To Move Forward; Step Back

(note: This is a raw and vulnerable post. Cathartic? Maybe. But it’s my sincere hope that my story might help you approach the hard decisions that are required to overcome your obstacles. I know you have your own.)

Our actions may be impeded but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The Mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.

-Marcus Aurelius

In 2004, I had a vision for success. I was fat and sickly. I was broke. I was depressed.

Sitting on the front step of a mostly empty house (I couldn’t afford much furniture), and staring down another eviction notice, I was reading Zig Ziglar’s See You At The Top. It’s a classic book on success principles, but it was his vulnerability in admitting his own failure that I remember.

Midway through the book, Zig admits to being overweight and faltering in health. He felt hypocritical writing a book on success, but failing to apply it to a most important category- his own health. He committed to getting fit by the time the book went to publication. I recalled the picture of him on the back cover, a tall, slender, dignified, happy-looking man. Apparently, he kept his word. And inspired me to do the same.

I needed a change. No- I needed to change. Change almost everything I was doing. I was 29 years young and felt so old. Defeated. Broken. But this obstacle became the launching point for my vision.

I wasn’t the only one. People all around me were fat, sick, and broke. If I could learn how to pull myself out, I could teach others how to as well, and perhaps even make a good income in the process.

The Good

I got to work. I optimistically tied up my shoelaces, set up my CD Walkman, and hit the track at the local school. I’ll just start with a light jog. 4 laps is a mile. That sounds good.

I made it halfway around the first lap and stopped before I puked. The rest of the workout consisted of a slow walk back to the car and sitting in the parking lot for the next hour trying not to lose my breakfast. This sucks.

I took on three jobs. I served breakfast at Shari’s, Lunch at a teriyaki joint, and dinner at a nice restaurant. I changed into my evening uniform in the car between jobs. At the end of the night, I took at least an hour to study for my first Personal Training Certification. I’d get home at 2 or 3 in the morning, sleep a little, and do it again.

My running went from a half-track to 5 miles out on a hilly, country road. I never did get good enough to run the whole thing without walking parts, but I lost 60 pounds trying.

I had 3 students to practice training; my wife, her friend, and myself. The morning shift at the restaurant gave way to a Personal Trainer position at a big box gym.

Within three months, I was promoted to a Fitness Director position, overseeing the Training Department of a 30,000 square-foot facility. Goodby restaurant jobs, hello sales quotas.

Meanwhile, I began to craft the real vision: Personal Excellence Training.

People were still fat, sick, and broke. But truth is truth. I could see the same principles that were getting me health results, could also be applied to finances, relationships, and careers. Personal Excellence Training would lead people to better lives by using fitness as a training ground for life. So many lessons to carry over…

  • No one can do your reps for you.
  • Struggling under resistance makes you stronger.
  • Efficient movement gets the most work done…

The list of principles seems endless if you have an eye to see them. I think I was on to something.

The Bad

Working for a big corporation sucks. Actually, jobs in general suck. They’re fine as a means to an end, but hours-for-dollars will never provide the freedom I’ve been craving my whole life. Personal Excellence Training (PXT) had to happen.

My first Personal Training Client was a martial arts instructor who wanted help correcting muscle imbalances. I met with her at her studio on the weekends. Then there was the Army Captain who needed to train in his own home at 04:00, I was up at 3 AM to get to him on time, three days per week. The corporate gym was just a means to an end.

Then it ended.

I was let go. Well, I was put on “suspension” for doing what I thought was the moral thing to do, but broke policy. That’s a story for another post, but now what? I still have a wife and three kids to feed, and only two or three in-home clients for PXT. Time to put up or shut up.

I rented an 800 square-foot studio for first, last, and a handshake. My two personal training clients bought 6-week packages that were just enough to cover the move-in. I had 30 days to get more business if I was going to stay in business another month. That was 14 years ago.

But that was far from the end of the struggle.

The Ugly

It’s hard to talk about success principles when your landlord’s attorney is interrupting your training session. I had left the corporate world because I hated treating people like numbers. But when the numbers weren’t there, that’s all I could think about. Owning a small business with no other income and no savings account created a pattern of ups-and-downs that were making me more nauseous than that first run so many years ago.

Evictions- both at the gym and at home. Utilities going to collection. 70-hour work weeks that brought in half of the current minimum wage. My focus was all wrong, but somewhere in there I still had a buried passion. Why else would I not quit? Why would I move locations, pour my blood, sweat, and tears (all three – literally) into this? Why would I drag my family through this mess instead of going back into the corporate “safety net”?

Having a vision that is bigger than yourself sounds romanticly noble. The reality can be a wholly different experience. But I never quite lost hope that I would see PXT thrive. I knew it could change lives (it did). I knew it could prosper (it didn’t). I knew I had it in me to make it happen (we’ll see).

To Move Forward, Take A Step Back.

The obstacle was me.

2017 was the year I committed to change. I decided; no matter how drastic, I had to get off that roller-coaster and on the right track. I sold the gym and was brought on as the manager. I got a divorce. I stepped down from the management position. I left the country for a month.

I was reintroduced to myself.

I was once an artist and a musician. I was once an actor. I was once full of passion. I once had vision.

Hello, me. It’s nice to meet me.

One lesson has hit me upside the head so many times this year I may be punch drunk from it. Lesson: I can make all the goals and plans I want, but I can’t predict the future for shit. Fine. Learn to accept and adapt. Some of the most unpredictable failures have been the greatest victories!

I didn’t mean to come back to the gym. Now I’m starting back at the beginning, coaching about 4-hours per week (and stoked to do it!)

I didn’t mean to meet someone new. But she woke me up from a sleep I didn’t even know I was lost in.

I didn’t mean to get back into the real estate business after 15 years away. Now I have a mentor I trust, and an opportunity I can’t refuse.

I took the biggest steps back in my life. And now I’m making progress again.

I’m starting over, but this time is different because I’m different. I have decades of experience. I’ve had a few wins. More than a few losses. And the scars to prove it. I’m re-starting a journey, but with a foothold in history and a fresh pair of eyes.

I’m coaching again. I remember why.

I’m loving again. I’m willing to risk.

I’m working again. I have reasons for hope.

I’m creating again. Getting back in touch with who I am. What a gift; to know thyself.

Progress is in front of me, but I had to take a bloody, faltering step back to find a better path.

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