I sat down with Aaron Bernstein, founder of AaronB Fitness. He is an attorney with a personal training certification who recently launched his own fitness program after a life-long love of health and fitness. Here, we discussed his path towards the legal profession, what has inspired him to put more time towards his self-developed fitness program, and advice he can give others who neglect or forget what gives them inspiration and purpose. Life is a balance, work and enjoyment can go hand-in-hand, and it is never too late to make time for something you love.
What made you choose law as a profession?
I had a technical background. Electrical Engineering. There is a special field of law, patent law, which is the only sort of law practice that only certain people can take up. To be a patent lawyer you must have a science or engineering degree. So, it makes for a good career choice – not that many people can do it. Since law is analytical much like engineering, law appealed to me to. I was lucky to get a scholarship to law school and really enjoy law and my lawyer career.
Name a few of the best things about the legal field that you've experienced and a few of the most challenging.
Practicing law involves a lot of thinking, communicating with clients and opposing counsel, and problem solving. I love to think, and problem solve. That's the engineer in me. Also, I enjoy communicating, explaining things that might be hard to understand. I teach patent law topics a few times a year for one of the well known continuing legal education firms. And I like to help both sides find a middle ground to resolve disputes. I like to try to be the objective, fair, and sensible perspective in the room. That serves everyone in the legal dispute environment.
Most challenging – that relates to the last comment. Practicing law typically involves, each day, engaging in conflict. Whether you are negotiating a business contract or dealing with a lawsuit. People are often emotion-driven rather than practical and rationally driven. As a lawyer, by definition, you represent one side, and you must be the "zealous advocate" for your side. That is literally in the code of lawyer's ethics. Which makes sense. That's why your client hired you. But that means you spend most of your time as a lawyer engaging in conflict. If you're a sensible peace-maker at heart, that can get to you after a while.
When did you decide to get certified in personal training and why?
Since I was a kid, I had enthusiasm for fitness. To be honest, I'm sure it was mostly vanity-driven. I lived for a long time in southern California and I wanted to look good at the beach – smiley face, hah hah. I even lived in Venice Beach (the famous Muscle Beach) and saw Arnold Schwarzenegger there in the gym a few times. World's Gym in Venice California.
Anyway, the fitness industry is always what my "voice inside" told me was my strongest interest. But sometimes if you have the opportunity and the capability you follow the path that conventional society urges. In my case, a high-paying lawyer job in a specialized legal field. Nevertheless, several years out of law school I still wanted to keep the fitness industry in my life in some meaningful way. So, I obtained a Personal Trainer Certification through ACE, American Council on Exercise, one of the more well-established certification organizations. I've held the certification for 17 years now.
What is the inspiration behind and the goal of AaronB Fitness?
I've finally gathered the energy and focus and enthusiasm to really take a run at doing something with my fitness training and interest. The internet, websites, YouTube, and all the social media channels open infinite possibilities to offer value and interest and audience reach that were not available in the past. Seeing the great, helpful, and entertaining things people are doing from an online and social media platform is inspiring. If they can do it, I can too (although I'm not sure I'll ever generate more interest than the quirky cat videos do.) The goal is to truly help people on a practical level. Most of the "fitness industry" is greed-driven false promises that set you up for disappointment. I want to be honest and helpful.
Aaron B in his gymaaronbfitness.com
What makes AaronB Fitness different/better than other fitness plans?
My central proposition is, and we all know this deep down inside, the fitness industry is selling you a lot of "hooey," false promises and unreasonable expectations. Greed-driven, they tell you you'll have six-pack abs or a modelesque bikini body in six weeks if you just join their gym, swallow their pill, or buy their fitness training program. AaronB Fitness is willing to poke fun at this RIDICULOUS, traditional greed-driven fitness industry whose sole objective it to see that you part with your hard-earned money for something that is NEVER going to work in the long run. And more importantly, AaronB Fitness is here to provide you real weight loss and fitness advice in a way that will move you toward your goals quickly and realistically, and in a way such that you'll have fun in the process.
AaronB Fitness aims to entertain and give you truthful, accurate, and realistic weight loss and fitness advice. No lies, no false promises, no impossible expectations that just lead to let-downs. The truth that works and is fun! That's our philosophy and that's the foundations of everything we offer.
Are you trying to reach a specific audience?
Yes. We're trying the reach the "everybody." The "fitness pro" bikini perfect ladies and shirtless guys (real or Photoshopped, who knows?) -- Who are they trying to reach and fool?!?
Time Magazine reported in October of 2017 that according to National Center for Health Statistics, 40% of adults and 19% of young people in the United States are obese (Not just overweight, but clinically obese. And nearly 75% of American men and more than 60% of women are obese or overweight. Nearly 30% of boys and girls under age 20 are either obese or overweight. Now, I'm a big fan of personal responsibility. But the fact is, we've been victims of other greed-driven industries, for example fast food and refined sugar. And now we have a catastrophic health crisis on our hands. I want to help work on addressing that. And as importantly, help people be happier in their lives.
Look, we all love the idea of beach perfect bodies and six-packs abs. Something to aspire to. But that's not what we need to be aiming for. First things first. We need to learn to sensibly drop some pounds, which we'll be very happy with when we look in the mirror. And we need to sensibly bring activity and exercise into our daily and weekly routine. The audience AaronB Fitness is trying to reach is all of us "real people" who need to deal with first things first. Lose some weight. Get active. Get educated about how you can do that in a fun way. In 6 to 12 months we'll start working on the six-pack abs and the perfect beach body.
What has been the most difficult thing thus far setting up your website and program?
Setting up a professional-looking polished website and filming decent quality video Vlogs is pretty complicated. For example, how do you set up taking credit card payments on your website? What camera and microphone and lighting do I need to make quality videos? How do you set up a YouTube channel and a Facebook business page? And also, our first system for sale is a digital interactive product that has a ton of software programming behind it. I did every bit of all of it myself, including all the graphics and web design and photos and videos. And every bit of the First Things First system that we sell from the website. So, there was a huge technical learning curve. But I enjoy that kind of thing, so I had a blast doing it, and I'm definitely still learning.
What would you say to people who think staying in a more "stable" career is the smarter move?
Certainly, that makes practical sense. I will continue to make my legal career as my primary source of income. But don't let life pass you buy. Life is not a dress rehearsal and all those other clichés. If you have a passion for something, don't regret never putting legitimate time into it. Get up a few hours earlier, watch a little less TV and avoid other time stealers to put time into whatever it is that lights your fire.
Do you see any similarities between being a lawyer and being a personal trainer?
Sure. In both fields you deal with people one-on-one. You have clients whom you need to listen to very carefully to understand their goals and objectives. And then very effectively help them accomplish those.
If you could talk to your 18-year-old self, what career advice would you give?
I don't at all regret being a lawyer. It's a terrific career. But I would have put more serious energy into the fitness game much earlier on if I had it all to do over again. What I would tell my 18-year-old self is, listen to your gut. Trust what it is telling you. If there is a pursuit that motivates you to want to get up early in the morning and stay up late at night, do lots of it.
If someone feels stuck in a job or is afraid to make a change, what can you advise them?
Sure. You don't need to make a change. Meaning you don't need to ditch everything and turn to something new and very risky. Rather you just need to gut-up and make the time to add something new to your life and routine that you're passionate about. It takes lots of hard work and discipline, but you will absolutely not regret it. In fact, you will likely regret not doing so.
Do you have a personal motto/mantra?
I think I have many. And from time to time they will be the focus of some of the AaronB Fitness blogs and video vlogs. One that stands out is a paraphrase of a quote from Henry David Thoreau's Walden. Live life deliberately, so that you do not reach the end of your days regretting that had not. That's not the exact quote, but that's how I paraphrase it. Meaning, guide your own life and chose your own endeavors. Don't live someone else's life or society's prescription for you. Don't just go along for the ride. Are you leading life or is life leading you?
Anything else you'd like to share about yourself or AaronB Fitness?
I'm so glad I put the work into launching AaronB Fitness. It's just a baby and it will grow and evolve and improve. But it's a platform now that will let me stay involved with something I've been "shoulding" to do most of my life but put off for so many years. Everyone reading this should gut-up and do the same. Another quote I'm fond of is by a famous ultra-marathon runner, Dean Karnazes. "Somewhere along the line we seem to have confused comfort with happiness." You'll never regret putting hard work into something that matters to you. Rather, you will surely regret not doing so. Just begin. Once you begin you'll see immediately what I mean.
Visit AaronB Fitness for more information and inspiration!
AaronB Fitness aims to make fitness doable for normal, busy peopleaaronbfitness.com
Let’s face it: this sucks.
After a massive vaccine campaign, a pretty successful hot-vax summer, and a pre-holiday season which made us believe things would finally-finally be getting back to normal, we were introduced to the Omicron variant.
As booster shots slowly rolled out, none of us were prepared for how hard and how fast this surge would hit. Unlike other variants, Omicron is more resistant to the vaccine and is infecting even those with booster shots and antibodies.
And it’s really effing scary.
Places like New York are teetering on the edge of another lockdown as restaurants close, offices shut down, and events get canceled. In short: it feels like March 2020 again.
In the words of the perpetually relatable Olivia Rodrigo: “do you get deja vu?” Yes, Olivia, we do.
There are some differences to this surge. Luckily most people — especially the vaccinated among us — are experiencing mild symptoms. While numbers are up, hospitals are not as overwhelmed as they were when the virus first slammed us.
However, this time, many of us are experiencing pandemic burn out — mentally and financially.
When the pandemic first began, no one could have imagined how long it would last. Many people who were furloughed or working from home saw it as taking a few weeks off to relax and unwind. Obviously, this was not the case. Rates of unemployment skyrocketed and some were forced to move out of their homes to save money or take other dramatic, unexpected measures.
What did this look like? Burning through savings accounts, plunging into credit card debt, and adopting the precarious paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. According to CNBC “42% of U.S. adults with credit card debt have increased those balances since the Covid-19 pandemic began in March 2020.”
And while employment rates are up in 2021 and the Great Resignation has seen people seeking and finding better opportunities, the Omicron surge proves it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
In a recent money confessional on Slate’s “Pay Dirt” column, one reader expressed their frustration at the financial setbacks they experienced during the pandemic. While they were not totaled by the changes, they had to drastically adjust their life plans.
The columnist responded: “A lot of people had their dreams shattered in 2020 … Just because your situation isn’t the same as your more-hard-hit co-workers’ doesn’t mean that you aren’t grieving the loss of your income,” giving us all permission to feel the negative feelings. They continued: “Toxic positivity is very real in the United States and inspires a lot of people to say that no matter what their life is like, they should be happy … But you can be happy and grateful, yet still, acknowledge the suck in a situation.”
This perspective reflects a necessary shift that we all need to make. Especially as we approach yet another perilous year in the land of Covidia. It’s soooo hard to continue — and continue and continue — being grateful and not be, quite frankly, fed up. So what can we do about it?
As everything is spiraling out of control, there are small things you can do to feel less overwhelmed. And maybe, less bitter, sad, or resentful — provide room to process and accept this unfortunate reality as best you can.
Feel Your Feelings
Toxic positivity festers when we assume we should feel a certain way and don’t pause to let ourselves feel our negative feelings. Emotion comes from the Latin emovere - to "move out, remove, agitate." If we really break it down we get ex "out" + movere "to move." What does that mean to us living in America in the early days of 2022? Get those negative emotions outta here. Feel them and move ‘em out.
Then take a deep look, free from judgment, at how you’re actually doing in your day-to-day life. Try daily journaling, or delve into meditation.
Take Stock of your Life
Often, without realizing it, we fall into habits that become patterns and routines that eventually become our whole lives. So, when these habits are disrupted …. by, I don’t know, a global pandemic … we’re shaken out of our comfort zone and into reality. Take a glance at your life. What are you actually, truly, grateful for? What is mere distraction?
Make a Plan
Our spending habits are the first thing to spiral out of control and the most difficult to course-correct. If you’re worried about your financial health during this time — or you want to be more vigilant just in case — try the Cleo app. This holistic service manages your money for you and helps you gain control and improve your situation. Managing your money no longer feels like a chore, and it’s actually fun!
All in all, Meet Cleo makes you feel like you have a handle on your finances. And in these uncertain times, just being aware of your standing can offer a world of comfort. With Meet Cleo as your side, you no longer have to cave to toxic positivity. This app keeps it real and chats with you like your honest, most blunt friend. And for that, we thank her.
Find out more about Cleo here and put yourself on the path to financial control.
When you think of personal finance, what springs to mind?
Kevin O'Leary of Shark Tank fame? Dave Ramsay yelling into a podcast mic? Finance bros tracking their bitcoin? Unfortunately, these are the images we're constantly bombarded by. So they're the archetypes overwhelmingly represented in personal finance.
But it's not all Chads in down vests and dad-types shaming you about your financial faux paus, the personal finance world has grown increasingly more dynamic and diverse.
With the rise of social media, the importance of financial literacy has entered the mainstream, as essential information is no longer confined to impenetrable, official documents. Instead, educators have changed their approach and are making the intimidating world of managing your money far less scary.
Through graphics, memes — and other whimsical mediums — online financial advice that's geared to younger generations is more and more common.
Now, with the help of TikTok — an app unique for wildly popularizing previously niche subjects — personal finance talk has become ubiquitous.
Who's Doing the Talking
The beauty of social media is its power to democratize. Though TikTok has been criticized for promoting those its algorithm chooses — and has even resulted in strikes from Black Creators demanding to be given more credit — it's also granted platforms to people with different experiences and backgrounds.
When it comes to financial advice, TikTok makes it super relatable. No longer is advice restricted to "skip your morning latte" and "quit that avocado toast" or other millennial-shaming behavior. These days, young people directly advise their peers by sharing sympathetic experiences.
From debt repayment to financial freedom journeys, people are engaging with the obscure realm of finances in a charismatic way.
Financial Feminists … But Don't Call Them Girlbosses
One huge TikTok sub-movement that's emerged is the Financial Feminist movement, which urges women specifically to take charge of their finances.
However, this isn't a repeat of the early 2010s Girlboss Feminism or even Corporate Feminism which encourages women to rise up within an established system. This is a whole new ball game.
By empowering women to speak to each other, personal finance is no longer a shame-game. Instead of scrolling through Reddit threads that mock people who support the trappings of the patriarchy like makeup or highly-feminine clothing — which are often deemed necessary for society to take one seriously, if not by Reddit bloggers — women learn from other women about how to manage their lives.
There's also information about unlearning feminized behaviors, helping women break out of socially coded patterns which hold them back from asking for help, asking for more or asserting — and believing! — their true value.
Financial Feminism takes into account the wage gap, talking about gendered norms and systems that prevent us from living financial lives equal to male counterparts.
Even more radical, however, are accounts which incorporate intersectional politics and social commentary. Instead of merely assessing the numbers, they examine the social structures and hierarchies that cause people to treat their money differently and radically affects how they live their lives.
These little communities have become hubs for financial empowerment for marginalized genders with the mission of helping them know themselves better, do better — and have fun while doing it!
Despite its addictive charm, you can't live your life on TikTok alone.
So while Personal Finance TikTok is an okay place to start, taking effective action means getting off TikTok… and onto a better app. Cleo is a budgeting app that's as engaging as TikTok, but actually helps you do the things you're learning.
According to their website, Cleo integrates all your accounts and — like a financially savvy and brutally honest friend — reveals what's truly going on in your wallet.
Cleo is like the coolest finance major you'll ever meet. Simply text her all your questions about your spending, your habits, and your current balances, and she'll give it to you straight.
She'll also tell you when you're running low — like when you really should skip that Starbucks stop so you'll have money left for the subway home — and keeps you on track of your goals.
Ah yes, 'tis finally the giving season!
As someone whose love-language is gift giving, I relish most opportunities to spoil my friends with sweet tokens of appreciation. I am the queen of spontaneous gifts. When I'm puttering around the city, doing my silly little tasks, I always perk up when I find some small trinket that I can give my friends.
Nothing says "I love you" more than saying, "hey, this reminded me of you." And then handing them a nod to a past conversation, or a memory we share. So, sorry to my friends for cluttering your houses with sentimental junk, but I'm even more apologetic for my fatal flaw: when it comes to the holidays … I always draw a blank!
To me, organic gifting is much more genuine than holiday gifting. Yet, if I were to use that as an excuse for turning up empty-handed to every single holiday party this season. I fear I'd start the new year off with fewer friends. And, as someone who loves to receive gifts just as much, I don't want to chance burning bridges that might hold presents on the other side.
So, when the holiday season arrives, I spend far too much of my precious time strategizing my gifts for my friends.
Often, when I draw a blank, I end up splurging on expensive gifts — a luxury candle, a decadent face oil, a classy bottle of perfume. Sure, these opulent gifts are a cop out, but they're guaranteed successes. Upon opening a package containing their favorite, overpriced indulgence who wouldn't smile?
Due to my holiday default, I'm forced to do some serious budget planning to accommodate my lavish spending. Or, more often, I go spectacularly over-budget.
However, this year, I must make a change. After my summer of post-vax hedonism that granted justification to spend more money than I'd ever dare, my holiday budget's looking pretty lean.
After sitting myself down and giving myself a strict talking to about prioritizing my savings, I've come up with some tips on how to save money around the holidays:
Review your budget
The amount of money we think we spend and the money we actually spend are two very different numbers. Grab a drink, pull out your bank statements, it's time to get to the bottom of your spending.
Take a look at two or three months and categorize your purchases. Which ones were intentional? Which ones were emotional? And how many times did you go to the coffee shop just to feel something and leave with a $10 latte and pastry? Once the truth is laid out in front of you, it's easy to see where you're bleeding money.
For me, it's coffee shops and boutique clothing stores I discover during jaunts around trendy neighborhoods. Whatever your vices are, do your best to become aware of them.
Budgeting apps like Cleo have helped me curb my impulse spending a ton! Cleo talks to me like a friend would — a friend who is not afraid to tell me no and call me out on my overspending. We all need a friend like Cleo, so download the app and watch your budget change overnight.
via Cleo App
Cut out what you don't need
It's all well and good to glance at your spending, but the next step is brutal: get honest with yourself about the purchases you could have gone without. But this isn't about deprivation, it's prioritization. What can you relinquish now to ensure you have a great holiday season later?
Cringing at past impulse buys I've made, I vowed to avoid my typical temptations, since I couldn't resist them. I know I'm easily lured into charming little storefronts downtown. So I took new routes home, avoiding the streets where all the cool clothes lie, waiting for me to cave.
I'm sure, in good time, I'll be back. But that's a problem for 2022-me. Until then, we just have to hold out for less than two months, get the gifts our friends deserve, and then it's back to regularly scheduled planning.
Make a spending plan
Saving without a plan usually leads to spending. As you narrow down what you can afford, figure out what you want to buy. I like to split it into categories: larger expenses vs. affordable picks.
Here's the fun part: shopping around. Sometimes I only have a general idea of what I want to buy, and sometimes I have specifics in mind. Either way, I love to shop around for a deal.
When it comes to saving money, research is paramount. Various vendors might have different prices, promotional codes, or sales. A quick Google search can often save you 10% or more, so don't take the first price you see as gospel.
via Cleo App
After finding the best price, I can budget for what I'm going to buy and when. Which takes me to ….
Take advantage of sales … strategically
The holiday season brings with it the promise of big, blowout sales. But, if you're not careful, you can end up spending more money during a sale — which is precisely the stores' intention.
Don't fall victim to the allure of those big, red "SALE" stickers. Instead, plot out how to take advantage of a number of sales for different products. Adding those sale prices to your spending plan will keep you focused and on track, instead of buying frivolous items no one will ever use just because the prices are slashed.
Saving money over the holidays doesn't mean you have to make a Scrooge of yourself. You can still gift and gift well, just more intelligently. Spending with intention is key to savings, while investing thoughtfully into your relationships.
Apps like Cleo can help you keep your finances on track without feeling overwhelming. With one download, you could be on your way to mega-savings.