(This lesson comes to you from Mike Fucking Connelly, The Iron King of Chicago. It’s Part 1 in a 3 part series on how he’s integrated the book Extreme Ownership into his coaching, business and life. Go fuckin’ get ’em, Mike!)

Factionistas!  Our fearless leaders have given me the opportunity to share a little something with you and I’m pretty pumped about it to say the least.  Why am I so pumped?  Because I love sharing information that has helped me and what I’m going to share with you today was, at the risk of being cliche, a game-changer for everything I do professionally.  Actually, it touched all the bases in my life.  Yep, it was a fucking homerun!  


Todd brought his Barbell and Beyond seminar to Rebell last year.  First off, if you haven’t attended this workshop, you should jump on it when you get the chance.  The “Art of Coaching” (I think he stole that from Dan John) talk he gives is worth the price of admission alone.  It’s straight money!  Secondly, if you haven’t noticed, Todd is one well-read sonofabitch.  This surprised me because he doesn’t look that smart.  One of the books he suggested was Extreme Ownership: How Navy Seals Lead and Win.  


Of the many books he suggested over the weekend this was at the bottom of my list to read because I’ve read a lot of books by Seals and I just wasn’t sure I needed to read about how bad-ass they were or how tough their training was because I had read it all before.  As Todd promised though, this book was different.  


In short, the authors break down their leadership into twelve pillars, explain to you how monumentally they fucked things up in combat, explain what they learned from that, and then apply it to a business setting.  Honestly, it’s pretty rad and refreshing to read a business book that is not inflated with ego and catch phrases.  


So this is the first in a series of blogs that will report to you how those pillars impacted my training and my business.  I’m going to give you the basics and breakdown how I see this applies to some aspect of training or running a business.   


Here we go!


Pillar One: Extreme Ownership


It is important to start here because the first thing we must do in order to become great is to take responsibility for everything we do.  Everything.  This sounds simple because the immediate things we think about when we talk about responsibility are the things we do directly.  If you’re not an asshole, this is a pretty easy task.  


For example, “I’m sorry I got drunk and shaved your dog.”  Easy, right?  That only covers the half of it though because as trainers we are leaders.  Yes, we are leaders of people whether you like to look at it that way or not.  And as leaders, we are responsible for everyone to which we provide service.  


So what does this mean?  


Well, you know that client that doesn’t follow directions well, comes ill-prepared for class, and never does anything that you ask them to do outside of the gym?  Yep, your fault.  


Remember when your employee told your client that they should try one more really heavy set of back squats before having a doctor check out that excruciating back pain they had been experiencing?  Yep, your fault too.  


How about that time that you were hosting a local powerlifitng meet and the chairs for spectators arrived a day late.  You’re a dick.  


Some of these things really happened to me (what?!  The dog looked like it was going to have a fucking heat stroke!) and when they did I was more than happy to point every direction but mine.  I mean, I told my coaches to not train clients through pain.  I had several talks with my client about her laziness and lack of attention during class.  And for God’s sake I ordered those chairs with a very specific delivery date!  How could it be my fault?!  


Here’s the thing, if I put the blame on someone else then I lose an opportunity to get better at what I do.  If I point the finger at my client then I lose an opportunity to learn how to be a better motivator.  If I fire my coach then I miss an opportunity to become a better employer and communicator.  If I call the caterer and bitch them out about the chairs then I will probably never learn how to prevent that from happening again or at least lessening the likelihood.  


Don’t get me wrong, sometimes things are out of your hands.  I get it.  We all get it.  But if we step up and take ownership of things that go wrong under our watch, then we give ourselves the opportunity  to become great coaches, employees, or business owners.  


Own it.  All of it.  People will appreciate that and you will gain their trust forever.  Or at least until you shave their dog.  


Pillar Two:  There Are No Bad Teams, Only Bad Leaders


Remember Pillar One because that motherfucker is the base for all the rest of the pillars.  Just as Pillar Two is.  Pillar Three also.  You get the picture right?  


This one really keeps me on my toes in the day to day coaching I do.  Here’s a direct quote from the book:  


“When leaders who epitomize Extreme Ownership drive their teams to achieve a higher standardOf performance, they must recognize that when it comes to standards, as a leader, it’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.”  


Reading this for the first time was a real kick in the balls for me.  I have a decent amount of certifications and experience and what not and I will admit that I, at times, hung my hat on all of that.  


Somebody’s back hurts when hinging?  Don’t look at me, I fucking screened the shit out of them.


Somebody’s kettlebell clean is a shit sandwich?  S. F. G./ R. K. C.  mothafucka!  It’s not my fault they’re a movetard.   


I used to get caught up in everything that I knew and learned and all the bullshit letters after my name (very few actually) and just sit there on my “accomplishments” thinking I was the shit.  I wasn’t the shit… I was a dickhead.  


What is the accumulation of all that we learn if we allow teaching opportunities to pass without teaching?  


What kind of coach are we if we put a client’s shortcomings on their “inabilities”?  


We work long hours.  True.  At times we get burnt out.  True.  This gets burdensome.  Once we use that as an excuse to let something slip, or accept something that we know is not safe or productive then we are on a slippery slope.  


None of our knowledge is worth a shit if we do not consistently apply it when needed.  Set high standards for yourself and your clients and keep them.  Yes, you will make mistakes.  That is inevitable.  But keep at it and develop systems to support those standards.  That’s what good leadership and good coaching is all about.  


Pillar Three:  Believe


The first thing you should seek from your clients from day one is their trust.  That’s how you sell them on your product.  That is how you get buy-in to your systems.  That is how you get referrals, upsells, and re-signs.  What I’ve found to be true in 11 years of training people is that their trust seems to have a direct correlation to your belief in what you are doing.  


Running a business or having a quota to fill presents stressful situations for us.  At times throughout my career I have reacted to these stressors out of desperation.  That has very rarely resulted in a positive outcome.  Here’s my not-so-fun solution to this dilemma.  Spend time building a solid product, create systems within that product through trial and error, and be patient.  This takes time.  A lot of it.  It’s well worth the effort and time though!  


What I have found to be true through this process is that as soon as I truly believed that what I was doing was the real deal, most everything started to take care of itself.


Closing ratios on intro sessions tightened up, customer relations soared (there is always going to be that 10% but we can talk about that at another time), and overall operations ran much smoother.  


There is no one way to do things.  There are plenty of avenues to run a successful business or get your clients results and that is a good thing.  Extract what you believe in from your experiences and develop your own thing.  Put your heart into that thing!  You will eventually find a need to adapt or revise that thing but doing so just shows that you are striving to be better and nobody is going to fault you for that.  


There will be times when you will be tempted to try things that you don’t necessarily buy into for the sake of taking on a client or two.  Don’t do it.  I can guarantee you that it will end up setting you back.  Stick to your guns and attract the right people for your product.  The results will be sustainable business and less stress overall.  


These are the first three of twelve pillars I will discuss in this series.  I hope that you enjoyed the read and that this leads into a discussion for us because the learning potential is through the roof with this group!  


Until next time!  


In 2010, two dudes Chris and Todd, started the business that would eventually become Strength Faction.

You know how they say the rest is history? Well, it’s not.

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