Why I Prefer Not to Work for "The Man"

I remember the first time I heard that expression, “The Man.”  I had been talking with a high school friend of mine and he was referring to his current employer.  At that time, it seemed sort of odd and awkward, like walking with a cane.  Who was this “man” I wondered.  And why hadn’t I connected with his existence in this way yet?

Well, for starters, I think I was still in grad school living the good life.  Nothing to do but study, drink beer, and teach while learning how to write very long papers about muscle fiber types, caffeine and performance and any other topic that I found of interest and deserving of my time spent in the library.

At that time, I really wanted to finish grad school, find a job teaching and coaching and take my summers off to surf and live the good California life I had grown up in.  Of course, destiny had other ideas and like so many others before me, I was drawn in to working for “The Man” without even realizing it.

Slowly though the entrepreneurial fire burned inside me like a bonfire on the beach and during long walks in Golden Gate Park with my wife Laura, I fantasized about the business I own today.  It took about 15 years, a move to Madison, WI and a final job for “The Man” at the University of Wisconsin, but I finally mustered the courage to go it alone, leverage my entire financial life and make something of myself.

It Hasn’t Been Easy…

For those of you who have shared a similar journey, I know you can relate to the challenges.  Small business is a soldier’s work.  The problem is that an entrepreneur is as far from a soldier as that old surf board in my office is from the beach.   There’s more to running a business than fire and creativity.  There’s a discipline that I’m still trying to come to terms with.  Not to mention an entire set of business skills that they don’t teach you in an Exercise Physiology program at San Jose State.

In spite of these sobering truths, I wouldn’t trade my position for the one that no doubtedly awaits me underneath the watchful eye of “The Man.”  The fruit is harder to find here, but when you do, it’s the sweetest around.

The Day Winds Down and I'm Grateful…

The day is winding down. I just returned from the break room at Gillware (a new blog client of mine) and the images of a Haiti disaster remind me of my word of the day.

I had asked Tyler (one of the founders at Gillware) earlier today if he had a word for the day. He didn’t. I cut him a little slack because it was still early and he had not yet finished his morning workout with me. I gave him mine instead, and as the day moved forward I felt more and more of a connection with this word and what it means to me today…


It is hard to imagine being trapped under a pile of rubble. Alive and yet unable to move out from under it’s mass. Sipping water from a bottle that someone else must hold for you. Hard to imagine what it must be like right now to live in Haiti and be faced with the challenges that exist in such a poor country, even without the aftermath of a natural disaster looming.

I happen to be working right now at a desk that’s not my own. This is sometimes difficult for me, because I’ve grown attached to my need for exact ergonomics. Twenty years in the workforce of the information age has taught me one important thing. Make sure you’re workstation fits you. Because if it doesn’t and you’re young, you can get away with it. Eventually, however, it catches up with you, and you find your back and neck aching for days in a row for no good reason.

Somehow today, with images of people trapped and other’s legs extending from beneath blankets that cover their dead body, a properly fitted workstation feels like an infantile need for a new video game. So how do I rectify this with myself and with the world around me?

I honor it.

Deep into my soul I feel not the pain that they do. This would be impossible. Instead I feel and connect with the life I am so grateful to live when I’m paying attention. Three days ago, I was fretting about my need to finish a strategic plan for my blogs and business. Though still very important, the fretting once again seems infantile, useless and in some ways pathetic.

When the foghorn sounds at the end of my work day (coming very soon), I will pack my things, fill my water bottle and drive quickly toward home, where I will embrace an evening with my precious kids, and my wife.

I will wash dishes, take out the garbage, give baths, take a shower, lay out my clothes for the next day, and brush my teeth before I go to bed with an electric toothbrush. I will do this after sipping tea and watching a Seinfeld re-run with the help of Tivo.

I will do all of this tonight void of the sense of mundane that can often infect the pleasure. The pleasure that should come from everything I have, everything I have the opportunity to discover, and everything I can do to connect with humankind in a new and more significant way.

All of this possible now, because I’ve been inspired by a little girl, trapped underneath a pile of rocks, and surviving in a state of calm that must have come from the Gods.

Good night…

Use Your Blog to Share Your Journey…

For me, writing is a means to an end. I write because I love the work. It feels good and it gives me a place to put all of the thoughts, ideas, passion and expertise that travel through my head every day. I find that when I do that regularly, I feel more balanced and alive and less likely to let little things bother me.

For the last 60-90 days I’ve been in the middle of a major clean-up project within my fitness business. I’ve cut excess expenses, re-shaped my marketing plan, and have begun the gigantic project of honing all of the important systems that will help me run my business more efficiently, and allow me to squeeze out a little extra profit. I’m also working with more clients than I did last year, and this is for a variety of reasons, including the savings in payroll and the fact that unless I stay entrenched until all of those systems are built they won’t turn out right. Kind of like trying to take the cake out of the oven when your down the street at your neighbor’s house.

Believe it or not, one of my most important marketing machines right now is my fitness blog (http:www.fitnessnomadblog.com). I have had more than one new client come to work with us who was already on my list and had been receiving regular updates about my blog and everything I’m writing about there. One client in particular told me that one of my writings made her feel as if I was speaking to her directly. That is powerful stuff. Because if you can connect with your readers in that way, people will come.  And the only way to connect with them in this way is to share as much as possible about who you are and why they should listen.

I have not posted to this blog as frequently lately because of the important work I’ve been engaged in at The Fitness Nomad. And that’s not OK with me so I promise to do better. This morning, I simply wanted to take some time to re-connect with you and to share something I noticed about the writing I am posting to my fitness blog. As I looked back over the last month I realized that one of the most important things my blog allows me to do is to share my journey with clients, potential clients, colleagues, and friends.  To share my journey through life.

Not everyone will come and work with me as their coach and trainer. That much is obvious. But that does not mean that my time writing and making connections with people is not well spent.  Just last week, three different people shared with me how my blog and my mere presence has inspired them to get fit and get going.  One of these people was a women I met at a Rotary meeting with my father-in-law while on vacation recently in Illinois with my family.  I had presented at that same Rotary group a couple years back and she was happy to report to me that I had inspired her then, and that she has lost 20 pounds and kept it off!  It made my evening…

This is the journey and we are all playing our important roles.  The most important role is the passion, expertise, and willingness to connect that is paramount to your mission as a fitness professional.  So share it!


Share a story about your journey using the comments box below.  I would love to hear from you!  John

The Magic is Waiting Within…

Do you know who you really are?

I had a good conversation with an old coach the other day. Someone who I confided in and received help from last year. We have both now moved on and the conversation was both intense, confusing and completely rewarding and satisfying for me personally.

The truth is that we no longer agree on how I should grow my fitness business. Yes, I learned a lot from that program, and it helped me in some ways, but it’s time to move, up and forward. I have learned one very important thing from this relationship and this experience, and I would like to share that with you today.

Stay true to who you really are and what you want to accomplish in life, whether it’s owning your own business, trying to advance your career, finding your wife and starting a family, developing solid relationships with your colleagues, whatever. The most successful people in life surround themselves with the right people, and when they discover that certain people they have been working with or are close with are no longer serving their life’s mission, they move on quickly, and they don’t feel badly about it. Test Fast, Fail Fast, adjust fast…write that one down.

There is also another very important insight I want to share with you. I heard President Obama touch on this in an article I read about him recently. You need to be very careful with any coach you work with, because if you’re not careful, and your coach is not as skilled as they should be, or has an agenda beyond helping you achieve your potential, the relationship can skew and ultimately take you to a place you don’t want to go.

Simply put, if you don’t maintain full awareness of who you really are at all times, your coach can end up holding too much power over you.

A true trained coach’s job is to help you achieve the goals that you have set out to achieve, whatever those might be. You might be working to advance and grow your fitness business (as I am) or you might be trying to advance your career, lose weight, find your wife, work through past problems with family members, etc.

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One of your coach’s most important jobs at all times is to help you unlock your true potential. Doing this effectively requires pure skill, compassion, empathy, talent and attention at all times to the nuances of the process. Each coach has the program that they believe in. They have their method, their tools, etc, but at the core of the process is the client, and how they decide to best put the coaches tools to work for them.

For me personally in this situation, it was time to move on. Not because this particular coach has a bad system, but because that system was never really designed to unlock my full potential. Did it work for me for a time? Well, yes in some respects. And there were many other ways in which the process, the tools, and the recommendations were doing me a serious disservice. Why? Because I made the mistake of forgetting who I really was, why I’m here, and what got me here to begin with. I take full responsibility for that. And I take full responsibility for the task ahead of me of moving forward too.

What I hope you take away from all of this is the importance of staying true to yourself, your goals, and your values at all times. I think we all get caught up in the fitness business trying to find the best ways to grow our businesses and be successful. And as a result, we go looking for the next best thing or tool that’s out there that will help provide the magic. When all along, the magic is waiting within. You just need to open the curtain and start the show…