4 Things I’ve Learned From My Clients About Business & Life

Business has been good to me after the awful winter we just had, and it seems like people are finally able to get out of the house! I got this idea for a post from a well-known guy by the name of Eric Cressey. His article “4 Business Lessons I’ve Learned” really inspired me to share what I’ve learned from my clients. Not necessarily just for business, but for everyday life in general.

#1: Be patient with people. “Leaving problems at the door” isn’t always possible.

A lot has changed since I started in 2007 as a Personal Trainer. I actually found myself asking my clients for patience with me as I was showing up to sessions late, unprepared, and sometimes not at all. Since then I’ve certainly gotten my shit together (for the most part). For me, it was a learning experience. Learning how to be a professional and show up when you need to, having a positive attitude, and being the best part of their day takes practice. If I need to be patient with my clients, I need to learn to be patient with myself. No matter what is going on in my life, I know that my clients don’t pay to hear my story. A lot of them have had a long day at work, recovering from a sick bachelor/bachelorette party the weekend before, difficult times with the kids and so on.

As a professional, it’s important to not add to that. Not to mention to try and train under these conditions is not conducive for training. I have had to change an entire training session because they weren’t able to focus.

“Sometimes training isn’t about training at all, but rather a chance to escape from life for 30-60 minutes. If you can make a difference in making them feel better, you’re still doing them a lot of good.”

As much as I hate to admit, but every trainer has an “ideal client.” Each trainer has different methods of coaching and not everyone are as responsive as we’d like. Those that are would of course make our lives easier. But it’s not about the trainer. Everyone that walks through your door has a life and like it or not, they’re going to bring it with them. Each training session isn’t always going to be sunshine and unicorn farts. So it’s best to not judge and be a little more patient with clients that I work with. People actually get better results when they work with a trainer that they know who actually gives a damn about them.

#2: Embrace your differences. People will respect you for them.

For people who know me, they know that I don’t like doing the same things as everyone else. I’m weird like that and I’m totally okay with it. I can go back to my earlier days as a fitness instructor at IllinoisState and recall how every pre-choreographed program I would receive to teach a class, I would change it up. Not because I’m a dick or anything, but because I like to set myself apart as a fitness pro. Turns out it worked. My classes would be filled (as much as I kept telling myself it wasn’t because I was the only male instructor) and people would come back with positive feedback. Today, I’m a Powerlifter who trains all walks of life that programs tire pushing, deadlifting, breathing, and yoga in the same session.

I really like training my clients with a bit of “edutainment” (education and entertainment).  Making sure they’re not only having a great time training but they’re learning about themselves and about training. Of course, the clients that I work with enjoy themselves (otherwise they wouldn’t be training with me), but they’re awesome to work with as well. To be honest, I think it’s great to work with different kinds of people of different backgrounds and age groups that offer life stories, wisdom and friendship. I can say that I know a lot more about the world; awesome TV shows (Note: finished Breaking Bad on Netflix not that long ago…amazeballs), recipes, music, philosophies, and beer. End of the day, for me it’s about enjoying as many people as you can, learning as much as you can from others to better yourself.

#3: Sometimes you have to let people fail before you teach them how to succeed. “You can lead a horse to water, but you can make it drink.”

It’s frustrating to be in the position to offer knowledge and have not people respond to what you’re teaching. Especially when you have traveled thousands of miles, spent (and continue to spend) hundreds of hours, thousands of dollars, and years worth of time to help people. I’ve spoken of this “perfect client” that every trainer would love to train. One of the qualities of those people being “coachable.” Can they follow your instructions well? Do they take your advice and run with it? Are they getting great results quickly? As much as I would like to say yes for every one of my clients, it’s not the reality.

Silly thing is, I’m a realist. So it’s a bit asanine for me to even want someone THAT coachable ( it’d probably be a bit boring, too). The fact is, everyone has their way of learning. Some will get it right off the bat. Others it’ll take a while for them to get around to it.

I’ve done a lot of researching about the human mind from a psychological standpoint. Since then I’ve had a profound understanding of how people operate. The first part is getting to know the person; what they’re like, what they’re used to, what methods work best for them. If there’s a trainer that isn’t caught up to speed on this stuff, they’re missing the boat on training PEOPLE. I read a book a while ago called “Switch: How to Change things When Change is Hard” by Dan & Chip Heath.

 

It’s a fantastic book about recognizing the situation, the dynamic of people, and what resources you have that you need to make change happen. It’s worth reading again, but there are tons of great tools in this book that anyone can use at any time. It just takes time for it to happen. However, there are some people out there that no matter what you say or do to help them, they’re not going to adhere to the advice until they are ready. That last part is important and what really woke me up.

After coming to that realization, it was clear that some battles just can’t be won. And that’s okay. You have to take the “brightspots” and focus on that (Note: “brightspots” a fantastic concept also found in the book). Trying get people to eat veggies is like pulling teeth. However, they’re showing up at the gym week in and week out. I believe focusing on what works is best and then hopefully something good will come out of that consistency. I do have clients like that and now they’re eating veggies and participating in exercise outside of the gym. Why? Because I left them alone and allowed them to work on it on their own terms. Maybe they got tired of constantly eating crappy foods; feeling like crap, not recovering well or performing well during their workouts.

Of course it’s always a last resort. The initial goal is to help people. After all, that’s why they walked in my gym in the first place. But a lot of us who are legit professions in the work place have failed (and failed miserably) time and time again. If you ask me, one of the best ways to get really good what you do is to do it. Fail. Learn from those failures. Rinse and repeat. What you’ll find is big failures turn into small ones. I see it with myself and my clients every week.

#4: Confidence is contagious. 

This one kind of falls in the “no brainer” column, but I believe this to be undeniably true. When I started training with weights freshman year in high school, I was no where near confident. My lifts were sub-par to where they should be (in the gym world). I was extremely athletic, but I was no where near reaching the 500lb club on the football team. I first benched 225 when I was a Sophomore in college, squat 400 after I graduated college, and pulled 600 for the first time just a couple years ago. Those milestone numbers were the result of consistent effort over a 13 year period. Most people don’t have the confidence or the belief that it takes that long to reach heights that once seemed impossible. I can tell ya. It’s possible. You just have to have confidence in yourself.

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Freshman year, ’02/ Last Year, ’13

That confidence led into my training career and I can say without a shadow of a doubt, a Personal Trainer should ALWAYS be confident. Not just in what you know, but also what you don’t know. The last thing you want to do is “fake it ’til you make it” and end up getting someone hurt because you couldn’t handle saying “I don’t know.” Your clients want to work with a trainer that has a sense of self-confidence. Trust me. They can see it in you. You’ll also build a better trusting-relationship with them. They’re not going to be concerned if you don’t know everything. They’re more concerned if you’re going to feed them a load of B.S.  that will lead them to nowhere.  If you want to be successful in this business or in life, you have to be okay with the fact that you don’t know everything. You just have to be willing to learn.

Bonus: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

I feel this one really sums up all the points and why you’re all reading this for one reason or another. The quote above is from Simon Sinek’s video on “how great leaders inspire action.” You may have heard of it. It’s one of the most watched TEDtalks and really speaks to me about why I do what I do.

In the world of fitness, it really takes skill, talent, patience and humility to work with people on a daily basis. In a nut shell, we do what we do as fitness pros because we love it; because we enjoy making people happy by helping them improve their overall health. You’re not only tired physically at the end of the day but mentally as well. This is no different from everyday life. Clients can be demanding as well as your friends, family, and co-workers. We all get worked up to the point where we ask ourselves “why am I do thing this?” It’s a valid question to ask. One I encourage to ask yourself often. Not because things may be hard at work, but if people ask what will you tell them?

I’ve been asked why I do what I do before. I knew why, but I couldn’t quite explain it. For those of us that really really love training, you’ll understand. However, if I’m a potential client asking you the fit-pro, “why do you do what you do?” What would you say? Granted, I don’t get this question asked very much but it is interesting to think about. I know I’m thinking about it when I get up at 4:25am to train a group of kick ass people and when I finish my session with another group at 7:15pm. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”Find your why and you’ll find great success in this industry.