RV: So I want to let you know right up front that you are meeting this next gentleman at the same time that I am Nick Santonastasso is who you’re about to hear from. And pretty much everyone else on this summit is someone I’ve known for years. We’ve helped them with book launches, we’ve helped them do podcast interviews, you know, they’ve helped me, whatever.
But Nick and I just crossed paths actually a few weeks ago and this guy is absolutely incredible. He’s just an amazing human with an amazing message. And he also has turned it into quite an amazing brand. So he was born with something called Hanhardt syndrome only at the time that he was born. I think only he was the 12th case of Hanhardt syndrome that was diagnosed in the world. And he’s really, I think only like one to four people with it that is living.
RV: And it basically is a rare birth defect that has left him with no legs and undeveloped right arm and a left arm with only one finger, but he was a wrestler in high school a singer. And musician. He’s been a bodybuilder. Like there’s pictures of him with the Rock. He speaks all over. I watched some of his videos. He was so inspiring. He actually has the word ‘inspired’, tattooed on his torso.
And I’ve just been blown away with this guy. And one of my friends, you know, one of our clients and friends, John Ruhlin introduced us. And then one of my other good friends, said that Nick is the most inspiring person he’s ever met. So Nick, thanks for making some time for us, man. Hey brother, I’m grateful for the opportunity and I’m glad we crossed paths and have a lot of mutual friends that are also really amazing people.
RV: So shout out to them. Yeah, yeah. Amen. Those are, those are really good people. And you know, I think Brand Builders Group is all about reputation, right? Like that’s what we study – reputation. We try to like understand what creates it. I think the people that you surround yourself is probably a, probably a part of that.
Just before we dive into like your personal story, I’m curious, when you hear the word reputation, what do you think about, like do you, what have been your philosophies on reputation? Why does it matter? Is there anything like in terms of how you would define it, like just what’s your, what’s your kind of free flow thought on, on what reputations? All of them.
NS: Yeah, that’s a great question. Reputation, what comes to mind is you know, how do people, how do people know how you show up or how do people view you or what is the first thing that comes to mind when they think of your name? Or is there a certain slogan or is there a certain picture that they get painted in their head for that reputation?
What I’ve realized is that, you know, one of my core values, not only in a personal life but in business life is his longevity. And so, you know, I think that a lot of people are trying to get quick fixes. And so it’s like, what can I get out of this collaboration? Or what can I get out of this person or what can I get at this post, whatever it may be. But for me, I am more interested in longevity relationships.
NS: So I’m here to continuously provide value to someone that I want to be in my inner circle. I continuously want to nurture that relationship. And so with reputation, it’s just like who do you, who do you show up as and do you show up at the same person each and every day or it, or is it not congruent? Is it not congruent to who you are behind the camper? I mean, you know, reputation to me is just like what do people think and what do people remember you when you showed up? Like who are you? And, and my thing is not really longevity, but authenticity and transparency.
You want to know how to build a brand. It’s being authentic and it’s being transparent, especially in a world where there’s not many authentic, transparent people nowadays, especially with social media. I mean we see highlights grow, we see, we see all the good stuff and you know, everybody’s just, you know, hosting or highlights. But how you build a real fan base and you know, a fan base that really cares for you is you open up about this, the stuff that you struggle with because we all struggle with something.
RV: So I wanted to talk to you about that. Cause you know, like you’ve been featured in all this major media, you’ve met celebrities, traveled the world, you speak. I mean some people might look at some of that as pretty glamorous, but I have to think that, you know, growing up and along the way, just having the condition that you have there had to have been some times that were pretty dark and pretty challenging.
And why did you choose to come become so public, you know, with something that was, you know, had to have a share of difficulties what caused you to like, just kinda like become such a public figure with that?
NS: Absolutely. So, yeah, it wasn’t always always like this. You know, in my middle school and high school days, I, I struggled, you know, I struggled with that victim mentality of the why me, you know, why do I have to be born like this? It pissed me off. I didn’t get it. I was always focused on all the negative, all the things. And you know, even with girls, I always tell people girls were my biggest suicidal trigger.
You know, as humans we crave energy, whether that’s masculine energy or whether that’s feminine energy. And for me, I didn’t get that feminine energy that I wanted or that I craved. And you know, there was, you know, comments that girl said to me that really stuck with me and just made me feel like I was just this disgusting person. Right? And so the one thing I realized is that man, you only get one body mic and you don’t like feeling this way.
NS: So what are you going to do to get out of that? You know, what are you going to do to, you know, get out of this slump you’re in. And I was, I’ve had suicidal thoughts, but I never followed through in them. I knew, you know, the negative, what a negative wave that would lead my parents and my family and everyone if I took my life. And so that was, it was, it was a thought, but it wasn’t something that I was going to do.
And so, you know, I was trying, I was working on building this person. I needed to start, you know, building my confidence. I needed to start building my mindset in the things that I thought about and focused on. Right? Like we’re focused those energy flows. And so, you know, when I got into high school, I was looking for a way out.
NS: I was looking for know, a coping mechanism per se or you know, a sport or an extracurricular activity. And that was when, you know, I got into bowling at first, one of my best friends, he wrestled his whole entire life, but he decided to bowl his freshman year and we’ll still, I just texted him like, we’re still best friends to this day. And I did bowling and I realized that it wasn’t for me and I wanted something that was going to push me physically, you know, much more physically and mentally.
And my older brother was a wrestler and you know, Dan went back to wrestling his sophomore year and all my best friends are wrestlers. And so I wanted to become a wrestler. And at the time, this arm, this right limb was about five inches longer than it is now. My bone was going faster than my skin, so it was like your finger, but super sensitive and I couldn’t really touch it on anything.
NS: And so, you know, I told my friends I can’t, I can’t lose my arm. You know, I can’t, if I hit my arm hard enough, my bone is going to come through my skin, you know, I can’t wrestle. And then you can always tell people we have ideas and sometimes we blow ideas off. And then we started marinating on those ideas, right? Like figuring out, you know, how am I gonna accomplish this?
You know, what’s in my way. And so, you know, I presented the, the decision to my parents. I said, you know, can we cut? Can we amputate my arm? Can we cut some of my arm off so I can rest wrestle? And you know, they were like, dude, are you serious? And I’m like, yeah, you know, this is something that I really want to do. It’s only going to better the quality of my life anyway.
NS: I’ll be able to do more physical activities with it. And so my sophomore year, my parents went ahead and scheduled my amputation to amputate my arm. And you know, that was just for a chance to Russel, it wasn’t even like a definite chance. That was just a chance to wrestle. So it was two things. It was to better the quality of my life, but to be, but to have the chance to becoming a wrestler.
And so, you know, the question that we can all self reflect on real quick and I’ll get more into it, is, you know, what, what are the things that we need to cut off, you know, to be successful. Hopefully it’s not a limb like me, but what are the limiting beliefs? What are the stories we replay ourselves? What are the things that we focused on that we need to cut off?
NS: What are the people we need to cut out of our life that are holding us back? And so that’s something that the viewers can, you know, self reflect on. But wrestling started my journey in the building who I am now and, and that built my confidence. You know, because I was a kid that thought you’re either born with confidence so you didn’t have it.
But I realized that confidence was a skill. And so, you know, how we build confidence is, is keeping our promise within ourselves. So every time that we commit to something, every time we commit to a goal or commit to something that we want to accomplish, and we don’t do it, we, we lower the wa, we lower our value, we lower our R, we diminish our self value, the way we view ourselves, the relationship we have within ourselves. Because we said we were going to do something and we didn’t do it.
NS: And so how to build confidence is simply making these little promises to yourself, making these little, these little micro challenges to yourself. And when you hit them, you’re not only physically applaud yourself but you mentally applaud yourself. And so when you continuously do that and you build that muscle up, you’re confident, you’re confident in your ability, you know when you say you’re going to do something, it gets done.
You know your work ethic, you know that your self integrity. And so wrestling from going from a JB wrestler to a varsity wrestler too, you know, beating two kids my my senior year from zero these are the things that started building my confidence and allowed me to put myself out on the internet.
RV: Yeah. That I loved that idea that I was just, I, I know we don’t have much time so I was trying to cover as much as no, that’s good. No, I mean we haven’t, we have, we have some time. We have a little bit of time, but I love what you were saying about the confidence piece of that, of that, you know, it’s just keeping comes from keeping promises to ourselves. And I don’t think, I mean I think people think of continence, like you said, as either something you have or you don’t.
And that’s such a great way to be able to, to develop it. So so why do you think you have such a great, like such an engaged following? And, and I mean, I, I mean clearly, you know, you look different from many people, but there’s, there’s a lot of people that have some type of, you know, something that they’re dealing with and people you know, support you and they cheer for you rabidly. You know, w what do you think it is about how you interact with people that’s kind of created that.
NS: So first and foremost, I want to thank you for that compliment because actually, you know, in my head I’m like, it’s not good enough. You know, like, my fan base isn’t good enough and they aren’t loyal enough and they’re not, you know, supporting me. Not in a bad way. I’m not saying this in a bad way, I’m just saying that I know like, and I want to be like, put this out there to be transparent in the way that I think, you know, I have, I have a friend, I’m a won’t mention her name.
I have a friend and she has like probably half of my following and her fan base is just like Colt man. Like she, anything she does, it sells out. Like, like I look up to her and so, you know so thank you for the compliment. But internally I’m like, man, it could be greater.
NS: It could be a greater bond. But I think that, you know, from early on how I started was doing zombie primes. Like, so when I was a senior in high school the app vine came out and everybody was like, dude, you know, vine is amazing. And I got to the point where I was like, man, I’m just going to put myself on the internet and you know, maybe I can make people laugh, but I want to inspire them to [inaudible] everything with my content is always, I have an intense, like I, I want to inspire people in a certain way.
I want to talk to them in a certain way or they a message in a certain way. And so I posted my first zombie prank where basically my goal was to just dress up as the zombies here, someone and then have someone look on the phone when they watched it and go, wow, look how comfortable Nick is in his body.
NS: Maybe I could be a little bit more comfortable mind and also take an approach that no one’s ever did before. No one’s ever done this zombie pranks like me. Right? And so I was the pioneer. And so when I did that, the [inaudible] like it blew up like it was, it was one of the biggest videos people I’ve ever seen on vine. I gained 50,000 followers in a day.
You know, over 80,000 likes and reposts on the video in under a day. Like it was crazy and it was the combination of using my, you know, my unique body, my unicorn body and doing something that has never been done but you know, in an inspiring way. And you know, I literally, it was, it was just crazy. I labeled the video just zombie prime. There was like, vine was just very like, just no descriptive, just Oh, zombie praying.
NS: And so I labeled it that and I caught on and I saw, you know how, how viral it went. But the one thing I want to touch on is it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. The majority of those, those comments were bad. Like they were negative. Like the, the, the demographic of vine was children.
And so me being a child myself, 18, 17 years old, you know, I had to build the muscle up of either not reading comments or not letting them affect me. And I hated when my parents read comments too because there were negative, there was so negative comments. And so, you know, the evolution of me, it was, you know, used to go back at these people, right? I used to focus on the negative and focus on the negative comments. And then I built, I built my social media in under a year I gained a million follower.
NS: I’m doing these cranks and that was at the same time where, you know, vine was going downhill and everyone was transferring the YouTube. And to be fully honest, I wasn’t ready to transfer to YouTube. Like I was just like, man, I’m good at posting six second videos. But then people started importing their vines and editing ’em and I was like, I can’t keep up with that. And so I kind of fell off the track.
And so, you know, after vine collapsed and after vine was no more I kind of was at a place in my life. I was like, okay, Nick, like, what’s next? You know, you can’t just, you know, you made this name for yourself and people love you for your pranks. Like, what are you going to do now? And you know, I made an announcement. I said, guys, guys and girls, that doesn’t fulfill me anymore.
NS: You know, doing the pranks, it doesn’t fulfill me anymore. I want to be fulfilled. You know, Tony Robbins says, success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure. Like you can have all the money in the world, but if we don’t do something that makes us feel good inside, it makes us feel fulfilled. What was the empty? And so I made the decision, you know, I, I took a step back from the pranking the industry because I also realized that people were just viewing me as a joke.
You know, like I didn’t just want to be viewed as like not serious, you know, I wanted something next level. And so I went to LA, I went broke in LA trying to do pranks and stuff, and I moved back home and I, and I was like, analyzing industries. I was like, all right, what’s next? And so I was analyzing industries and I looked at, I looked at the fitness industry and I said, well, there’s no guy with no legs and one arm a bodybuilder.
NS: You know, if I get in and I wasn’t in good shape, like that’s the thing I sold the vision way ahead. That’s what the one of my strengths is. Like I can paint a vision in my head and see it so clearly and people may not see it, but I’m like, I’ll get there. Like I’ll figure it out. Like these are the steps. And so, you know, I started, I told everyone, I said, I’m going to become a body builder.
I’m going to become a model and I’m going to become a keynote speaker and I don’t know how I’m going to do these things, but these are the things I’m going to set out to do. And so, you know, I started fitness videos and people to follow me and they were like, dude, you were like, what are you doing? Like how are you to become a bodybuilder?
NS: Like this is stupid, you know, we followed you for your pranks, all this stuff. But remember that it didn’t fulfill me. I was, I wanted to do something that fulfilled me. And so my knowledge and training got better. My knowledge of nutrition got better and my disease, those people go like, like that was like, cause that’s a pretty big, like some of our clients that we talked to are more in what we would call, like someone starting out, we call it brand identification, but then we have some clients that it’s brand reinvention. It’s more like they’re trying to make a pivot.
And that was a, that’s a pretty big pivot from zombie prankster to fitness model. And so you just like one day, like went cold Turkey and just started posted, posted fitness and health advice. Is that what happened? Yeah, so basically when I, I went to LA and I was I was supposed to be a prankster of a core cast show that they were coming out with.
NS: And I moved to LA and two weeks after I signed my lease, they canceled the show. So I went home in LA and so I moved home and it was kinda like, now I don’t view it as that, but it was like a failure for me. And so I came home and it was just like recalibrating. I was like, all right, what is something else that I can take over that people would take me a little bit more serious?
And I always end, I always looked up the people that were in shape. And so my thought process was, well, you can’t buy a fit body. You can’t, you can’t buy a fit body and you can’t wake up with it one day. So if people see, if I, if I commit so long to getting in good shape, people would be like, Oh my God.
NS: Like how, like I wanted to get to the point where I took my shirt off at the pool instead of feeling unconfident, people were like, how the hell does that kid look like that? You know? And you know, I pictured myself, I was like, man, you know, if I could be on a fitness magazine, how inspiring is that? If I can land covers and maybe I can land supplement sponsors and make money like that and do photo shoots, like that was my vision.
And I knew that it was more inspiring and it also went handed down with speaking. I was like, man, I can tie that into motivational speaking. But the speaking thing was even on my radar. And so, you know, I told my parents about that, that pivot and you know, like I said with fitness, like I can’t just be Jack one day or can’t just be stranded like one day it takes some time.
NS: And so I had to like fully commit and believe in myself and like really just like keep that vision in mind. And so, you know, I, I lost a lot of followers and I remember I was starting my Instagram off with 25,000 followers and I was posting these fitness videos and known people were like, dude, this is stupid. Like, I don’t like your fitness videos. Like, what are you doing? But I just kept going.
I was persistent and then, you know, maybe I finally got a video where it looked cool and I was lifting like good amount of weight. And so I would pay the biggest Instagram bodybuilding account, $400 a post. I didn’t have $400 to spend, but I was finding $400 to post. So people can, so I can get a bigger outreach. And so I was PR, I was paying these accounts to post me, I was gaining followers.
NS: And then it got to the point where I didn’t need them anymore because when I posted something, there was so many eyes that, you know, it would get shared and it would get shared all overnight, gain more followers. And maybe I had leverage with my followers to do cross collaborations where I didn’t have to pay as much anymore. And so I grinded my way up. Like I grinded my way up in the bodybuilding world. Like people aren’t following me. I paid for people to see me. I paid me for my videos again in front of people. Wow.
RV: So I appreciate you sharing. That’s very honest. Like you, I mean, I think there’s so many elements,
NS: But I paint. Yeah, I paint.
RV: Yeah, but just the exposure. You didn’t pay for fun. You didn’t buy followers, but you bought exposure. That’s something that we tell people don’t, you know, don’t buy followers, but by exposure, that’s what everybody does. And that’s what every media, movie, TV show, every Superbowl commercial. I mean, they’re, they, they’re paying for exposure. And how bold of you and I think it’s fascinating to me, Nick, of just how number one, you know, your whole philosophy is built on longevity.
Yet, you know, the, the, the health situation that you’ve been battling, like you’ve taken that and said, you know, like, screw that, I’m, I’m going to be about longevity. And then you also said, you know, I’m not fit like, but if I could do that, it’s like you took the thing that you should have been able to do and you went after that thing and said, because it’s the thing I’m not supposed to be able to do. I’m gonna make that my thing. And if I do, people will pay attention. And that’s inspiring and it fricking worked.
NS: Yeah. Well, like I said, I mean, you know,
NS: Even, even now, brother, I’m, I have a lot of plans. Like speaking isn’t just it, right? Like you’ll see here and you know, a couple of months, like I’m, I’m dabbling in different things because I look at the industry and I go, well, how can I bring my uniqueness to the industry? And for people to say, people probably listening like, Oh well it’s easy for him to say he has no legs of an arm. I mean he stands out. But like there is something in you that makes you stand out and that something and don’t, and don’t compare my story to your story. All of our stories are amazing.
The things that people need to realize that we all need to realize is like all the things that you don’t want to talk about on social media. You don’t want to shine the light on. When you do, when you open it up about those stories, that’s when you’ll get your people to connect with you on a deeper level because you’ve been through the same stuff that they’ve been through.
NS: You know, there’s so many people who are holding back and they don’t want to go through the things that they struggle with or their darkest demons. But when you open up in an authentic, transparent way and you show people what you’ve struggled with and how you come at that site, you build a following. And so for me, like now that the way that I view my life is like.
if I share this story or if I get on this podcast or if I get on this interview and share this and this and this has the ability to help someone, then I’m in because there’s going to be someone that resonates with that message. Someone that’s out there that never thought you went through some stuff and you open up about it and they’re like, man, I connect with the sign a totally deeper level where that girl and they trust you more and right. Building your brand is all about having people trust you. And how you get people to assess you is you need to show up authentic and transparent and people will call you out on your BS if you slip up.
RV: I think that that is so powerful and so true that the more that you open up about that, it’s, it’s like the more visceral the connection is between people. So I think if, if you, you know, looking back like you said, you know, you started your Instagram account with 25,000, is there anything that you would’ve done differently to grow your following either faster or differently or more engaged? Like, like going back and doing it over again?
NS: Yeah, I would, would’ve, I would’ve been more proactive on commenting back to every single person. I would’ve commented back to every single person. I’m more engaged in my DMS. So, you know, people don’t expect, you know, influencers or people to reply back. And so when you do, you’re not only standing apart, but that person will remember that. Like, whether you think it or not, like whether you don’t think you’re cool or not. Like when you reply to someone in the time and if something they remember that maybe they might go post it on their story or maybe it’s a hard post cause they’re just such a big fan of you.
But I would be more proactive in replying to everyone. Everyone’s the M and, and for the influence out there that may or may be on a bigger scale, maybe that’s something that you need to outsource or have people pick up on your lingo and start replying for you just so you’re more engaged with your followers because it gets to the point where there’s not enough time in the day.
NS: No way. There’s not enough time in the day, but you know, getting someone that knows how you talk that, you know, you only say a certain thing. So it’s not deviating from what you would say and making sure that you’re commenting back to everyone. Regardless of if the Tate or not like throw a little heart on a hate comment. Like who cares? You know, like and so just being more proactive on that and also just collaborating, you know, collaborating is still key.
You know, right now, I mean, I could be doing more collaborations and, you know, you can always be doing more collaborations and there’s always someone with less followers that’s inclined to more inclined to, you know, collaborate with you. And there’s someone that is, you know, maybe at the same level in a collaborate with you. And then there’s people that are higher up and maybe up to do a little bit more for that collaboration. But I’m always seeking out people in your industry or in your niche or whatever it may be that are congruent with what you put out and collaborate with people because everybody, everybody loves cross pollination of followers.
RV: And what, when you meet, collaborating, like, can you expand on that, on that, that
NS: I’m saying, Hey, you know, let’s do a video together or, you know, maybe I don’t, I don’t, I don’t do much of this, but Hey, like can you throw this up on your story and offer something up on my story? Or you know, shout, shout out for shout. I mean unbind it was, it was the evolution of, of vine for Irvine, right? So you can repose vine so someone repost your vine and you’d repost their vine.
On Instagram maybe it’s collaborating or also there’s engagement groups. So I engage in groups within you know, just reach out and see if those engraves engagement groups. So what that is is there’s group chats in DM, so when you post a piece, you put it in his group and you have a bunch of people commented on it right away because within the first 45 minutes of that post as much engagement as you get is going to spike the algorithm and get you to possibly the discovery page.
But within that first minute to 45 minutes, I think it’s very crucial that you apply to every comment that you’re super engaged and like in the engagement groups have, have other people comment on your stuff. But like, like I said, if I start all over, I would be more proactive in replying to all the comments. And I’m not only does that build a relationship with your supporters, but when people see that there’s 500 comments rather than two 50, because of your $5 to 50, it makes it look better.
RV: Yeah. Interesting. Commenting and collaborating. Those are, those are, those are, those are, those are pretty cool tips. So man, this has been inspiring to hear your story. Informative to like understand some of your process. Where do you want people to go if they want to, if they want to stay connected to you and like follow your journey and see how and even just watch like what you’re doing.
NS: Yeah. So my S I’m on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn at Santa Ana Sasso. And then my website also is you know, book make santo.com you can go there or a, my mind of a victor.com. And so basically this is where people can follow me. But like I said, I’m, I’m the guy with the really long last name, not just in a leg. So,
RV: Well I think, you know, it’s one of the things I love about you is, is there, I feel like there’s been several reasons and several opportunities to disappear quietly and sort of like retreat back and you’ve done the opposite. You’ve come forward. Whether it’s as a public figure or sharing things, you know, if there’s somebody out there right now, Nick that’s watching this and you know, maybe they have, they have the desire, they have that dream too.
They want to impact millions of people and what they want to speak, they want to influence, but they’re dealing with some of those demons, you know, maybe they’re in kind of that stage that you were when you were in like high school. What would you, what would you say to that person now having been through what you’ve been through?
NS: Yeah. You know, so many people are trying to do seek validation or significance from other people, you know, other relationships or looking at other things. When the biggest relationship, the most important relationship we should be working on is within ourselves. And so that’s working on ourselves. That’s building confidence, that’s making promises with ourselves and following through on them. That’s bettering our foundation, which is our body, our health, you know, health as well. Health is number one. And you can’t build an empire.
You can’t build some amazing thing if you don’t have the health, if you don’t have the foundation. And so it’s working on yourself and once you feel confident enough to put yourself out there, then you, then you do it. But you know, share the things that you know, people don’t know or share the things that you’re comfortable with that you struggle with and how you overcame them because that’s how you’re going to connect to the audience
RV: Or whoever you’re speaking to. Because like I said, you know, in the world we live in nowadays, there are not many transparent, authentic people. And so if you can show up on social media, if you can show up on the videos and share, you know, authentically about what you’ve been through, that’s how you really connect with people. And those people will, will follow you and, and ride or die with you regardless of what you post.
They’ll just love you for you because you show up authentic and transparent. I love it. Man, thank you so much for your story and for your persistence and just your, just your perspective on everything we are. We’re cheering you on and we’re learning from you and following you and I hope, I hope we get a chance to meet in person sometime soon. Mr. Sounds good, brother. Grateful for the opportunity. Thanks for having me.