For those of you who have (somehow) not heard of Nick Santonastasso yet, I’d like you to take mental note of this statement before he becomes a household name: He is hands down the most influential young adult and will hold this title for generations to come.
Upon hearing his story, you will stop making excuses for yourself and start each day with the ambition and positivity Nick showcases each day of his life.
I first met Nick about three years ago; my mom informed me that this young man—that appeared on the screen of my phone while scrolling through videos on my Facebook feed— was a part of our family through marriage. I remember I nodded my head and said, “sweet,” as I scrolled past the footage.
Looking back on that moment, I truly had no idea that this social media figure on my screen and I would form the incredible bond that we have today.
Flash forward to last summer, My phone buzzed in my back pocket, signaling the “text message” notification.
New iMessage From: Nick.
I opened the alert.
Guess who’s moving to Florida???
Nick Santonastasso informed me he just made the biggest decision of his young life and career— to pack up all of his belongings and buy a one-way ticket to Florida.
I stared at my phone and reflected on every moment I had the opportunity to experience with Nick; words alone cannot begin to convey what it is like to experience the motivation that Nick exudes just by being in his presence.
The last time I saw Nick was the night before he moved. We met up for dinner so we could say our see-you-laters before he embarked on his new journey to chase his ambitions all the way to Tampa, Florida.
He sounds like your average 21 year old, but trust me— it would be a disservice to identify him as just that. So what’s the catch?
Born and raised in Bayville, NJ, Santonastasso was born with an extremely rare syndrome called Hanhart, which is the incomplete development either body parts or organs. For Nick, he was born one arm and no legs.
The life expectancy of those who are affected is short; statistically, he should not even be alive, considering he was given only a 30 percent chance to live. There are only 12 individuals recorded in medical history at the time of his birth that were born with Hanhart.
“Of those 12, only four survived,” Santonastasso said. Doctors predicted Nick wouldn’t make it past his 1st birthday; this was first of many presumptions he overcame.
Santonastasso has single handedly curated a lifestyle tailored to his needs in order to focus on his abilities— not his disabilities.
But it’s not as simple as it sounds. In middle school, Nick fell into a depression and despised the fact that he was born this way. At the time, Nick’s right limb’s bone was growing faster than his skin, which limited him to physical activities. he then made the brave decision to amputate a portion of that limb in order to join the wrestling team.
Santonastasso later went on to become the 106 pound varsity wrestler for Central Regional High School where he defied all odds pinned against him.
“I couldn’t understand why I was getting standing ovations, even when I lost,” Santonastasso explained. “Parents in the crowd would approach me to tell me that their son or daughter never wanted to try new things until they saw me wrestle on that mat.”
That ignited a wildfire in Nick that will never cease. This is the first time he realized the impact he had on others by simply living his life to the fullest; he began to wonder how many people he could impact on a larger scale if he shifted his focus to solely that mindset.
If his name is starting to ring a bell, it may be because in high school, he went viral for pranking people on the social media app called Vine. He would dress up as a zombie in department stores to frighten the shoppers and capture their reactions on cellphone footage to upload on Vine.
This was a pivotal stage for Nick because he wanted to find a purpose unique to him behind his condition.
His father, Michael Santonastasso, explained, “Since he was little, he was always finding ways to make his situation positive. I knew pranking probably wasn’t going to last long, but we loved to see him succeed in whatever he put his mind to.”
As his father expected, pranking people ultimately became unfulfilling to Santonastasso, but he continued to do it. He had a substantial following and a crowd to please.
Considering his already-prominent social media presence, he filmed a prank and appeared on an episode of “The Walking Dead.” When he finished filming, he began to reconsider his options and realized his self-value. In turn, this ignited a whole new passion.
“I knew I could be so much more than just a ‘prankster’ or a ‘zombie,’” Santonastasso said, “and that’s why I wanted to shift my career path in a new direction. I wanted to try fitness.”
Upon transitioning his area of focus, the response was uncertain when he started posting pictures and videos of him working out; his current followers were confused at his new content.
“The first year didn’t go well,” he explained, “I was motivational because of my condition, but it wasn’t impressive. I don’t think people knew how serious I was about it.”
It took almost two years of dedication and training in order for Santanostasso to be taken seriously by those in the work-out world, but that perseverance paid off. With his new-found passion taking off, he realized another ambition of his: Key note speaking.
A mission he prioritizes is to instill in people that there should be no excuses when it comes to pursuing dreams and that the only limits you have are the ones you put on yourself.
“The most successful people fail all the time. Every single day,” He explained, “Being fit will never go out of style. Social media and pranking people will. I realized my potential and I want other people to realize theirs.”
In order to fully commit to his vision he moved to Florida where He immediately began to prepare for the “Iron Bay Classic,” a body building competition, where he followed a strict diet and engaged in intense physical training daily.
Just two weeks away from making his competitive body builder debut, he flew out to Las Vegas’ “Mr. Olypmia” expo to meet fans and surround himself with professionals in the body building field.
After the expo one day, Nick found himself in a gym close to his hotel to gear his focus back on training, ironically sharing the space with someone who was there to do the exact same.
That “someone” happened to be Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Nick was minding his own business and focusing on his workout, when he was interrupted by a member of Johnson’s security team. “Dwayne would like to meet you personally,” the man in a suit informed Nick.
Santonastasso describes this moment as “humbling” upon learning that they were mutual fans of each other.
Two weeks later, the day of Nick’s body building debut, Johnson posted a photo on his instagram where he thanked Nick for sculpting his perspective that much more on life.
With almost 400,000 followers on Instagram to date, Santonastasso finally found confidence on this path he chose in order to follow his dreams and creating his own empire that he named, Raw Mettle Enterprises.
Ultimately, it began as an organization name for his key note bookings, but Nick soon created strategic plans lined up in all fields, such as educational programs, modeling, book sales, a clothing line, and much more to come.
Only a short time after curating Raw Mettle, Nick was able to solidify his vision by speaking at the same IMG Expo in New Orleans, where he took the same stage as Gary Vaynerchuck, who can be described as the pioneers in that has mastered and cultivated social media marketing.
So, where can you expect to see Nick a year from now?
His manager, Ratmir Rafikov, 24, envisions successes such as a New York Times Bestselling book, translated so that Nick’s story can be appreciated on an international level, a well-established educational program, and Raw Mettle Enterprises along with Nick’s last name being a household name.
IMAGE TAKEN from Nick Santonastasso’s Instagram