November 08, 2016
An Interview With Aaron Marino
So it was a real pleasure to catch up with Mr Alpha M himself, Aaron Marino.
Me and Aaron go all the way back to 2010 when we were both truly starting out online. I was blown away by his influence and since then he’s gone on to create the biggest men’s style YouTube channel about to surpass 2 million subscribers alongside launching multiple businesses.
The interview focuses on Aaron’s success, how he got to where he is today and what he’s learnt from the journey.
We also talk style, fitness and depression amongst men.
This is an honest, open interview with a guy who’s influenced and helped a huge number of men across the world.
Find Out More About Aaron
PAUL : So Aaron, really good to have you here. How are you buddy?
AARON : I’m well Paul, it’s been so long. I feel like you’re one of the OGs of men’s style and we go way back.
PAUL : It’s crazy, I mean I don’t know if you can remember but we, I checked the last interview we did, it was 2011.
AARON : That’s nuts! (laughs)
PAUL : Since then you’ve exploded, how is everything going?
AARON : At least we haven’t aged right? we still look amazing.
PAUL : Yeah (laughs)
AARON : Things are really what, you know, things are really good. I joked that my Youtube channel and everything is an overnight success that took eight years but things are good, things are really really moving in the right direction. I’ve never felt better in terms of just being fulfilled and happy and healthy and so yeah, things are great. Thank you very much.
PAUL : No Worries and you know like I said it’s was 2011 when we last properly caught up and also as well, I don’t know if you remember, you did a…
AARON : Video for a scarf.
PAUL : Yeah! So you can remember as well.
AARON : Yeah I do remember. I got that purple lightweight scarf you sent me. I think I still have that thing. (crosstalk)
PAUL : (crosstalk) Yeah. It was a great product but that site is gone now and it’s crazy now when I look back at it.
AARON : What was it called? Your website…
PAUL : It was called brighterman.com
AARON : That’s right. That’s right.
PAUL : That Scarf and watch, you did an amazing video on it and that was when I kind of…I was wow this guy’s got influence. Back then you had like 30,000 subscribers I think it was.
AARON : Yeah and what’s crazy is that’s back before they ever really gave influencers the name influencers. It was so…It was such at the infancy of people realizing the power of video and the connection that the audience and the creator have that…It’s pretty amazing to see how things have changed and morphed just in marketing industry. Now I get reached out to by brands like, big, multi-billion dollar corporations, where before, it was just sharp guys like you who understood, hey, if I’m consuming content here, other people are that are in my demographic and so you my friend, were cutting edge. You’re the original.
PAUL : (laughs) I lecture as well and I lecture at the London College of Fashion on how to start an online retail business and I use you in every one of my lectures. I say, this is a strategy I used back in 2009 I think it was.
AARON : Yeah.
PAUL : And I always show that video, which is, I think back then as well it was you in your bedroom with your cat in the bottom right hand corner as well.
AARON : Yup.
PAUL : And now, now I look at you, you’ve got like a production team.
AARON : Dude, no I don’t! It’s still just me and usually my cat is around here somewhere but yeah, I haven’t progressed that much. Just a better camera.
PAUL : Cool. But no, I wanted to firstly say just, how well you’ve done and just how much you’ve exploded since that time and also, the last interview we did was more of a focus on style. I wanted to strip this interview back today and focus mostly on you and your achievements because what you’ve achieved and what you’re doing is hugely inspirational to me and to millions others out there.
AARON : Yeah great.
PAUL : What I want to do is go back and rewind to that turning point. You know, what made you start AlphaM and what put you onto that path.
AARON : Yeah, sure. Well, the reason…AlphaM got started out of necessity. I had a fitness center that was not doing well and I was forced to actually file bankruptcy. It was a very low point in my life. And you know, just to backup a little bit, my world revolved around opening up a fitness center. From the age of like, 13, I knew what I wanted to do with my life and so I was fortunate enough to try that but the downside was that it was horribly unsuccessful. And while I was there, it was something where I was working with…I had all these male clients and this one guy one day came up to me and just said, “Hey, I don’t know what to wear on a date”. and so I’ve always been very into style and grooming and fashion and so I thought, Ok, I’ll take him and it was fun and when my fitness center…I was forced to close that and file bankruptcy, it was sort of that point at which, it was like, what am I gonna do now? And, you know, I didn’t want to do anything that cost a lot of money ’cause I didn’t have a lot of money and so I started a short little website and decided to see if there were more men out there like my buddy, who just needed some solid basic advice on how to look good. And so that was sort of the start and the inspiration behind starting an image consulting firm and then in 2008 my wife gave me a video camera and I’ve got a big mouth and I’m an only child so it was only logical that I started trying to figure out how to put videos on YouTube and that’s when everything changed.
PAUL : Cool, going back to that first video, I know you’ve said you’ve got a big mouth and you’re happy with that but I mean, one other thing I’ve struggled with and I openly admit, I think most of the men that I’ve worked with in the past struggle with it too and that’s worrying what people think and worrying about judgment. Did you ever have that with your first ever video and did you ever have that with some of the topics that you put out nowadays?
AARON : You know back then I was blind to my own ignorance. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t understand what youtube really was. I just knew that it was a place where people were. To be completely honest, up until the time I uploaded my first video, I’ve been on youtube three times. And so, it was very foreign to me. So I really didn’t understand and so I didn’t know what I didn’t know and I quickly learned sort of the upside and the downside to putting yourself out there in that capacity. So yeah, I worry about every single video that I upload to this day. I worry about people liking it and regardless of what youtubers tell you, you know, we’re human and so when you get negative feedback or criticism regardless of how insignificant these people are, it still hurts and it still…it takes a piece of your soul to be completely honest and so for me, you know I’m…I think once you stop caring, you’re irrelevant. You have to be. I think, no matter how big you are, you always are concerned about putting out the best content that you can and making a difference in somebody’s life and trying to have as thick a skin as possible.
PAUL : Is that the kind of drive for you to not worry about the people that comment badly on your videos? Is it the drive to help as many men as possible?
AARON : Yeah and from Day 1, it was the try and affect at least one person and help one person feel better about themselves. And when I started the AlphaM youtube channel, it was very male style focused just because sort of that was what I was talking about, that was what I was discussing with the image consulting and what quickly happened was I found that there was a much larger audience out there and I could affect a lot more people by talking about things that actually mattered a bit more like you know, manners and really the bottom line is that every video I’ve put out is designed to try and help people feel better about themselves. You know, it’s… our world and our internet’s gotten to be a bit of a dangerous place and it’s kinda scary. I mean, when I look out there and I just see the amount of negativity and crap that people are subjected to. You know, it’s really sad. I didn’t have the pressure that the kids of today have when I was growing up and it’s just a different world and so it’s… You know, I’m just trying to be one little voice of positive energy. You know, I’m just one voice. But, you know, I know that if it helps one person then I did a good job.
PAUL : Yeah, I know. I mean, you’ve helped more than one.
AARON : (laughs)
PAUL : Some of the numbers are crazy, you know. I think that video that you did for your millionth subscribers was quite an honest video.
AARON : Yeah, I’ve done a few really honest ones. I talked about my… million subscribers video was one… like, I’m not afraid to cry in my videos. It’s just because I feel like it’s important for these people that may look at me as some type of role model to understand that emotion is okay and we all have it and it’s not something to be fearful and it doesn’t make you less of a man. And so, for that video and another one I did about my darkest days where I really talked about sort of, the lowest point where I was…my fitness center was and my hopes and dreams were, basically, have deteriorated to nothing. Those two videos were some of my better videos in my mind, just because, it sort of got real. There was no act. It was just me sort of talking a bit about, you know, why everything is so important and why I’m so…I feel so, just…I get so much value from youtube and you know, because of this need to be successful but not really knowing what success was and then losing what I thought it was and sort of feeling like I found a voice and I’m validated now. It’s just really powerful for me. And so, yeah, those videos were pretty honest.
PAUL : Yeah. That’s great and I think when you hit a million subscribers and I think now you’re approaching two million pretty quickly now.
AARON : I’ll hit two million…this month. (laughs)
PAUL : I was gonna say..I thought you were gonna say now (crosstalk)
AARON : I need to try and figure out know what I’m gonna do for my two million one, that’s the most pressure.
PAUL : Yeah, going back to that, you mentioned it briefly as well and I did a little look into your backstory. Now you’ve had to come through some tough times. How did you, if you look back, how did you overcome those challenges and what advice can you give to someone if they’re struggling right now.
AARON : Part of my story is, you know, I was raised and had two abusive step-fathers. And so, growing up was tough for me in the sense that I always had a very strong connection with my mother, who I still, to this day…she’s the number…she’s the closest person to me but she made some bad choices in men and so, it’s not that she did that on purpose but growing up I sort of lost my voice and I…because I was just worried about keeping my mouth shut basically. You know, I wasn’t physically abused but emotional abuse is pretty bad as well. And so, growing up in an environment with two abusive step-fathers, I lost my value to some degree and when I started the fitness center. Or when I started exercising, my mom gave me a fitness center membership when I was twelve, that was sort of the…there was a big shift there. I still kept my mouth shut and I didn’t have the ability to stand up for myself but it was where I started to build and develop self-esteem. And so, the one thing that I always had, I always had the gym. I always had going there and just sort of losing myself in something that I enjoy. And so, you know, it’s one of those things where, you know, people that are going through hard times and have abusive, you know, negative energy in their life. You know, just understanding that it will pass and one of the saddest things that I see is that people get so fixated on bad things and bad people that they had in their past. They’re not able ever to basically decide to be happy and move forward from that. And for me, I do feel that therapy is a great tool. Going and speaking to counselors when you have a situation or…It’s just good to be able to have a third-party perspective when you don’t have to worry about sitting next to the person (crosstalk) it’s funny that you can go and be honest with…and I really feel that is one of the biggest tools that we have at our disposal. You know, and so, going and getting some counselling and talking to people If you’re having a hard time getting over something. But for me, It was the decision that I wanted to be happy. You know, I was in my 20s and I wasn’t happy. I was very very fixated and focused on the wrongs that peple did to me as opposed to what I can change now and move forward. And so for me, it was letting go and they say that forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself and I’m a firm believer in that.
PAUL : Yeah, yeah and I agree massively and there’s a good saying and I can’t remember who said it. But it’s depression stems from living in the past, anxiety stems from living in the future so it’s like be more present. (crosstalk)
AARON : I think that’s a great saying.
PAUL : It’s all about letting go of the past.
Aaron: Yeah, but you know that’s easier said than done. You don’t just make the decision and all of the sudden it’s roses. You need to constantly be bettering yourself and improving yourself and working on yourself. Little victories every single day, you know, when you do that and you string a bunch of those days together, all of a sudden you start to feel better about yourself. And you know, confidence, for me, stems from taking care of myself physically, emotionally, mentally in every area of my life. So…
Paul: Yeah and I think that’s a huge thing and that’s something that you focus on a lot on the channel is confidence and you know, if someone’s looking to build that confidence what would you focus on? Would it be to maybe improve their style first? Would it be to improve their fitness? Is there a right way of doing it?
AARON : I think that fitness is, I think fitness is the number one thing that I can directly attribute my, you know, my confidence and feeling of self-worth and so I feel like that is probably the best place to start if you can. And it doesn’t mean you need to have this ideal body or anything like that. It’s just taking care of yourself. Exercising, moving and you start to feel better and style is another easy thing. Not so easy in some situations but it’s a way that you can, you know, sort of, you can look in the mirror and see an immediate difference by changing some of the way that your clothes fit. You can have a dramatic impact on the way that you are received by other people and the way that you present yourself to the world. And yeah, that’s sort of another confidence building tip from the outside in and when you do that, when you get the positive reinforcement from other people, it does affect you in a positive way in terms of confidence.
PAUL : Yeah and I agree that’s what I did. I immediately went to dressing better. Had an instant boost in confidence and I realized that I had a lot of stuff inside that I needed to deal with to take it to that next level and then you know, it’s just kind of getting the balance. But like you said, fitness is always a good place to start.
AARON : Absolutely
PAUL : For sure. Now, Just quickly, I want to talk about style briefly but not too much ’cause I want this to be focused more on your success.
PAUL: Five things that would improve any man’s style. What would they be Aaron?
Aaron: Uhh I would say, get a great pair of jeans, a great pair of denim because they’re so incredibly versatile and I would say a dark you know, go with the dark washed pair of jeans just because jeans, they coordinate with everything, they work amazingly well with casually…you can dress them up. Uhm you know, another tip is get a great pair of boots, start with the feet. Uhm, I’m a firm believer in boots, it makes you feel like a bad ass along with… yeah a bad ass and, and also you know a leather jacket, if you’re into leather or if you’re not into leather there’s some great options out there, they just make you feel a little bit cooler every time you put it on. And size down, that’s something that I say in all of my videos. Try the smaller size, you know, a lot of times, we associate, as men, we associate large with comfort and roomy with comfort and the smaller size as will cut down on the amount of alterations that you need to get and it will just make you look tall or your shoulders more broad. Size down, try the smaller size. If it doesn’t work and you look like a sausage, then size back up but it never hurts to try the smaller size jacket from a medium to small and just see how you like it. And uh one more tip. Clean out the clutter. There is very difficult to operate a wardrobe effectively if you’ve got a bunch of crap that doesn’t look good that you don’t like or that you don’t wear. Just have items in your wardrobe that you appreciate and that works for you and that’s going to let you blend and balance and combine things in ways that you wouldn’t if you have just a bunch of crap and clutter in your wardrobe.
PAUL: Awesome. I massively agree, and also have you been to the UK?
AARON: No. Not yet but I will soon.
PAUL: I was gonna ask you where do you think style differs from maybe London to somewhere in the US…
AARON: You guys are so much more stylish than the Americans.
PAUL: … we size down too much probably (laughs)
AARON: I’ve seen some of those ads and yeah I absolutely know but I think uhm you know European style is definitely a bit above in terms of just you know American style. American style, we, we take pieces and we’re getting better and, and but we’re still far behind you guys. You’re more comfortable taking, taking risks than we are.
PAUL: Yeah, I, I think, it’s kind of the norm as well, you know a lot of guys who would dress in their comfort zones any way and they just, you know a lot of guys will push their comfort zone will be the ones that people would typically see online and fashion blogs and things like that. If, if you do come to London, you know, hook me up and I will take you to a few pubs…
AARON: Absolutely! I’m always down for a for a pint or a …
PAUL: …couple of pints. (laughs)
PAUL: But also, uhm, I was to ask you this, in comes to time management, you know, you’ve published, how many videos you’ve published? Is it thousands?
AARON: Yeah, I have, see, the way that it works, on YouTube I have published 3 videos a week and then on my website, iamalpham.com I post an additional of 2, so I’m creating 5 videos a week —
AARON: — and what’s different than me versus a lot of this other bloggers is that I’m not just walking around holding a video camera like “Oh today I’m gonna go and eat a cheeseburger”. All of my videos are actually scripted and are topic driven so I have journals of you know, everyday, every morning I wake up and the first thing I do is write a video for the day and so I’m producing tons and five days out of the week, that along with, uhm I run a few other businesses and so it’s my day is full and so I’ve had to get very good with time management and, content creation and you know, I work a little bit too much right now but you know, it’s funny because people give me a hard time, but I’m I feel like I’m in this very, I’m in this great zone where I’m very creative and I’m, I’m being successful in, in a new way that I thought I would before and so I don’t want to stop because I’m so fearful of losing what I’ve, what I’ve built and so I think someday I’ll slow down or it will change but right now it’s just you know, I’m , I’m just so focused. I don’t have children, my wife and I, we don’t have kids and so this, you know my business is kind of like my, my opportunity to nurture and, and uhm and build something and so I’m still in the selfish stage (laughs).
PAUL: Yeah, but it’s, it’s like the whole the drive and so it probably doesn’t feel like work to you or does it? I mean — Monday morning
AARON: My Monday today was pretty rough, uhm but yes, some days it feels like were but I, at the end of the day, even though, I, I love what I do so much that even the bad days are incredible and you know when I reflect my bad days pale in comparison to my old bad days and most of those bad days just because I truly get to do what I love and that’s somewhat special and unique in today’s world.
PAUL: So how’d, how do you juggle it? How do you juggle the thousands of videos, your own style courses, your skin care range as well, your hair product, how do you, what is the schedule like, is it up early in the morning, is it —
AARON: Yeah, you know it’s funny because I, I get up early, I get up around 5:30 and I’m at, at my coffeeshop by 6 and I’m working until about 8 and then I’ll go exercise and then, and, and the morning times is my most productive time because it’s, it’s void of interruptions and so it allows me to just to be kind of be with myself and my thoughts and, and get a lot done then uhm I take two breaks through in the day to exercise (laughs). In the morning I go and, and I’ll go for a little run and later in the evening before I go home I would go to the gym or fitness center to just workout with weights a little bit and then I typically will work until about 9 o’clock and then I’ll shut it down and go to bed at 10 and do it again. Weekends I’ve gotten better with, with taking it easy uhm but it’s, it’s a full day and so it’s uh it’s a lot (laughs).
PAUL: So, are you finding time to balance that as well, you know, balancing life from work or is it mostly work?
AARON: It’s mostly work, uhm you know, my wife and I are both, are two very independent people, but we have a very great relationship and, and we spend time together at night and on the weekend, and so uhm you know it works and my relationship probably wouldn’t work for a lot of people uhm but for us and the way that we live it it’s very successful.
PAUL: Good to hear, good to hear. Now, I want to end it with two questions. First question is habits, having habits is so important for growth, what is the biggest habit that you do every single day that you couldn’t live without?
PAUL: Yeah, I thought it would be.
AARON: Yeah, I figured that (laughs) yeah, exercise is uhm is so important to me, it’s been a part of my life forever and I know that when I don’t have that it affects me in every other aspect of my life and not in a positive way. And so for me, even if it’s 30 minutes just I need to do something just to, just to get active and uh, and so that would be one of them. I don’t what else, I don’t know if there’s anything really else. Uhm, that’s honestly the uh the number one thing.
PAUL: Yeah, I know, I agree, I used to do a lot sport and then I went through a stage of no activity, no exercise and put on a lot of weight. Now, if I don’t work out for say more than 2 days, my mind reminds me something’s going wrong here, I need to, I need to do something.
AARON: And for me that’s just it, it’s just about making sure in carving out that I’ve got time for me and I really feel like, you know, for me exercise just does, it affects every area of my life and so uhm, you know it allows me to be creative, it allows me to think — like when I’m, like when I run I mean it’s every few, few, you know miles and I’ll stop, think of a great video idea, It allows me just to sort of you know be with me.
PAUL: Yeah, I know, I do a lot of running, to me it’s like a moving meditation running…
AARON: It is Yeah! And I think it has something to do with when your body is, is doing you know, it, your body is doing something and it allows your mind to sort of you know, just, just think and, and go on directions that wouldn’t necessarily when you’re sitting there working or trying to think. (laughs).
PAUL: Yeah, I know, awesome, and bringing it down a level, I mentioned to you before that the suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 50 right now. Why do you think that is, why do you think especially the men you’ve influenced in the past, why do you think that that statistic is so high?
AARON: I don’t know. I think that I could venture to guess that it’s a sense or lack of fulfillment or feeling like they’re not living up to some arbitrary set of expectations uhm and just not feeling fulfilled uhm I think that I don’t, I don’t know, I think social media is doing a number on, on us uhm just because we look at everything that we see and you look at it through the lens of perfection with instagram with facebook, with twitter, everybody’s living this amazing life and you know not realizing that everybody has problems, everybody has bad days, this is a snap chat, you’re peeking through the keyhole of what somebody’s letting you see, uhm, and I don’t know if that has dramatically increased the amount of suicide but I know that for me, personally, it has affected me in a negative way, uhm in terms of my own sense of fulfillment and, and accomplishment just because I see these other people living what I perceived to be, you know, amazing lives and I know that my life doesn’t look like that and so, I don’t know Paul, what about you, what do you think it is?
PAULl: You know I think that’s a huge factor behind it you know, perfectionism and just comparing yourself to others. I always say comparing yourself to others is a losing battle because you always compare things you’re not happy about you know…
PAUL: … but you’re not gonna compare your YouTube channel to my YouTube channel, you know, because you’re crushing it at the same time you may compare an area of your life where you’re not happy you know.
Aaron: I’ll tell you the truth, just today, one of the bloggers that I follow, he rides around New York, goes on a skateboard, he’s just exploded over course for the past 2 years and I watched his blogs and it’s just this blog after blog after blog, he posts seven days a week of just this amazing, just productive, just fun, he’s super successful and it makes me feel like such a failure and just today, I thought to myself Paul, I’m like “I needed to stop watching him” because it truly makes me feel crappy about myself and uhm you know and, and it’s ridiculous but you think that that’s a big thing this, this perfectionism…
PAUL: Yeah, perfectionism and also I think and just open and not being able to talk as a man and not seeing emotion as a weakness and I think like you are very open, you’re very you know, you can talk about emotions, you can talk about things you’ve been through in the past, there’s a lot of men that are very shut off…
AARON: Yeah and uhm our society also I think that as men we’re sort of, we don’t know exactly where we fit in the age of, you know political correctness and, and just you know men we used to have very strong identity of what you know male look like. Now, male is changing, male I think some of that is for the better but I think that we also can get caught up in this not knowing where we fit in this society anymore, uhm you know because of, of this air of you know just perfection or not perfection but just this, this soci– I’m, I’m not sure, I haven’t, you hit me with a question I didn’t really — I wasn’t prepared to answer _________
PAULl: I mean, I know exactly what you said though it’s like uhm the man is changing isn’t it, it’s like…
AARON: It is!
PAUL: The way the men are traditionally meant to be isn’t like the man of today.
AARON: No. It’s totally different, I don’t see it ever going back but I think one of the reasons why the whole bearded movement has, has you know (crosstalk)
PAUL: (crosstalk) I cannot seem to catch on with that
AARON: (laughs) it’s okay, clean shaven next year is gonna be so like the thing but I think , like that’s sort of something that we, we just grab on to in our society grab on they just because it’s a little bit of something that we as men still get to do, we get to you know look masculine and just who knows. This is all just us guessing and playing around but uhm —
PAUL: No, it’s very good point, it’s a very good point. Great, great answer I think no one said that and I think that that’s something that’s definitely a huge factor of just comparing ourselves to others especially with social media nowadays and just feeling unfulfilled and I always just drifting through life, people would just stay in that dead end job and just drift through life because I think that’s, that’s what their meant to be doing, uhm so yeah good answer. And last but not the least, what are you working on, I mean why are you working a lot?
AARON: Uhm what am I working on, I’m working on not going crazy now —
PAUL: Growing a beard..
AARON: Yeah, I’m growing a beard. No uhm what I’m working on, my YouTube channel is a constant work in progress and I’m always trying to get better with that and make better content and better views and uhm balance content with advertising which is one of the hardest things to do uhm just because as my channel has grown, my opportunities for promotions has also increased dramatically uhm so I’m trying to balance that and make sure that I don’t just start promoting shitty products uhm that’s always a struggle uhm, not really, it’s not really a struggle uhm that, I, I, have a hair product company that’s going well called Pate and Pedro that I recently launched and my skin care company called Tiege Hanley which is like an all in one skin care system which is a sort of the newest thing that I have been just really, really focused on growing and so it’s a constant, constant battle but things are moving in the right direction.
PAUL: Yeah, and I just want to end this by saying, you know, how you used to worry, you do what you’ve done in the first video that you’ve put, when was this, seven years ago? —
AARON: 8 years ago
PAUL: 8 years ago, all of that I mean it’s just a huge, huge, for a lot of people listening to this, watching this, it’s hugely inspirational, I suggest keep doing what you’re doing —
AARON: It’s just, it’s really more than anything but I appreciate it, it’s just a testament to for people out there, a lot of time you may have this, this perception of this this vision of what success should look like to you, just be open to the possibility that it can change and if you would’ve told me ten years ago that I would find this much happiness and joy with this stupid video camera, I would have punched you in the face coz that’s not what success meant to me then but just keep your eyes open and be open enough and in your, in your thought process and just your, your direction and just understand that some lives’ success doesn’t look like what you expect it to and it can still be as amazing if not more amazing and than what you planned it to be. I’m not doing a good job of explaining it but I think you get the idea. Sometimes, success just doesn’t look like what you expect and it’s amazing.
PAUL: Keep doing what you’re doing and again thanks for taking the time out and, and talking to me today. I appreciate it.
AARON: Paul, you rock!