Monthly Archives: January 2012

Just Who Do You Think You Are?

“Just who do you think you are?”

My mother asked me this many times growing up. Usually it was in the context of giving me a dressing down. Basically jumping my shit for something I had done that she didn’t like.

The appropriate answer, of course, was, “Nothing.” “Nobody.” “A worm.” The whole point was to break me down, to make me feel bad about what I’d done and to recognize that she was bigger, badder and meaner than me.  And above all else below her.

It’s this and other things that explain why we don’t talk anymore.

But it’s these memories and this particular question that stay with me. I do my best to forgive my mom for my childhood. I know I wouldn’t be the man I am today without her and dysfunctional childhood or not, I am happy with the life I have. I consider myself truly blessed and not in the “Wow, things could have been a whole lot worse” kinda way but truly blessed. I love my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My struggles are here to make me better and my successes are reminders of everything I’ve done right.

So why does this question keep haunting me?

Today it finally occurred to me. I had the same feeling, as this memory floated up into my consciousness, that I had whenever she asked me, spit flying, features contorted in anger, looking at a young boy to wreak her vengeance for a life denied her. Only this time it wasn’t a glimmer.

This time it was strong. Full bore and powerful.

I AM SOMEBODY! I AM POWERFUL. I AM MAGNIFICENT AND I AM A FORCE FOR BENEFICENCE. I SHINE BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL AND EVERYONE WHO COMES IN CONTACT WITH ME SHINES BRIGHTER. I AM LOVE. I AM LIGHT. I AM SHELTER. I AM STRENGTH.

That’s who I think I am.

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Filed under Addiction, Personal Development, Recovery, Strength

Accountability

Accountability. It’s not really something I had considered until recently.

I had always assumed that because I showed up, was consistent with my workouts and was perceived as a role model by others I was doing everything “right.”

Beginning with my trip to St. Petersburg, Florida last fall, I started taking greater involvement in the apparatus my mentor, Elliott Hulse, has set up. I took advantage of the forum he and Mike Westerdal established with their Lean Hybrid Muscle-Reloaded product.

At first I just started by posting my workouts. That generated some traffic from friends on the site and their positive feedback drew me in further. Hey, everyone loves praise.

Over the past two weeks I took it up a notch. Instead of writing out my workouts like I do in my exercise journal (you have one of these, right?) I started taking video. I’ve gotten pretty good at streamlining the process and using a video editor to cut down the workout into a viewable four or five minute clip.

At first I was hesitant to do this. I thought, “Geez, how narcissistic.” Which is funny because that’s not how I see the videos my colleagues, produce but there you have it. And as you can tell from the video above–not so much.

Video has a great way of exposing your weaknesses and it is for this reason I find it so valuable. First in the editing I can see mistakes I never would have otherwise known I was making. Then by posting to the forum I get feedback. Yeah, most of it is praise. We’re all really good at supporting each other. But there’s also the opportunity for constructive criticism. I’ve received really helpful advice on everything from my deadlift, to bench press to squat jumps. It’s all done in the spirit of support and it’s tremendously helpful.

There’s one aspect of this accountability, however, that took me completely by surprise. I realized, all of a sudden one day, I’m sore. Really sore. Like sore in ways I haven’t been in a long time. Then it hit me. I have an audience now. People are watching me and subconsciously I’ve stepped up my game so as not to let them down or perhaps not let myself down. No one wants to be seen slacking when they know they have an audience.

Over the years I’d let myself slip into complacency and didn’t even realize it. Training partners are hard for me to find. Human nature being what it is, I stopped pushing myself as hard as I should. But given how my chest and quads feel, I don’t think that’s too much of a problem anymore.

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Customer Service

Earlier today I was ramping up to write a vicious editorial on customer service. I was all set to lament its demise and to render to ashes by my verbal scathing a certain company from whom I felt the concept was sorely lacking.

But not so, gentle reader. It took a little effort on my part but in the end I can say customer service is not entirely dead and there are some who do see the benefits of treating people decently and putting long term service over short term profit.

Please understand, I, too, am a businessman. I’m all for profit. But the profit I seek is a value for value profit based on mutual agreement and satisfaction on both sides.

Those of you who know and train with me know I wear Vibram Five Fingers, otherwise known as “toe shoes.” I’m a big proponent of the shoes and am now on my second pair. I wear them all the time in the gym and out.

So it’s no surprise that this year for Christmas my nine year old daughter wanted a pair. Vibrams are not cheap, they average $100 a pair. That’s a lot for anyone to spend on their nine year old, but she really wanted a pair and I’m an old softie.

You can often find them cheaper online, but the shoe has a very specific fit and the odds of getting a poor fit online are high, especially when buying your first pair. Therefore I thought it was important that she actually try them on to make sure we had a good fit.

I bought my first two pair from Mountain High Outfitters and thought this the natural choice for where to take her.

In the past I’d had a very positive experience. The salesman was helpful and assisted as I tried on several pair and found the right fit. The second time I knew what I needed but he (a different guy this time) seemed happy to discuss the shoe and it’s more recent models as I shopped.

This Christmas, not so much. I don’t know if he just didn’t think it was cool to cater to a nine year old girl or what but while he retrieved the shoes we needed quick enough our salesman didn’t stick around to help us find the right fit. It seemed to me that he was more interested in carrying on a conversation with his bud in the corner.

We actually could have used some help. The shoes he brought were long enough but not wide enough and it was a ridiculous struggle to get them on. Now Five Fingers are tough to wear at first. You have to get each toe into it’s respective pocket and that involves a bit of a learning curve. I should have known something was wrong when I couldn’t get her toes to the toe pockets. The truth I later realized was that her foot was just too wide for the women’s pair.

Once I had his attention I told our salesman the shoes wouldn’t fit and asked for the next size up. We still had the same problem only this time the shoes were even longer.

Thalia, my daughter, REALLY wanted these shoes. So much so that, like many nine year olds, she was willing to forgo reality for what she wished were true, namely that the shoes felt okay. I took her word for it and figured we were just hitting the steep side of that learning curve and that in time she’d have an easier time with the shoes.

Flash forward to Christmas and my daughter tries the shoes on for the first time since she had in the store. This time after a five minute struggle just to get one shoe on it became clear. The shoes did not fit.

So after tears and much disappointment I promised to return the shoes and exchange them for another pair. Later that same day it occurred to me that perhaps a man’s size would be wider and fit her better. Something I also realized a helpful salesman would have suggested.

Mountain High Outfitters is a little out of our usual way and so it took us a bit to return the shoes. Yesterday was, by my count, day 28 of their 30 day return policy and my mother-in-law tried to return the shoes. Because my daughter had worn the shoes from the house to the car there was, the clerk informed her, dirt on the shoe and it was therefore un-returnable.

I was already sore at the less than stellar salesman and this just really set me off. I spent some time cooling off, making sure I had eaten and bringing myself to a reasonable frame of mind. I then called the store and asked to speak to a manager.

I began by stating I had a problem and asking for his assistance. I explained my less than perfect sales experience and then Nana’s failed attempt at a return. He was guarded, of course, but said he would be in the store the following day and would do his best to help me.

So, today I walked into the store, shoes in hand. It was true that there was some dirt on the shoes and I took the precaution of taking some water and a brush to them before I went in.

I found Jay, the manger I spoke to, and he introduced me to Dustin, the store manager. I related my story once more. They listened patiently but again held a little reserve. On their part, they were concerned about resale and whether or not the amount of “wear” would preclude their ability to sell the shoes again.

I tried again.

I explained that I was a personal trainer, a businessman, like them. I pointed out that customer service was the corner stone of good business. I pointed to my own shoes, let them know that these were my second pair and that both pairs I had owned came from their store. I mentioned that I was frequently asked about my shoes and where I got them from and I let drop the number of clients I had sent in their direction to buy these very shoes. I also may have mentioned that everything they sold was available online and the main reason I shopped there was convenience and customer service.

Dustin took the shoes to the shoe department and asked his staff if they thought the could resell the shoes. When he returned he had made up his mind.

“Whether I can resell the shoes or not, I’m going to refund your money,” he said, “One sale is not worth the loss of your business.”

And that my friends is the right answer. Rest assured I will buy my next pair of shoes from Mountain High Outfitters, even if it costs me a little more.

Business is about relationships. It’s the exchange of value for value. It’s more than just getting the best price. As Warren Buffet has said, “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”

The value I got in this case is the knowledge that Mountain High Outfitters cares about me as a customer. Yes, they want my money but they also want my satisfaction and they understand the service they provide is the value I exchange my money for.

Unfortunately this has become a rarer commodity. It will disappear entirely if we don’t let it be known it’s what we expect.

 

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Busy vs Productive

One of the things that I’m working on this year is learning the difference between being busy and being productive.

When I was in high school I had a job as an office intern. Being a teenager there really wasn’t much they could give me to do outside of what I felt was “busywork.” I hated it. I saw no point in doing work just for the sake of work and really wanted to get my hands into something that mattered.

Now that I’m “all growed up” and working for myself, I find that I still have this same problem. Only the task master this time is me.

I can fill a day up with duties and tasks faster than even I can imagine. Emails, Facebook marketing, program design, clients to train, blog posts to write, meetings and business strategies to evaluate all compete for my time. Even now, at the first of the year when business is decidedly down, and I thought I’d have more time to devote to back burner projects, I find myself struggling to find time for all I “need” to do.

Being busy is very easy to do. Being productive, however, is an entirely different matter. Being productive actually requires that you stop. Bring everything, the entire machinery of your operation, to a halt. From here you have to evaluate. Look at everything you’re doing and decide the return you get from it. Whether or not a given task is productive depends entirely on your values and the goals you’re trying to achieve. If the task promotes your goals and gets you closer to their achievement then it’s productive. If it’s not then it’s just a waste of your time, no matter how you otherwise feel about it.

Easy to say; harder to do.

So what am I trying to achieve? My primary goal has always been to provide for the security and welfare of my family. Thanks to an inheritance from my father I can relax a little about that. I’m by no means independently wealthy but I do have a bit of a cushion to allow me to regroup, reassess and re-establish my business goals and priorities. Money is still a priority but it’s not the highest anymore.

Secondarily, I have always wanted to continue to be able to train and improve myself. Strength and fitness have been the vehicles that have taken me out of drug addiction and mental poverty and opened me up to my own potential. By continuing to pursue these lessons, I can develop my ability to reach out and help others. It’s through this outreach that I can make money, but only if I have something of value to offer. Which means my primary goal has to be my own self development. It sounds selfish only when you ignore the fact that only by making myself the, to borrow a phrase, “strongest version of myself” can I show others how to do the same for themselves.

Part of this will mean being a bit more selective about who I take for clients. When money is your highest priority you’ll work with anyone willing to pay you. The downside is that sometimes you get clients who are either not ready for or not interested in what you have to offer. Instead of recognizing this and moving on, you struggle and bend to try and accommodate what it is they do want. What happens is you end up disappointing everyone. The client you’re trying to please will never be pleased and the clients who do want what you have end up getting shorted because you spent all your energy trying to please the others.

As such, my new focus is on the clients I currently have. All of you will see a renewed vigor in my approach to you and your programs. You’ll notice I’ve been asking you about goals and helping some of you set short term goals to help us gain focus and direction. Maintenance is no longer part of our programming. Agoge Fitness Systems is about improvement. We can always find ways to become better.

New clients will go through a screening process. The first workout will always be free, but I will use this time to evaluate the new prospect just as much as they are evaluating me. If I don’t recognize a good fit, rest assured I will find you a more appropriate trainer here at Lakeview Personal Fitness. The remainder of my time will be spent pursuing my relationships with other trainers and mentors, namely Elliott Hulse, Mike Westerdal, Chris Dwelle and Larry Berry. These relationships feed me personally, professionally and, hopefully in the future, monetarily.

I will also spend more time writing. I take pleasure in my writing and I think it is another vehicle to my self development.

I’m currently reading Why You’re Dumb, Sick and Broke by Randy Gage. In it he talks about how societal messages from mass media, government and religion implant mental viruses into our subconscious. These messages compete with your conscious desires and ultimately win out, often prompting us to unwittingly sabotage our efforts to succeed. Rooting out these subconscious precepts takes time and effort. Writing will give me the opportunity to ferret out exactly what I think about myself and learn how to stop being my own worst enemy. Again, maybe in my process I can be helpful to others.

So, these are the steps I’m taking to become more productive and less busy. Do me a favor, will you? Every once in a while, ask me how it’s going.

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