My alarm sounds at 6:00am. Fuck what day is it? What do I have on? Why am I up so early? It’s still dark outside as I head down to the café at North Wollongong beach to meet up with Will Grant, creator and owner of Ghetto Movement.
Blessed with a golden sunrise, we settled in for our interview. I ordered a long black and Will ordered a peppermint tea and a bacon hash-brown brekky burger. Yep, herbal tea and a burger, what a perfect way to sum up Will. He’s a newly-wed, a yogi and a business owner with a baby on the way, but his busy personal life doesn’t put a dampener on his ambitions, in fact, he’s hungry for more!
Will caught up with Twenty Something Humans to share his thoughts on health, philosophy, personal growth and working in pursuit of a balanced life, all the while chowing down on his brekky roll as we watched a beautiful sunrise over the ocean.
What were you like after high school and in your early 20s?
I was your stock standard 21-year-old. I loved footy, partying and drinking. I was a little bit chauvinistic to be honest; unfortunately that was the 'cool' way to be. From 18 onwards the footy boys and I had the 'Ben Cousins' mentality. I had insight into the world of an athlete who could drink, party and then go to a training session. That's what a lot of us boys based ourselves on, it was so self destructive and eventually it will catch up on you. I guess you could say that my attitude towards wellbeing was pretty non-existent.
Adding to that, I was a tradie and that job really didn't promote a healthy lifestyle either. We were emotionally, physically and mentally disconnected. There was a lot of mental pressure in that industry, trying to live up to that tough 'blokey' expectation while being hazed and picked on. It's one way to get thick skin but it's not the type of environment I thrive in.
How did you begin dabbling in yoga?
Between the ages of 21 and 25 I had three shoulder reconstructions. Adding to the tradie lifestyle and the ‘Ben Cousins mentality’. I really wasn't healthy. It wasn't until after my 3rd shoulder reconstruction in 2015 and meeting Emma (his now wife), that it all clicked and I realised I'm not invincible and that I didn’t want to keep up that unhealthy and destructive lifestyle.
When I walked into my first yoga class it was about 90% girls and it was incredibly intimidating. After I’d got the hang of it, I'd post my flows onto Instagram and one day I received a message from a mate’s Mum who asked if I would teach a yoga class. I thought, why not give it a go?
My first yoga class was an absolute disaster. I kept forgetting my words, I wasn't too confident and was really embarrassed. I thought that was my yoga career over. Luckily, I had some really supportive people around me who encouraged me to jump back on the horse and my second class went pretty damn well. That's when I started Ghetto. I started out teaching 2 or 3 classes a week and later this year we'll start doing 30 classes a week!
How was it going into a class that was predominantly filled with females?
It was honestly quite intimidating. At first most of my mates would say things like ‘aw we know why you’re going to yoga!’ and chuckle along. But I promise I was really there for the yoga! I wanted to make sure that guys felt just as welcome in our classes as girls. That gender divide is something I’ve been really conscious of. In fact, we’re starting some jiu jitsu which is predominantly male dominated. I wanted to flip it on its head and encourage women to get involved. Not only are women feeling stronger and more empowered from it, but it breaks down those barriers that often exist in the health and fitness industry.
Where did the name 'Ghetto' come from?
My mate had an old backyard gym that we used to call the 'ghetto' gym. Everything was 5th hand a bit rusty. When thinking about what I wanted my company to be, I wanted to be able to incorporate mobility and movement and we thought why not Ghetto? And it just kinda stuck despite some criticism.
When you're starting out, people sometimes unintentionally give you the 'best' advice based on their mistakes, but you need to make your own mistakes, fuck things up and make the wrong decisions so that you're equipped to make the right decisions later on in your career. It's hard not to take things personally, but the quicker you realise that people want to see you succeed, the thicker your skin will grow and the more resilient you'll become.
What inspired you to start a podcast? In case you weren't busy enough.
I had been receiving acupuncture sessions from my friend. Before and after our sessions we'd have some great conversations! One day we were talking and wondered why people weren't having these conversations every day. We thought let's have these conversations and record them. The idea for the podcast is a modern take on philosophy. We wanted to share our thoughts and experiences and try to inspire others to have those conversations as well. So that's how we began The Modern Monk! It’s another avenue for Ghetto, and myself, to grow and evolve.
How've you got to where you are today?
I really wouldn't be where I am today without my wife Emma and my family. I really can't even put it into words. So much of my time and energy goes into Ghetto and that's an emotional investment. When you come home a bit tired and drained, you can't always bring it. It's made me realise the importance of the saying "you only get what you give". Without Emma, I don't think we'd be sitting here having this interview. We got married at sunrise at the start of the year and we've got a baby due in November. I'm really excited to see how a baby influences our life and adds to our relationship!
"Exhaust every opportunity to make it happen. Don't half arse it, go all the way! Try and fail and try again...you never know."
So you've got your peppermint tea and your bacon brekky burger, what advice do you have for balance?
I think people fail when they set themselves up to fail. You're not always going to fit the idea of what people think you should be, but you have to stop and enjoy yourself. People think I'm vegan and I've tried it but my body didn't respond well. I don't believe in beating yourself up for certain life decisions. It's important to have those quality times with your mates. I had a little espresso martini night last night and I wouldn't change it for the world. I try to employ the 80/20 principle. 80% of the time I'm the Modern Monk, 20% of the time I'm 21-year-old Will and that's OK.
I think it's really important to have balance and I'm sure a baby will be a great challenge to this balancing game, but I don't want to give up what I'm passionate about. I can't see why my kid can't be a part of this journey? I think that's where we'd like to move Ghetto and I think there's definitely a gap in that industry. I want to make Ghetto fun, healthy and enjoyable for the whole family.
What plans do you have for Ghetto moving forward?
Big plans! Last year we had our Ghetto retreat where a group of us went up the coast to unplug and connect with ourselves and like-minded people. We want to recreate this and make it bigger and better, hopefully sneaking in a little Bali retreat! At Ghetto HQ, we want it to be a one stop shop for all things health and wellbeing. We'll be opening a little café, we'll have some acupuncture and massage and our movement space. We'd love a huge community book shelf as well. So yeah, we’ve got some big plans!
Famous last words?
Exhaust every opportunity to make it happen. Don't half arse it, go all the way! Try and fail and try again...you never know.
Images: www.ghettomovement.com and @ghettomovement.
Adelaide Haynes is a fiery red head who lost her soul to rock n roll. She loves sinking a floral beer or two while flicking between Instagram, her thesis and travel vloggers on YouTube. She's a serial 'bad replier' but will always offer to buy a coffee to make up for it. Read more from Adelaide on her blog A Worldly Addiction.