So you have a few tattoos. But, what they mean to me is different than how they look to you

Do you know what your tattoos really say about you to others? Because I don’t really care and I’ll tell you why.

Sure tattoos have become more mainstream but there’s still a lot of negative emotions and judgments and the truth is, you have no idea what that art in the form of ink represents for that person.

This is what happens when you judge a book by its cover…

“Say Hello To The Bad Guy”

Bald head, sleeves of tattoos, swears like a sailor, rides a motorcycle like a degenerate, drinks Tequila like a bandit, and hangs out in a gym.

That’s him — you already know this guy, and you see characters like him in the movies all the time. 

You know what he’s about because he’s the bad guy.

The cocky asshole, the dirtball criminal, the dishonest degenerate.
He’s nothing like the good guy. Clean shaven face, every hair styled perfectly, a crisply tailored suit, sleek luxury car, classy martini, successful Wall Street career, and a pearly white smile.

tattoos joey percia

Hey, I’m Joey and I’m Your Stereotypical Bad Guy (pretty much to the T — except I sold my motorcycle 3 years ago.)

This is a story of how I changed the life of a wildly misunderstood, gravely insecure, and severely angry teen and how it may help you overcome issues from your past that you’re struggling with today.

It will peel off the covers to what some consider taboo and how they make me a better son to my parents, brother to my siblings, man to my fiance, and friend to my amigos.

Now I use these same lessons to help people look, feel, and be better people for themselves and everyone in their lives.

My hope for sharing my story is two-fold.

1. Help 1 person.

Maybe it’s by turning your hobby into a career, pursuing something that isn’t considered ‘normal’ or getting away from toxic people that are holding your life hostage.

2. Stop 1 person from making a snarky or judgmental comment about someone else’s personal choices. 

Things like getting a tattoo, your choice of work, or some other unrelated life choice that has a positive impact on your life but is not the first choice of others.

I’m going to touch on dark temptations and pain that I have struggled with in the past. You may have struggled with some of these too — in fact — I know you have, but you don’t have to talk about.

Let This Be Your Warning

This story isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. You’ll probably finish this article and say “Wow, I used to like this guy, but he kinda sucks now.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if I get some hate mail from this, which was a little scary which is why it sat there for 4 months before I hit publish. It sat in the holster collecting dust, but I’m ready to share it with you…

tattoos friends

The guys you see in this picture are a few of the guys that saved my life. I know that may sound crazy to you but a small handful of people who are now good friends of mine shared their stories with me and changed my life.

I’ll tell you about them later, but I honestly think I’d be dead by now if things didn’t happen the way they did. 

Which has been a game-changer for me because for as long as I can remember I’ve felt I would die at a young age.

Pretty screwed up thoughts, right?

I know, but this past year that voice has gotten further and further away and has almost been completely silenced when I am in control. Sure there are times when these things creep back into my mind but I’ve taken strategies and used them to rid these negative thoughts as quickly as possible.

The Day I Sold My Soul

What if I offered to sell you something that will cause you physical pain, make you bleed, and stays with you forever? 

It will draw negative attention from strangers, friends, family, and people you love. People you don’t know will form opinions about you before you open your mouth, and most of these opinions won’t be nice.

O yea, one more thing. You have to pay me for it, and it’s not going to be cheap.

Would you want to buy it? 

It sounds a bit like selling your soul to the devil, doesn’t it? 

According to Statistic Brain, 14% Americans said yes to this mystery item. They estimated 45 million Americans have at least one tattoo. 

I always wanted a sleeve, but grown-ups told me I’ll never get a good job — whatever the fuck that means.  

I think I’m doing fairly well for myself, in fact, I’m doing much better now that I have more visual tattoos. Despite all the grown-ups well-intentioned condescending efforts, I did it anyway.

Despite all the grown-ups well-intentioned condescending efforts, I did it anyway. I sold my soul. 

I got tattooed.

But before I get into what my tattoo’s mean to me and the backstory behind them, it only makes sense to get an idea of where I was coming from.

Let me start from the beginning….

How A Broken Heart Added 50+ Pounds Of Muscle To A 125-Pound Scrawny Weakling And Changed His Life Forever

You know the scrawny kid in high school?

Take the picture you have in your head and shave 20+ pounds off of that stick figure. That was me. Toothpick McGee.

I was an active kid. I played basketball, football, baseball and was a black belt in Tang Soo Do. But in junior high school, I found a new passion, skateboarding. Now I was scrawny a skateboarder but was still friends with the jocks.

They lifted weights, got strong, became more confident, and dated all the girls while I was busy doing kickflips and 360’s.

I weighed 125-pounds soaking wet, what the hell was I going to do chasing girls. I was getting chased by cops for skateboarding on private property.

So I started lifting weights because I never felt like good enough and I was fed up with being number 2.

I was sick and tired of being passed over by every girl I liked, and when you’re a guy who only weighs 125 lbs soaking wet, girls think your “cute” not hot. To make things even worse I was a nice guy. To be blunt about it, I was the master at cockblocking myself.

Do You Remember Your First Love?

I fell head over heels for a girl named Jess, but I wasn’t the type of guy that girls like Jess dated. She was the type of girl who hooked up with real men not little guys like me. I was just a boy.

I put myself in the last place any guy wants to be with a girl he wants to sleep with, “The Friend Zone.”

But we ended up dating…YES Then she went to college a few months later and we broke up…NO! lol

At the time I was devastated, frustrated and furious. I can’t say it was a total surprise but that didn’t make it any less gut-wrenching.


A few weeks before we parted ways

You know that feeling when you drink way too much Tequila and are curled around the toilet bowl hoping you don’t puke your brains out?

Take that feeling and add a kick to the nuts from Chuck Norris, and that’s how I felt.

I don’t care who you are and what you say but you’ll never forget the first time Chuck Norris metaphorically kicked you in the nuts. But thanks to the nut kicking tag team of Chuck Norris and Jess, I’d never been the same, and that’s what started it all.

Just so we are clear, I’m not blaming Jess at all. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Every woman deserves a man that makes them feel safe, empowered, and protected. I wasn’t that man so how could I be that man to someone else.

The Pip Squeak Found Beauty In Chaos, Pain, And Violence

The Modern Day Warrior

When I was 18 I decided I want to be a boxer.

They were tough as nails, looked like Spartan warriors, and could hold their own in any situation.

That’s the man I knew I needed to become. 

I became a student of the game and found beauty in a violent sport of blood, sweat, and tears. I would record my favorite fighters like Pernell ‘Sweet Pea’ Whitaker on VHS replay the same for hours a day until their movements, mannerisms, and thoughts were burned into my memory.

I started going to the boxing gym 5 days a week…

tattoos old boxing

As you can see I still didn’t put on any size, that wasn’t the point.

But My Dreams Were Crushed

Two years into my boxing career a motorcycle accident left me with two broken wrists, a minor case of road rash and a banged up Honda CBR-600.

I still curse that Bambi who cause the accident to this day. 

But you’d be surprised how much you can learn laying on a couch with two broken wrists and every piece of strength and conditioning information you could get your casts on.

I started going to college for exercise science and continue into graduate school. I studied under three world-class strength coaches and was a sponge soaking up every bit of knowledge they were willing to give me.

Over the next few years, I transformed how I looked and performed…

  • my deadlift went from 210 pounds to 600
  • my squat went from 185 pounds to 500 pounds
  • my bench press from 105 pounds to 325 pounds
  • I added over 50 pounds of muscle to my skinny frame

…but how I felt didn’t change much. 

From the outside looking in, my life did a 360.

If you and I were in the movies I would be Joey 2.0 and you’d need to find a new kryptonite.

…but on the inside, there was a different battle going on…

I was the same 125-pound scrawny kid who never felt good enough.

Who felt like no matter what he did it was never enough.

There’s Something Special About Number Two

When you’re not the biggest, smartest, strongest, fastest, best looking or most successful you have to find your angle.

I found mine and learned how to work hard.

I couldn’t afford half-assed effort or not to become obsessed with things I wanted to get really good at.

There was no way I could afford to NOT spend thousands of hours watching videos in slow motion of skateboarding, boxing, lifting, coaching, writing and whatever else I’ve gotten good at.

I learned how to work my fucking ass off because I couldn’t afford to have a poor work ethic.

My angle came from wits, balls, grit, and hustle and I found a way to make it work.

If I wanted to learn a new skill it was a full immersion experience. There was no other way for me to do it, and to be honest, there still isn’t.

Tattoos And The American Dream Of Mediocrity

My parents taught me proper manners and how to be a gentleman but they gave me the freedom to make my own decisions (within reason of course.)

Not only was I a skateboarder, but I worked in a snowboard shop so to everyone else I was considered a punk and a burnout but to add fuel to the fire I took time off college for a cross-country skateboarding trip.

Now I was a deadbeat college dropout, punk, burnout skateboarder #winning

Finally, I grew up and sometime after my trip, I started to accept my fate…

I was going to be an unhappy adult who lives a boring life.

I was ready to work a 9-5, complain about going to work on Monday, look forward to hump day, then pray for the weekend to binge drink my fucking face off.

When Sunday afternoon rolls around, I’ll sober up enough and be miserable the rest of my day because I dread going back to work.

How To Be A Miserable Adult

TV showed me how miserable marriage and relationships were supposed to be so it only made sense for me to turn every relationship into an energy draining chore that was always a few words from blowing up in my face.

I’ve never been diagnosed with depression, so I won’t say I was depressed because my demons are (and were) nothing compared to those who suffer from severe depression.

What I will say is, there have been a few occasions where I deeply contemplated ending my life.

For whatever reason, I didn’t. Instead, I dragged myself out of bed and got really fucking good at covering it up.

Man, I had this grown-up shit figured out.

I had my PhD in bullshitting everyone around me.

I created the ultimate sedation cocktail to fill the black hole inside of me.

I had the perfect mixture of women, drugs, food, sex, alcohol, lying, and cheating.

There was some other stuff sprinkled in too but I think you got the point. see…do you hate me yet?

The Turning Point

My Gut Told Me To

On July 14th, 2015 I spent an uncomfortable amount of money in hopes of changing my life.

To this day I still can’t tell you why I made the commitment, except my gut told me there was no other choice.

I flew to Pacific Beach and spent 4 days with 8 men on the beach strengthening our body and mind, in the mountains working our hearts, in the classroom expanding our brain, and in the ring beating the shit out of each other.

tattoos resurrection week

How do you react when you get punched in the face by life?

I learned more about myself in 4 days than the previous 27 years of my life.

So, on August 19th, 2015, I walked into Daredevil Tattoo in New York City and sat down with the beautifully talented Lara Scotton.

Together we laid out my story which she inked on my arm on February 5th –> and 24 weeks later I was finished with these lessons on me forever. 

The Life Lessons My Tattoos Remind Me Of

#1. Trust Your Gut

The single piece that draws the most attention is by far my favorite piece. 

The piece I feel closest to. The piece that is most important to me.

It’s not an angry dog, it’s a wolf.

The Wolf is my spirit animal. I found it through a guided meditation and I visualized the same wolf over and over and is now tattooed on my arm.

On top of that, I’ve come to fall in love with the parable of Two Wolves.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

The wolf endures stereotypes from outsiders and is often misunderstood. Which is much like I felt for a large part of my life.  Come to realize, you might feel the same.

In reality, wolves are creatures of loyalty, strength, and instinct. They are social animals who live and hunt in groups called packs, which closely resembles a family or brotherhood.

An alpha male and female wolf run the pack and wolves lower in the hierarchy can challenge the alpha wolf for leadership. If the alpha wolf loses they have to leave the pack. Then they become a lone wolf and search for a new mate to start a new pack.

So you see the strongest wolves are in the pack and being a lone wolf isn’t really what it’s cracked up to be. The lone wolf doesn’t have a family or brothers to watch his back.

I thrive off the support, community, family, and brotherhood.

tattoos the pack

I thrive off being in a pack.

The Wolf on my arm is a reminder:

  • Follow my gut
  • Hunt for what I want 
  • The Wolf I feed is the one who will win


#2. Everything Isn’t All Sunshine And Rainbows

Embrace Your Light AND Your Dark

My Buddha tattoo reminds me to embrace both my light and dark sides.

Being empathetic while still standing up for what I believe in and not being a pushover.

It represents enlightenment and reminds me to love myself unconditionally — because If I can’t love myself I can’t expect anyone else to.

Life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows nor should I act like it. I used to get down on myself when I wasn’t feeling good. Then I would get upset about being upset, followed by me getting angry that I was angry.

Then all hell would break loose. Mark Manson calls this the “Feedback Loop From Hell” in his new book ‘The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck.”

#3. Is This What You Really Want?

I’m Blind Without Purpose

Understand where I am right now and have a clear vision of where I want to go, what I want to do, and who I want to do it with.

What are the values that I live by, the man I want to be and the life I want to live?

The creepy looking eye on the inside of my forearm reminds me to know my purpose.

tattoos meditation

I have no idea what I want to do when I grow up.

Right now, I love writing and the feeling it gives me and how I can reach others but it may not always be that way.

All I know is I have to live the life that I want to live, not the life that I think someone else wants me to live.

I still struggle with this.

Somedays I think I should be in a different position that I am now but to be honest I shouldn’t…

I’m in the exact position that I should be in based on all the decisions and efforts I’ve made in my life up to this point. 

^^^ Joey, READ THIS Again and Again and Again ^^^

That’s for future Joey when the top is about to burst with frustration, anger, and disappointment.  

I write a lot of this stuff as reminders for myself because these are the very things I go through in my life and my clients are struggling with too.

#4. Serve Others But I’m Not A Fucking Saint

Bushido means ‘The way of the warrior’

This was the code the Samurai followed.

Samurai were Japanese warriors who lived and died for a cause. They served others before themselves.

They served others before themselves.

The 8 virtues of a samurai included: justice or rectitude, courage, mercy, respect, and politeness, sincerity and honesty, honor, loyalty, self-control.

If you want to read more check out The Bushido Code: The Eight Virtues of The Samurai at The Art of Manliness. 

Growing up, my family was in martial arts for about 10+ years and when I was 17, my parents opened a martial arts supply store called “Bushido Boutique.”

The tattoo on my wrist reminds me of time with my family and to serve others the best I can. 

I don’t have to be a saint but be aware of the people that mean a lot to me and make sure they know about it.

Some people understand love differently:

  • Words Of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Acts Of Service
  • Physical Touch

I never fully grasped this concept until I was gifted “The 5 Love Languages” by John Romaniello and David Dellanave at their Man Camp event in Austin, Texas (which was awesome if you were wondering.)

Treat people how they want to be treated not how I want to be treated.  

#5. A Game of Strategy First and Tactics Second

We All Have The Same Tools At Our Disposal 

The game of Chess gives you the same tools as your opponent, each player starts with 16 pieces…

But one will be more successful while the other will fail.

Chess is a game of strategy (thinking long term) and tactics (thinking short term) and is played by millions of people all over the world.

But why is one person more successful than the other if they start the same exact way?
Do they have an unfair advantage or did the other person use the same exact tools?
Do they have an unfair advantage or did the other person use the same exact tools?

The winner in life and chess is the person who plays with a better strategy and proven tactics.

Success in both areas require equal action and reaction because you can’t win with just one, you need both. That is the chess board.

#6. The Queen, My Most Valuable Asset

The two most important pieces in Chess: The King and The Queen.

To be the most successful at the game, the king needs his queen.

She’s not absolutely vital to winning, but the Queen can move in more ways than any other piece.

She makes the game easier (and better.)

A King can only move one space in any direction.

But he is also the most important.

You must protect your king at all times because once he gets taken the game is over (you die.)


How can you expect to take care of anyone else if you don’t have your own shit together? 

To win at life you become what you deem successful, whatever that may be.

In the short term, you use tactics to get closer to the goal, while strategies focus on your long term plan.

In the past, I taped myself full of grenades and suicide bombed every relationship I’ve ever been in. I won’t get into the details but I wasn’t a great person and I’m willing to admit it. 

But it’s because of my past that I’ll never forget how important my queen is to me.

tattoos kind and queen

My Queen

As I’m writing this I’m remembering a funny and weird thing… Within 1 month of me getting the king and queen tattoo (which was my third session), I found my queen.

#7. Life’s Personal Guarantee To You = You’ll Feel Like Shit

So You Better Be Able To RESET

If there’s one thing for certain it’s everyone has good days and bad days.

Some more than others but the game of life has a reset button if you let it.

You can start from scratch whenever you want because you have two choices:

1. Dwell on things that can’t be changed

2.Look for the lesson and learn from it, so it never happens again.

Yes, shitty things happen but there is an underlying lesson that can be learned in all of them.

I used to hold grudges.

In fact, I still struggle with this to this day, but it’s wasted too much of mine precious willpower and energy.

^^^I really struggle with this…really^^^

But the reset button reminds me to change my perspective, start over, forgive and in some cases forget. I just hit the reset button and start all over.

#8. Love Hard, Then Take A Step Back

And Love Even Harder

The first thing that comes to mind when I see roses is purity, love, and new beginnings.

Real men don’t have emotions, they’re tough and they can handle everything themselves, right?

I hate that I even typed that even though it was sarcastic as hell.

Up until recently, I’ve had a hard time expressing emotion.

To this day I still struggle with it but holy shit have I gotten better.

I’ve had 27 years of practice holding everything in (refer back to my sedation cocktail from hell) and I was like a high-security prison that only 1 person has ever broken out of in the history of the world.

A self-medicated, ticking time-bomb, ready to explode at any moment.

My rose reminds me to never hold back a compliment at the risk of sounding stupid or being ‘too cool’because people appreciate a genuine compliment.

The rose reminds me to love as hard as I can, take that love and do it even harder.

If I feel like I need to cry I’ll fucking cry, and It doesn’t make me less of a man.

Being less of a man would be hiding how I feel, putting up a front, lying, and hurting the people around me that care about me the most.

#9. Never Grow Up

The Best Birthday Gift Ever

What parents get their 14-year-old son a pocket watch for his birthday?

My parents did because I begged them for it.I loved pocket watches.

I can’t tell you why but I think they are cool as hell and I can’t tell you why but I think they are cool as hell (I guess I was a weird kid.)  

The pocket watch on the inside of my bicep is the reminder to never ‘grow up.’

pocket watch

Putting on a suit and tie to go work a job I hate isn’t in the cards for me.

If I can’t laugh, grow, or enjoy myself and the company of others I won’t be happy. Period.

#10. Just Jump

There’s Never The Perfect Time

The time on the watch reads 8:11, and that time will never change.

Do you know why?

This concept took me a long time to grasp but this past year I’ve finally started to get a hold of it.

There will never be a perfect time for something to happen or to do something so there is no point waiting for it.

The number eight symbolizes business, success, and wealth.

It is also a continuous cycle like ‘the snowball effect’ which reminds me that repetitive actions of the right thing will always result in success.

I just have to keep working my ass off and trust the process.

The number eleven is the first master number which represents power, respect, empathy, love, and freedom.

It’s not a matter of “if” it’s a matter of “when.”

Even when it’s a brutally painful and frustrating process.

#11. Have Your Head In The Clouds

And Dream Big 

As a kid, I would play outside and every once in a while when I ran out of energy (which didn’t happen often)…

 I would take breaks by laying on my back and stare at the clouds and I would daydream.

tattoos beach meditation

I don’t remember what I would dream about, but I know I loved doing it.

It was something that made me happy.  

Somewhere along the lines I stopped dreaming and started thinking small.

I started accepting mediocre and “that’s just what people do.” 

The background of the main pieces on my arm are clouds which remind me to dream big and dream hard no matter how old I am.

But It’s ALL My Fault

So What Am I Going To Do About It?

I made the decision to remind myself of the man that I want to be.

I made the decision to openly accept criticism and set myself up for disapproving comments from superficial people.

But here’s the thing…

I know there are others who feel lost like I was and I’ll deal with those comments every single day of my life if that means changing the direction of someone’s life like mine was changed.

This is my way of sharing my story in hopes that it brings value to some else’s.

It might be you or it might be your friend, brother, sister, daughter, cousin, neighbor or coworker. I hope SOMETHING in this story adds value to your life or the life of someone you love.

First, I want to thank you for ready this.

Second I’d like to part with some “insight that I hope you will seriously consider”…

If you don’t like tattoos, please don’t feel the need to tell someone with them.

There is absolutely no good that will come from it, especially when it’s challenging something that most likely has a significant meaning to them.

Please Share This With 1 Person 

If you have tattoos and have felt judged or mistreated.

If you have taken any insight from the article.

If you hate me because of this article 😉 because of it,

…please share this with 1 person…

It can be on your Facebook wall, a personal email, a message, etc.

The ink on my arm may seem like a silly and juvenile decision to you, but it’s obvious that it means something to me.

If that isn’t clear to you by now, I’m sorry but I don’t know what to say.

If you know someone who has struggled with something similar please pass this article along to them.

Unfortunately, at this time I’m not articulate enough or a good enough writer to get my point across any better than I have and for that, I apologize.

If you got this far, from the bottom of my heart, Thank you.

 I Appreciate You,
– Joey ‘Make America Strong Again’ Percia

PS. If this article hit home and you’d like to learn more about my coaching program which I cover the 4  pillars of living life like a badass = CLICK HERE 

Your body is the gateway to health, happiness, and growth in all other areas of your life and without and strong, healthy, and confident body you’re not performing anywhere close to your potential. Which exactly what I’ll teach you how to do in my Average To Action Hero Mastermind.


I want to express the warmest and deepest love and gratitude to the follow people…

My family for always supporting me no matter what stupid decisions or trouble I would get into (Momma Percia, Poppa Percia, Matt, Dina.)

John Romaniello who I look up to as a friend and mentor and has taught me so much about business, life, and power of writing beautiful words. John has openly shared his struggles with depression which really hit home for me before we even met and I can’t think of anyone else I would have wanted to marry Lauren and me.

Luka Hocevar for being a key player in Ressurection Week, a huge inspiration, and becoming a friend I look up to.

Steve Krebs for pushing me to grow, believing in me, and pushing me to double down on myself

Bret Contreras and Andrew Serrano for creating some damn good memories, and being two amazingly down to earth dudes.

Dan Meredith for your lolz, support, willingness to share your story, and life-changing insight that has opened up my eyes to more than you know.

Mike Samuels for being a down to earth dude and helping me make my words sound better so people would read this far.

Mike Vacanti for being a serious bro, an awesome roommate, and helping me grow in different ways.

Jordan Syatt for allowing me to cuddle with him, talk about lifting heavy things, being an all-around awesome bro and letting me tell deep dark pains to.

Andy Frisella for being a mentor of mine through his MFCEO podcast for over a year and has openly shared his troubles with depression, how he deals with it, and how he dominates life.

Donovan Owens for staying tight after Ressurection week and always being there to bounce ideas off of and help in any way possible.

Dariusz Stankiewicz for coming to a random seminar with me called ‘Changing The Game,’ which changed my life and kickstarting our amazing friendship.

Chris Coulson for being a kind-hearted, hard-working, and selfless friend.

Lauren, for being my rock, my better half, and the most loving person I’ve ever met in my life. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you and I couldn’t have imagined I would find the perfect partner to go through life with.

And last, but certainly not least YOU, for reading, listening, caring, and being a part of my life.

I love and appreciate you.


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