Some people just aren’t “workout people.” They can’t get excited about exercise of any kind, so they’ll never stick with it. That’s just the way they are… Or so they think, until they find a workout they absolutely love.
Daniel Morrow, 34, of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, was one of those. He was so much the opposite of a health and fitness enthusiast, in fact, that he nearly died in his early 20s from kidney and liver damage brought on by drug abuse. But discovering Onnit turned him onto the steel mace, and then to bodyweight training, and now he’s so into the fit life that he gets paid to teach others how to adopt it.
We interviewed Morrow about the Onnit 6 Challenge that started it all, and how the Onnit Tribe—our private support group, available on both Facebook and Discord—helps keep it going.
Onnit: What was life like before you found Onnit?
Daniel Morrow: I was not taking good care of myself. When I was 14, I started drinking and smoking. My first job out of high school was in a restaurant, and my manager spiked my drinks with Ecstasy—MDMA—the whole time I was employed there. My girlfriend caught him doing it. He said the reason he was drugging me was to give me more energy to help me perform my job better. The craziest thing is, when I found out, I didn’t care.
I actually went out and found a drug dealer and started purchasing so much from this guy that he thought I was distributing at parties and raves. He started giving me wholesale prices [laughs]. When he found out I was buying all those drugs just for myself, and buying more every week, even he said, “How are you not dead yet?” I said, “I don’t care. I’m having fun. Leave me alone.”
When I was around 20, I worked as an insurance adviser. I believe that you can’t really promote something if you don’t believe in it enough to use it yourself, so I applied for my company’s insurance. I got declined, but I didn’t even look into why. I just didn’t care. Pretty soon afterward, though, I stopped using drugs. Then, about a decade later, I was working as a financial adviser, and I reapplied for insurance and again got declined, mainly because I had been declined 10 years earlier. This time, I asked to see the files from that first rejection. My physical evaluation showed that, in my early 20s, I was borderline for kidney and liver failure. Bile had been secreting into my bloodstream.
That was a wakeup call to me. I felt like I had been living on borrowed time for the past decade, and that there must be a reason I was still here. I had gotten off drugs, but I still wasn’t taking great care of my health, and now I was finally ready to take it seriously. I knew I had to make some lasting changes if I wanted to live long enough to accomplish my goals in life.
Why do you think you were so self-destructive at such a young age? Did you go through some terrible trauma as a kid?
I really don’t know. I was always a scrawny kid—I weighed only 115 pounds into my mid 20s—and I got bullied all through school. But I don’t think that fully explains why I acted the way I did. I was very nihilistic when I was young. My attitude was, “Nothing matters. What’s the point? Who even cares?” I never bothered to sort through the why behind that thinking.
But I started to make changes when I was 21. I was still partying and using drugs, and one day I woke up and I was massively hungover. I was living at my dad’s, and we had a garden. I found a lot of joy in doing the gardening. So I got up, went out and sat in a lawnchair by the garden, and sparked up a cigarette. I was looking at the garden and the smell of my cigarette smoke suddenly upset my stomach. That’s when I broke down crying and everything came out. “What am I doing with my life? I’m putting all this crap into my body. I’m not going anywhere. Here I am, putting all of this effort into this garden… Why can’t I make my life as beautiful as I can make this garden?”
I went out that day to my cell-phone provider and asked them to change my number, so the negative people I dealt with couldn’t reach me anymore. I packed up my stuff and moved out. I went to my ex-girlfriend’s house and stayed in her spare bedroom in Vancouver. As soon as I got out of my hometown, I didn’t have the cravings anymore. Leaving and not looking back was the jolt I needed to quit everything cold turkey.
So when and how did you find Onnit?
Like I said, after that second decline on the insurance, I got more curious about health and fitness. I found Aubrey Marcus’ book, Own The Day, and I really liked it, along with what his company, Onnit, seemed to be about. A few months later, in the spring of 2020, I decided to sign on for the very first Onnit 6 Challenge, and I chose the Steel Mace program.
Why did the steel mace appeal to you, and what was your experience with that Challenge?
I chose the steel mace because it looked bad ass! One of the things I liked in Aubrey’s book was the idea that working out can be about playing and having fun. I knew I wouldn’t be consistent with any kind of training until I could gamefy it in some way.
I tend to do a lot of things impulsively, but if I don’t have something to look forward to, and people to hold me accountable, I probably won’t keep doing it. That’s why doing conventional workouts in a gym does nothing for me. I wanted some kind of activity that I could do on my time, anytime, anywhere, on my terms. The Onnit 6 Challenge looked like the right fit, and my goal was to use it to establish a consistent habit of being active, and to get to know myself better as a result.
One of the things I learned about myself during the Challenge is that I’m my own worst enemy. In the beginning, I thought I had to power through every workout and keep up with what Coach John Wolf was doing. But going hard wasn’t getting me any results. It taught me that I could push myself hard for 20 minutes at a time, but I wasn’t learning to use the steel mace properly. Wolf spent most of the Challenge trying to get me to slow down and realize that the steel mace is a very technical tool. You’re constantly pushing and pulling and trying to bend it to activate lines of tension in your body. I started with a 15-pound mace, but I should have been using a 10 or seven-pounder. I didn’t make any true progress until the Challenge was over, but I learned from that mistake. I got a 10-pound mace and did the whole Challenge again, this time really taking the time to master each movement.
Since then, I’ve done almost every Onnit 6 Challenge that has been offered. I’ve gained a lot of definition in my body—I no longer have that dad-bod look. The biggest physical improvement I’ve noticed—and this was my biggest weakness before I found Onnit—is my mobility. My hips are looser now. I can get deeper in my squat, and I don’t struggle to do overhead presses anymore. I can get my arms behind my head to do mace swings.
Onnit 6 Challenge participants are encouraged to join the Onnit Tribe, where they can get moral support from the other members, as well as socialize. What has your experience been with the Tribe?
At first, I thought it would be the meathead stereotype. I thought it would be people only talking about their workouts and they might be very judgmental, so I stayed behind the scenes. I was very reserved in what I would say in posts. But then I saw how great John was leading the Tribe. I thought, “If this is the kind of guy who’s running the community, I’m pretty sure all of those biases and fears I have are non-existent.” Everyone was warm and supportive all the time, and I was amazed at how much they shared about their own lives. Seeing other people put themselves out on the ledge helps you do the same yourself. It’s easier to share when others are sharing. So I thought, “Maybe I should be experiencing this instead of running from it.”
As I got more comfortable sharing my story, I made friends in the Tribe. Tim Sibley is now a good friend of mine, and we talk almost every day. I found that sharing my journey helped other people get going when they were stuck, and it did the same for me. I had never been consistent with physical activity before, but the Tribe kept me going with it. I realized that if I were to drop out, I wouldn’t just be letting myself down, I’d be letting these other people down too. I’d be letting the whole team down. Doing something just for myself is not a big enough reason to motivate me. I need something bigger.
I’ll tell you how I got comfortable with the idea of posting in the Tribe. I would make a post, and then abandon social media for hours. I didn’t want to think about what people might be commenting on it. I’d come back maybe eight hours later, long enough so that I had pretty much forgotten what I even wrote. That’s when I’d see that it wasn’t as bad as I thought. No matter what I said, everyone responded positively. That made me want to stick around and engage in real-time conversations. We all fear being vulnerable with people because we don’t know the response we’ll get, but in the Tribe, it will always be encouraging.
Like I said, I was always scrawny. I’m only 123 pounds now. One of my nicknames in high school was Sasquatch, because I’m so hairy [laughs]. I’ve always been self-conscious, so I never cared for muscle shirts or tank tops that showed too much. A lot of people post pictures of themselves in the Tribe working out in muscle shirts, so I finally did too, and people told me I looked good! Now muscle shirts are my favorite type of shirt. I wear them all the time in the summer, or at least for the two months of the year that it’s warm enough in Canada [laughs].
What is your lifestyle like now that you’re a fit guy?
Before Onnit, I would go to bed as late as 3:00 a.m. and sleep till 3:00 in the afternoon. Now I’m in bed by nine or 10 every night [laughs]. I’m so regimented that it’s almost turned into a bad habit. Every morning I have a greens drink, meditate, and do my workout, and now if I don’t do them all in that order, it throws off my whole day. I’m too consistent! So now I’m working on being more fluid.
Has Onnit helped you in any other areas of life?
It’s helped me start a new career. When the pandemic hit, I had been working doing traditional business loans. When all the businesses suddenly shut down, no one was giving out money, so I was basically out of work. I was really getting into fitness through Onnit, so I studied and got a nutrition certification, and also got certified in Animal Flow. I wanted my next move to be coaching other people to get healthier.
I was trying to figure out who my audience was for coaching, and I got into crypto currencies at the same time. I realized there was a whole ecosystem of people who do nothing but sit in front of their computers for up to 20 hours a day coding and building stuff online. They’re not healthy; they’re not mobile. So I thought there could be an opportunity for me there in helping them.
I learned how to network in the Tribe, and I started doing the same on Discord, a social media platform where a lot of crypto people hang out. I started putting what I was learning about fitness into that community. Soon, the founders of crypto companies started reaching out to me, saying, “We need to focus on health within our organization. Can you run some fitness classes for us?” Next thing you know, I was brought on as a community manager. Now I’m able to codify my values into the organization for these businesses.
I help write the rules for these organizations. I design systems and procedures to put an emphasis on health and well-being for their employees. Crypto companies are all international organizations, so we contract with people all over the world. You’ll have people staying up till 3:00 in the morning to stay engaged with another team, and that’s not healthy. So I’ve initiated policies like having a team lead in our US zone, in our Asian zone, and the European zone, so staffers can work more normal hours. Now we don’t have people burning the midnight oil, and burning themselves out as a result. I also set up out-of-office areas and after-hours programs for employees, so when they’re off work, they can socialize with each other, which helps build camaraderie.
Do you use any Onnit supplements?
I take Alpha BRAIN® in the morning with food. I’ve found that if I don’t eat with it, it bothers my stomach, but as long as I eat I’m fine. I like it for focus and memory. I think it helps me listen more actively on calls.
Do you have any advice for people who may be on the fence about joining the Tribe?
The sooner you get in there, the sooner you’ll get ahead in life. I know it’s human nature to have reservations and biases, but my tip is to put those off to the side and give it a chance.