How did this man eat an airplane?

 Michel Lotito was an extraordinary man. This elegant Frenchman had a love for food and a fondness for eating unusual objects like bicycles, shopping carts and televisions. His odd appetite earned him the nickname Monsieur Mangetout (Mr Eat Everything).

I first heard of Lotito when he consumed a Cessna 150 airplane. The fact that somebody would eat a plane is bizarre to say the least and I can’t really tell you why he did it.

However, can tell you how he did it. Oddly enough, his approach to eating a plane can go a long way to helping you build your massage practice.

Doing the impossible…

Before we look at how Michel was able to eat a plane, let’s talk about building your massage practice. The two are very much related. Yes, I know it takes a mental leap to go from an airplane to your massage table, but stick with me.

The reason I even bring this up is that a lot of therapists scoff at some of the claims I make. I say things like,

  • You can get 60 new clients in 60 days
  • There’s no reason why you can’t make $60,000 a year
  • You can easily double your business

For therapists who are barely scraping by and who have tried building their massage business in vain, those claims sound ludicrous. They sound as impossible as eating a plane. But if you take some lessons from the plane-eating Frenchman, you’ll see that having a successful massage business is in fact extremely doable.

So how do you eat a plane?

I’ll be the first to admit that Lotito was a little strange. He suffered from pica, a psychological disorder in which people compulsively eat non-food items such as dirt and plastic. Lotito’s condition was first diagnosed around the age of nine, when he started munching on parts of the family TV set.

To make a long story short, he came to realize that he could turn his compulsion into a career and became an entertainer of sorts. He ate beds, chandeliers, television sets through the years until turning his attention to this little baby…

… a Cessna 150 airplane.

Which brings us to the question: How do you eat an airplane? Seems impossible, doesn’t it?

Not if you eat it one bite at a time, apparently. And that’s just what Lotito did. He chopped the plane up into tiny bits. Parts small enough that he could swallow them easily. Each day he ate about two pounds of tiny plane pieces. And after two years…

…it was gone!

What this means for your practice…

Oftentimes when we look at growing our practice the task seems insurmountable. How do you increase your sales an additional $30,000 a year, for example?

To increase your sales that much means an extra 500 hours of massage for the average therapist. That is 12 ½ forty-hour workweeks! How do you do over 12 weeks of massage non-stop?

And that’s exactly the kind of thinking that hangs you up and stops you from moving forward.

Instead of looking at your “massage plane” and saying it’s impossible to consume. Start breaking it down into manageable chunks.

$30,000 means about 500 hours of massage per year. That means about 40 hours of massage per month. Ten massages per week. And only two massages per day.

Lotito ate two pounds of metal a day to reach his goal. Could you do an additional two massages a day to reach your goal?

Sure! Now that seems entirely possible. You could even relax on the weekends and take two weeks holiday per year.

Now it’s a matter of determining how you get the equivalent of two extra massages in per day.

  • You could raise your prices 10%. It’s a small amount, but it’s a bite. And it makes a difference. If you saw just ten clients a week, raising your prices by just 10% would be the equivalent of doing 50 more massages per year without any additional hands on work.
  • You could ask existing clients to upgrade from a 60 minute to a ninety minute massage. For every two people who upgrade, you add the equivalent of another hour of massage revenue.
  • Get new clients. Whether you choose to believe it or not, they are out there. There are not enough therapists to meet consumer demand. I’m involved in a large think tank this fall with major stakeholders in the massage profession to try to find some solutions for getting more people to take up massage as a career to fill the need. There is a clear shortage of massage therapists.

If you are having difficulty getting clients, it’s not because they don’t exist. You just need a little marketing knowledge to reach them. Unfortunately, a lot of what you’ll learn about massage business and marketing in school and from the “massage gurus” is just plain outdated and ineffective. Welcome to the 21st century… 11 years later!

There are innovative, unconventional, but super simple systems that will allow you to easily get at least one new client per day, like my 60 Clients in 60 Days strategy (shameless plug). Every one of those clients has the potential to be an ongoing weekly client, to refer others to your practice, or to purchase gift certificates from you.

Clients seem to dribble or float into your practice. The workload is entirely bearable. The process completely painless. There’s no big drama. You work through the process just a bite at a time.

And then it happens…

…the impossible becomes reality! Your “massage plane” has been eaten!

So learn from the crazy Frenchman. Refuse to get overwhelmed. Break your goals down into manageable bite-sized pieces and take little actions every day to get where you want to be in your career. The impossible will become possible.

Take care,

Eric Brown, Grand Massage Poobah

PS If you need help getting clients, seriously give the 60 Clients in 60 Days a try and follow it to the letter. It is super simple and it works. Anyone can do it:

Eric Brown of BodyworkBiz (an online massage business resource) also owns Thermal Palms, Relax to the Max, World Massage Conference and Massage Therapy Radio. Sign up for the free BodyworkBiz massage marketing newsletter at


You can now find me on Twitter @ericupsidebrown
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