feel like that’s very common for entrepreneurs. There’s a lot of people who always say, “You know, you can’t do that. That’s a bad idea. You’re not going to be successful with that.” You have a lot of naysayers. What is the best way to handle… like how do you handle that?

Casey Wright: I think a lot of times it takes a fire and it usually ends up being like an outside circumstance. A lot of times, people would, whether they go through a family crisis or a health crisis or something, those are when they make the biggest changes in their lives. I think a lot of times people start that way. Then once you realize that you don’t need a crisis to go after what you want or to execute on an idea that you have, it just starts to get easier. Then people start believing it a little bit more.

Bobby Hicks: One of the things I always say, and I teach my son this and I tell a lot of young people this like, “The lion does not lose sleep over the opinion of the sheep.” I always like to say I’m a lion. I’m like the cowardly lion from, what’s the name of that show?

Bobby Hicks: The Wizard of Oz. Really though, you’re going to have people who are going to hate on your ideas. You’re going to have people who disagree with you, but I feel like if you can develop a thick skin, that stuff doesn’t matter. You just push through and you just stay persistent. I think that’s really important to develop if you’re going to be successful.

Casey Wright: Yeah. We like to say that the creative process and the analytical process don’t exist together. So they’re two completely different patterns of the brain. To be creative, there are no mistakes in a brainstorming session. It’s just you go and go and go and go and go, but if you start to let in analytical before you’re ready, then that’s how people will keep you down because it’s easy to find problems in everything. It’s also easy to find possibilities in everything and you just have to pick a camp. Entrepreneurs are in the possibility camp, not the, “It won’t work because…” Camp because what does that get you?

Bobby Hicks: Yeah. Wayne Gretzky says, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.”

Casey Wright: That’s exactly it.

Bobby Hicks: One of the ways I live my life is like, “Look, what’s the worst thing that can ever happen to you?” People disagree with me on this, but for me it’s death. I’m going to die. Here’s the thing, I’m going to die regardless. Right? I’ve been poor. I’ve made a little bit of money. I’m going to die one of these days. I have nothing really to lose.

Casey Wright: None of us do.

Bobby Hicks: So let me just pursue my dreams, my ambitions because I may fall down, but that’s okay. I’m going to continue to get back up and continue to press forward. You’ve been able to grow Ninja Zone to 300, over 325 locations globally in less than four years. That’s quite an accomplishment. How’d you do that?

Casey Wright: I think at the very beginning, once I knew that there was an initial response from the idea, like I knew that I had something, I’d never got that much just excitement around something that we tried at the gym. I saw the vision early that it could be big. I really think that the foundation for the operation was meant to scale. I did it in thinking that it could be a lot bigger than it than it was, but the funny thing was, at that time, I owned businesses and I didn’t know business. I thought I knew business. I did not know business and I didn’t know management structure. I didn’t realize that every time your business triples, it’s a completely different business. What I did with my time in 2015 is so different from what I do with my time now. I think that’s again, that’s where a lot of people have trouble transferring. It’s almost like they feel lazy if they’re giving up these things that they’ve always done, when in actuality you should be constantly out of your comfort zone if you want to scale.

Bobby Hicks: Yes. I’m resonating with you so much right now because this is what I preach every single day. I’m always saying, “You always got to be stretching for growth and you always got to be out of your comfort zone.” Because I feel like one of the biggest contributors to failing at anything that you do is just be being comfortable. You always got to be stretching for growth. You go to the gym to work out, but what are you doing with your mind? How are you working out your mind? If you don’t exercise that and continue to learn and continue to grow and stretch for that growth, then you’re going to become chubby.

Casey Wright: One of my favorite… Yeah. One of my favorite analogies though is that gym analogy. If you go into a workout and say you pick up the five pound weights, and you do your thing, and you get sore, and you go home, and you and come go back, and you do it for a couple more weeks, all of a sudden you’re no longer sore with the five pound weights. So then you pick up the seven, and the 10, and the 12 and if you were to think about picking up the 20 pound weights on day one-

Bobby Hicks: You couldn’t do it.

Casey Wright: You couldn’t even fathom it. It’s like a first grader worried about fifth grade math. I think a lot of times in entrepreneurship, people see the success stories and they see everybody picking up 20 pound weights or 100 pound weights, whatever it is, and they’re like, “There’s no way I’ll ever be able to do that.” Well, you’re right because you have to start at the five pound weight, but then once you get to the 10 pound weight, it feels like the five pound weight. It doesn’t feel harder.

Bobby Hicks: Yes. Exactly right.

Casey Wright: It’s just you have more muscle-

Bobby Hicks: Yeah.

Casey Wright: So it doesn’t feel any different.

Bobby Hicks: I think something you can add onto that too, it’s like if you only continue to lift that five pounds after you got sore and you didn’t go to seven pounds, you didn’t go to 10 pounds, you’re not stretching for that growth. You’re not going to see any gains.

Casey Wright: You got it.

Bobby Hicks: You’re going to say scrawny forever and you’re not going to see those gains. So that’s right. You’ve got to consistently stretch for that growth and things actually get a lot easier as you become more aware of how things work, and how you run a business, and how you set up your procedures and your processes, and that sort of thing. That’s really great. Obviously, personal development, would you say that’s something that is very important to you?

Casey Wright: Very.

Bobby Hicks: Okay. What do you recommend? If they’re new to personal development, what are some of the first steps they can take to better themselves?

Casey Wright: There’s a thousand things that you can do. I’ve had a few game changers for me. The first one was a gratitude journal, a five minute journal. Tim Ferriss talks about it, super easy, three minutes in the morning, two minutes at night. You get in the practice of gratitude one, because gratitude keeps you in possibility mindset. When you’re thankful, things are possible. When you’re not thankful, all the doors are closed. It’s not a woo-woo thing. It puts you in the frame of mind where you can come up with ideas and execute on them. So gratitude five minutes a day was huge. Then it also allows you to set an intention for your day and just build that discipline of telling yourself what to do and listening to yourself and following your own directions.

Bobby Hicks: Have you ever read the book, it started off as a documentary, The Secret?

Casey Wright: Oh, yeah.

Bobby Hicks: What do you think of that? Do you believe in that?

Casey Wright: I do.

Bobby Hicks: The law of attraction?

Casey Wright: I absolutely do. 1,000%.

Bobby Hicks: Yes.

Casey Wright: Yeah.

Bobby Hicks: I do too.

Casey Wright: Now, that movie I think played on a little bit of society’s, ‘I’ll be happy when’ syndrome. It gets in a lot of the money stuff, which is fine. It did its job, but the law of attraction, 1,000% I believe and I’ve known it to be true.

Bobby Hicks: What I’ve noticed in my life too, and it’s funny that you talked about gratitude because I try to show gratitude. I’ll go to my house and I’ll just like, I’m an odd person, you’ll know this from meeting me, but I like hug my walls and I’ll go to like my, I have this really incredible bed. How would you describe my bed? It’s a canopy bed and the trunks are like this big. I love it, man. I feel like a King every single day. I’m like, “Man, this is just so beautiful.” I just show gratitude and for the things that I have, but the people who are also in my life I try to show a lot of gratitude for. People make fun of me for doing this stuff, but I’m like, “Look, like I’m happy.” I used to not have this stuff. Now, I have it. I’m happy that I have it. I used to have no one in my life who really cared about me. Now, I have people in my life who care about me, want to see me succeed.

Bobby Hicks: It’s a good feeling to show that gratitude and I feel like when you show gratitude to the universe, you attract more favorable things into your life.

Casey Wright: Absolutely.

Bobby Hicks: Then the law of attraction too, it’s like when you think negative thoughts, and I know people who it’s like all the time, something bad’s always happening to them all the time, like, “Look, you’re just in a negative frame of mind. You keep attracting this stuff to you. You got to change the way you think because you attract what you think.” You know that book, The Secret, they talk about if you think fat thoughts, you attract being fat. If you think you know, “Man, I wish I had more money or I wish I could lose weight.” You attract the weight to you. [crosstalk 00:12:33].

Casey Wright: The wanting rather than the having.

Bobby Hicks: Yes. Yes, exactly. I’ve put up vision boards before in my life and it’s really incredible how things have worked out for me. We recently moved here to Indianapolis and our house had been on the market for several months. No activity, absolutely no activity. I was like, “You know what, I’m going to move here regardless. I sent my dates like July 1, I’m going to move here.” I actually came down here, signed the lease. The day I signed the lease, I put that intention into the universe. My realtor did a Facebook live on my house, a couple from California, saw that video and made an offer over the phone and we accepted it and we closed within two weeks.

Bobby Hicks: I had to make that intention. I always talk about faith without works is dead. If you have enough faith, we talk about this in Christianity, Jesus says this, “If you have enough faith, you can move mountains.” See, it’s acting on the faith. That’s the intent, right? It’s acting on the faith. I didn’t know. I thought, “Man, I may have to pay two payments here.” But I’m willing to take that action and I’m going to exercise that faith. It’s like the universe met me halfway. Every time I’ve made an action based on that, it’s always worked out in a favorable way. You would say that’s been something for you as well, right?

Casey Wright: Yeah. Leap and the net will appear.

Bobby Hicks: I like that. What does that mean?

Casey Wright: The net, your safety net-

Bobby Hicks: Oh, yes.

Casey Wright: … but you have to leave before the safety net comes in. You ever seen that show, it’s a movie, Indiana Jones?

Casey Wright: I haven’t.

[crosstalk 00:14:14]

Casey Wright: I’ve been on the rides or whatever, amusement park. Maybe that’s Disney or I just went on the Indiana Jones ride somewhere, but a no, I’ve never seen it.

Bobby Hicks: There’s a scene in that movie where he’s got to cross… Well, they’re in a cave or something. Not a cave. It’s in Jordan. The Petra building. Okay, but they’re in something. They’re in this, I think it’s the Petra building, I want to say that, but that’s not not it, but he’s got to cross, there’s a space in between and there’s like a thousand feet in between and there’s no way he’s going to be able to cross it. On the other side’s the Holy grail. The whole point of this movie, he’s trying to find the Holy grail. Then I think.. Man, I’m a terrible pop culture person, so don’t judge me on this, but he had to cross this and just take a leap of faith or something. Obviously, a thousand feet, but when he took the step you realize it was an optical illusion. When you made that faith step, you’re able to cross the bridge and go to the other side.

Bobby Hicks: I do like that analogy. I think that’s something that a lot of people just say it’s just BS like it doesn’t work, but I think if you really have these mindsets… Everyone I’ve always talked to who has been successful in their life, they share a lot of the same ideas. They seem to understand like if you implement the power of positive thinking, and exercise, intention that you can do incredible things. So personal development is something that’s really important to you. Do you follow anyone? Do you have any influencers or mentors that you follow?

Casey Wright: Yes, absolutely. Lots of them. It’s been really just a path. Seth Godin is a big one.

Bobby Hicks: Okay.

Casey Wright: I’ve done a lot of Tony Robbins. I absolutely fell in love with all things Ray Dalio. He wrote a book called, Principles, that is just right on. It’s a true… When people get to the point where they’re managing a lot of employees, he’s the best. I read a book a week at least-

Bobby Hicks: Really?

Casey Wright: … or listen to a book a week, not, I can’t sit down and read.

Bobby Hicks: They say the average millionaire reads a book a week. I think that’s so important too, like you said, you got to stretch for growth. You got to be in that mental gym every single day if you want to be successful. What would you say is the secret to success? The main thing that determines whether or not you’ll be successful?

Casey Wright: Well, I think that’s two parts. First of all, what you determined success to be. For me, it’s my joy. I remember when TiVo came out and the thumbs up and the thumbs down, and then now it’s on everything, right? With Pandora and then Facebook. I remember thinking, “What if I could thumbs up, thumbs down, or thumbs sideways like every minute of my life? What would it look like?” To me, that is the definition of success is how you feel in each moment, right? Sometimes creating wealth or accomplishing goals, it gives you that. Sometimes when you just get wasted with friends, it gives you that, but then you have to subtract points the next day, right? It’s that, I call it my net joy points. That’s first and foremost, how I determine success. Depending on the phase of my life, it’s going to be different. Sometimes I feel more joy as a mom than I can get out of if you put billions of dollars in front of my face. So that’s the first part of it is how you determine success.

Casey Wright: Then secondly, I think the most we can be for the world is to be the most of ourselves and to truly find out who we are and act wholly with all of our integrity, with doing everything that feels right right here, not because you heard somebody say that this was the way that you’re supposed to do this or this was the strategy that they took because ultimately, those results and the actions that we see by other successful people, it’s like the top half of the iceberg, right? We’re seeing this, but we don’t know what’s underneath. We don’t know the ingredients that were put in there to get those results and those actions. They can try to tell us, but you’re talking experience and personality and perception.

Casey Wright: So it just makes no sense to me to try to follow somebody else’s path. I’ve got to feel, and I did that for a while, I’ve got to feel like it really sits right with me. It’s probably been just in the last couple of years that I really own that. It could seem like the biggest opportunity in the world, but if it just doesn’t sit right, I don’t it.

Bobby Hicks: It seems like you have a lot of awareness about yourself. How did you attain that level of awareness? Because I feel like a lot of people are really not self aware.

Casey Wright: Meditation.

Bobby Hicks: Meditation.

Casey Wright: Clean answer, meditation. Absolutely.

Bobby Hicks: Describe your process for me. Let’s say I don’t know what meditation is, explain that to me.

Casey Wright: I started with mindfulness, which a lot of times people think of meditation. First of all, a life of 12 companies, four kids, new marriage, just everything hit at once, so much change and all good change, but change. I was stressed out even to the point my hair was thinning it was not good. I started with just I think like a Headspace app or something because I had heard through the personal development, it’s like you really need to sit and have space. I started with that and I was kind of like, “Okay, whatever. I’m sitting here, okay.” And it wasn’t until I actually met a lovely woman at a Whole Foods outside of a Tony Robbins conference and her bag said, “Stress less, accomplish more.” I literally just tapped her on the shoulder. I’m like, “Tell me about this.” It was her company. It was an online meditation company, and that was probably three, four years ago. I’m not sure when, but anyway, she’s gone pretty big with it.

Casey Wright: It’s called Ziva and it’s a form of transcendence. Transcendental meditation, if people have heard of that, that’s a brand, right? TM is a brand. It’s not a thing just like her brand is Ziva, but it’s a form of transcendence where you sit, you close your eyes, you repeat a word, that’s it. You just repeat a word. It could be, “One, one…” in your head, but what I loved about her program was she explained the brain science behind it and the logical reasons as to why you should go through this process. I think had I not had it explained to my logical brain, I probably wouldn’t have done it. I wouldn’t have just done it because somebody said to do it or it’s cool to meditate or whatever. I wouldn’t have done it, but once I listened and she engaged the why, then I followed her program and I will never not.

Casey Wright: It’s twice a day, 20 minutes. It puts me at center. I think a lot of times entrepreneurs or just anybody that’s really passionate about what they do, they tend to be either forward or back. They tend to be either lunging and launching or on their heels afraid and your power comes from that center. Then you’re not making decisions that are ping ponging you back and forth. You’re more strategic, you can skip steps, if that makes sense, because I used to get a lot done, but I was going like this and that’s why I was just wiped out, but now it just feels more strategic, more centered, much kinder person too.

Bobby Hicks: Yeah. I think if you overwhelm… How do I keep making the analogy about the gym? I never go to the gym. Why do you keep making these analogies? I feel like if you go to the gym and you work out too hard too often, your body needs the rest to see the gains.

Casey Wright: Yeah.

Bobby Hicks: I think what happens, we just distract ourselves. There’s so much sensory input, phones, computers, conversations, your kids are coming home, they’re screaming around, you’ve got to work with that, your business, they’re calling, employees they need this, they need that. it’s overwhelming all the time. Even when you’re asleep it’s like you’re not really resting, you know?

Casey Wright: Then over time it just depletes because you’re using that adaptation energy to take care of all of these little things and what society’s bringing us. That’s why they’re twice a day.

Bobby Hicks: When you’re able to meditate and just actually calm your brain, I think it actually does help. It really does help you to become more productive and more efficient. Well, Casey, you’ve shared a lot of really insightful things today. What’s next for Ninja Zone? What’s next on the horizon and why?

Casey Wright: Well, actually I have a bigger company other than Ninja Zone and that also houses my gymnastics academy. We’re going to look at building a new brand around a children’s activity center where we’re really focused on the whole child, not just the sport that they do. As we’ve kind of already talked, I am a big, big, big believer in growth mindset and that the way that we speak to our kids and what we celebrate at the very, very young ages, defines who they are and whether they grow up in a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. We wanted to create this brand, can’t really release what the… We’re still finalizing names, but Ninja Zone in the Indianapolis area will be part of a larger center where everything is about growth mindset and focused on praising children for effort, not result. We’re really, really excited about that.

Bobby Hicks: Okay, that’s amazing. If I have a little rug rat and he wants to partake in all the incredible things that you’re doing with Ninja Zone, how can I learn more about information?

Casey Wright: Sure, theninjazone.com, all of our locations are on there. By the way, the whole curriculum of Ninja Zone is 50% athletic and 50% character development. That’s what we’re taking into this larger space, which is actually going to be opening in Westfield in 2020, but the Ninja Zone itself, everything came from that program and that curriculum. So they’re all around the Indianapolis area and then of course all over the country and in six or seven other countries. So theninjazone.com.

Bobby Hicks: That’s amazing. Well, thank you so much for coming on our show today. If you guys want to see the full episode, maybe you’re watching just some soundbites on social media or on YouTube, if you want to see the full episode, make sure you go to bobbyhicks.net/disruptors. That’s it for this episode. I’ll see you next time. Thank you.