I was in the first month of my new position and excited to dive into our athlete program. For me, there is nothing more satisfying than getting in the trenches and seeing the results of a training program firsthand. The staff that I had come into touted some great resumes. A laundry list of certifications and years of experience working in this very environment. So why was I disappointed with what I saw?
Earlier in my career I fell into a position working closely with an NHL strength coach. I should say that I fell into an introduction with an NHL strength coach and then earned his trust enough to be offered more and more responsibility as his trust grew with me. I always had this self doubt hanging over me though. I didn’t have a degree. I didn’t have any experience working with high caliber athletes. I just didn’t think of myself as someone who could provide value in that type of setting. I talked about that with him and his response changed my perspective on certifications and education all together. The bottom line was that he didn’t care about what was on my resume, he cared about what I could do. And one thing that I could do was coach the hell out of people.
I think about this and how it impacted my career often. Maybe it was my self doubt that allowed me to excel in this position. I went into it with a great deal of humility and a firm understanding that I didn’t know everything I needed to know to be successful. That made me listen intently, observe my surroundings thoroughly, and treat each interaction that I had with my mentor and the athletes as a chance to ask myself what I can do to be better at accomplishing the mission of building on existing skill sets and maintaining health. Every morning I would wake up hours before I needed to in order to set myself up for a successful day. I made sure that I went in to work with a clear and happy mind and a body that was ready to attack demonstrations with the same vigor and precision that was expected from the athletes. I also had a clear and precise objective in front of me that defined my success daily. While I thought I didn’t know everything about the technical side of what I was doing, I was clear on what success looked like for me.
Back to my disappointment. I’m sure you’ve experienced the same feeling. You get a new client that tells you about the years of experience they have working with a trainer. They describe where they are in their training and you program accordingly. Day one of the program comes and you take them through the warm-up. You might see some red flags but chalk it up to the possibility of a little rust on the gears from a week or two off. Movement patterns aren’t looking so hot, body awareness is maybe a little wonky, and the execution of drills is a little lackluster.
“Ok, maybe they need some time to adapt to me and the drills might be new to them.” you think to yourself.
Maybe you’re starting your strength work with a goblet squat and that only brings more surprises. The squat looks like a soup sandwich and appears that the client has no real understanding of the movement, their breathing is all over the place, and it is clear that they just don’t own the exercise in a way that is commensurate with their training age. Oof!
Their previous coach was the bee’s knees! A degree in kinesiology, CSCS, TPI, FMS, XYZ, and a heavy dose of LMNOP. A true all-star on paper! This doesn’t make sense. Or does it?
How do you measure your success in your career?
Is it by your educational experiences? How many certs you can pile up? How many Level 2s, 3s, and 4s you can put after the acronyms following your name on your social media accounts?
Is it by the amount of name dropping you can do in conversations with other pros or clients or the pictures with those names you can post on social media to prove that you were there?
I’ll tell you that I’ve been there. All of those places. And I look back on it with slight embarrassment but more recently an understanding that it might just be part of the learning process for some people. It was for me. I used to think that there was a finish line.
What changed my mindset was that conversation I had with my mentor. To have someone that had reached what I thought was the pinnacle of a career in our field tell me that he didn’t give a shit about my certs, who I worked with, and what my resume looked like really brought me to a new level.
It was then that I stopped caring about all of that stuff and started asking myself day in and day out, “did you accomplish your mission?”. “Did the people you worked with today get better in the ways that will be conducive to them achieving their goals?”.
It was then that I realized that there is not going to be an “I made it” moment in my career. It never stops. The learning, implementing, and rethinking of how I do things will be an endless journey. The best I can hope for is to be able to say that I continued that journey relentlessly to the best of my ability, helped clients and fellow professionals the best I could along the way, and passed the baton off when the time comes for me to buy an RV and travel the countryside with my wife handing out Werther’s Originals to everyone I meet.
My challenge to you is to demand more of yourself than completing a certification or finishing a degree. Demand that you use that information to create systems that work for your clients in a way that positively impacts their betterment and not just allows them to say they get a good sweat in with their trainer. Demand results from your work even more so than your clients do because the truth is they don’t know what to expect more than you do. Work to make them happy, for sure, but don’t settle for anything less than what you know is real success.
I’m lucky for a lot of reasons. One of them is bumping into Todd Bumgardner and Chris Merritt. They don’t put up with my bullshit. They expect more of me than the general standards of our industry and I return that favor. They are my litmus test for whether or not I’m on the mark with my effort and they demand things of me that I probably wouldn’t hold myself to if I were going alone on my journey.
And all three of us are lucky to have the Strength Faction. As a successful business, yes. But more so as a group of professionals that get all of what I wrote about above and expect us to keep driving the boat in that direction. We have a group of coaches huddled in a circle, discussing what is and isn’t working for our coaching, for our businesses, for our lifestyles. These coaches aren’t getting an acronym out of this. Not even a piece of paper. They don’t get CEUs (unless they really want to and submit their experience with us for consideration which has been accepted by all who have gone that route). But that’s ok with them because they aren’t here to check a box, they’re here to continue the mission they set out to do when they chose this profession.
What we are getting out of this is accountability to the standards that we as pros know will get results for our clients, our businesses, and our careers. Everything else is just fluff.
If you’d like to see what I’m talking about, join us for a Monthly Mini-Course. It’s a breakdown of topics that we vote on to dive into. Yes, we vote on the topics. You have a voice! And it only costs a dollar to try out. And for only 50 cents more we will superimpose you into a picture of all of us with one arm around you and a fist up in the other.