Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Business of You!..The Lost Element of Craftsmanship..

“Are you working for your money?....or is your money working for you?...”
“If your business won't last without you there...you're not in business!”
“Are you in business....or merely self employed?...”

I'm sure you've all heard these, or similar quotes spouted by business 'gurus' for as long as you've been in practice/business. And I guess that if you're anything like me you've at least wondered about how you can turn your training, coaching or health 'practice' into a 'business'....

But are these models even valid for what we do in the health and fitness industry?

There are of course many practitioners who in some way replicate what they provide in some way through products, certifications, books, DVDs and education systems. But there are many, many more who are content with being GREAT practitioners, working with their clients and affecting them personally on a day to day basis.

Many in the business world look at this as a negative situation. The idea of being paid for time is seen as an anathema as you always have to 'be' there in practice, and you are only paid for your time....

I can understand that if you make high tech widgets that you may not necessarily want to be there all the time, but as practitioners in the health and fitness industry are we not in the enviable position of actually doing what we love for a living?
That being said we don't actually need to separate ourselves form what we do! I believe whole-heartedly that the point of an objectively desirable life is to be happy. We create that happiness by spending our time on joyous experiences. Of course we also need money as a conduit to achieve certain (not all) of those joyous experiences and what we do in practice, because we love it, is a 'win-win' situation of having a joyous experience...and being paid for it!

Not only is this concept a powerful one for life balance, but also from a purely business standpoint.
Think of all the notable and successful people that come to mind when you think of our industry.
I think of names that I have been associated with over the years, people like Paul Chek, Charles Poliquin, Pavel Tsatsoulline, John Berardi and others. All of whom began as consummate practitioners and who built their businesses around them. If you think of many of the names that you associate with success in the industry would you be more likely to immediately think of the persons name, or their business?
Would you even know then names of their businesses?

Being a 'tradesman' is looked down upon in many circles, and being a 'businessman' is lauded. But why is this? Have we lost the respect of the 'craftsman' who plies his trade in the creation of things of superior quality? Is this because in our throwaway consumer culture quality of goods and services is becoming and rare commodity?....

I remember as a young personal trainer and nutritionist talking with an exercise physiologist friend of mine. He asked what I was currently up to, to which I replied “Mainly doing nutrition....I still do a bit of training on the side...”

One of my mentors – a very successful trainer, overheard this and took me aside and said “Cliff you don't do personal training 'on the side', you are WAY too good a trainer to put yourself down like that. What is wrong with being a GREAT trainer?”
And you know what? There is absolutely nothing wrong with being GREAT at anything, no matter what it is! If you love it, do it.
And there certainly is nothing wrong with loving what you do, and wanting to do it each and every day!
As Max Erhmann states in his seminal poetic treatise on life “The Desiderata” - 'Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time...'

We seem to have lost the idea of 'craftsmanship' and along with it the ideal of 'mastery', and while there are ample avenues available to replicate our skill sets through informational products, or create more highly leveraged income through other product sales, the fact remains that if we truly LOVE being in practice and if we love what we do, why on earth would we want to get away from it?!
The disparaging paradigm of being 'self employed' as not being good enough (a la Kiyosaki and others) becomes moot when you aren't really working for your money, but are involved in a process of making both yourself and someone else happier!

People often crave the freedom of having 'more time' to themselves, only to realize when given 'more time' that they have little to fill it with. This is a problem with not having found joyous experience in life, not one of not having enough time!
We see this in ample evidence when people retire. They often find themselves, after years of toiling in often unfulfilling careers, that when finally given the chance to sit back and relax and do some of the things they have always wanted to do that they are either to tired, sick and exhausted to do it or they don't know what they should do with their time!

I have read, re-read and have recommended the book 'The 4 Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss to many of my clients. It is to my mind one of the best books on creating time effectiveness and having more time to do the things we love. However I think many people take the wrong message away from this book and others like it. The goal is not to simply work less! The goal is to do more of what we love and what we enjoy in life. This is the real goal of creating a business 'of you, for you'.
As people who work one-on-one with others we probably don't have the financial option (not immediately anyway) or the inclination (because we love what we do) to severely minimize the work hours that we do to this extent.
But we do have the power to reduce our time cost on other extraneous things.
The message though can become lost, so I'll re-iterate it.
  We need not work less, we need to do more of what we love!

I took an extended holiday several years ago. I was able at the time to live off my investments and writing and so I felt remarkable 'free' from the compulsion to have to be working. But I soon realized after several months away that although I was having the time of my life (and would continue to do so for well over a year without re-entering my practice!) that I missed dealing with my clients one-on-one.
I realized that my purpose in this life is to be of service to others and fundamentally that what I (and all other practitioners) do is to make people happy! We may provide different conduits, and different aspects of this, but at the end of the day what we are providing to our clients is the means by which they improve their lives...and therefore become happier!

Growing up my father always told me “Cliff, I don't mind what you end up doing in life...just be the best!” He really did not care what I ended up as. If I were to be a street sweeper, he simply wanted me to be the best street sweeper that I could be. If I were to be a lawyer, entrepreneur, billionaire, he simply wanted me to be the best that I could be.

In our industry so often we ARE our businesses, and this is a positive, not a negative. It is an industry of personality and interpersonal connection. My clients are attracted to me for me. They want to receive nutrition, health and spiritual coaching from me, and I want to spend time working with them. There are many other things I could be doing in life, but I 'choose' to spend my days working with people, in person, in lectures and through my writings.
There are some though who are better served  by another practitioner because of their own particular path, and because their journey to health, performance and happiness is better connected with that person.

What we can do for the business of ourselves is to create mastery in what we do. To realize that our craft, our trade, is also our art. It's our expression, and by living our craft as well as we realistically can we are not only facilitating the health and happiness of our clients, we are also creating it for ourselves!

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Friday, July 30, 2010

"The Work"

I picked up the term "the work" from Seth Godin's incredible book Linchpin.

He uses the term 'the work' rather than 'work' to define creative or artistic endeavors - which anything that drives, that provides for a passion and purpose in our life can be.
More than simply 'work', THE work is the endeavor of your passion and provides the tangible results of your life's purpose.

In essence it is the goal of your life's activity, with other rewards being as a result of doing 'the work'.

Unlike 'work' that needs to be done in order to achieve something, and is merely a means to an end...and often has little or no inherent value or reward; THE work is all an artist can do! I remember the quote from a Gabriel Garcia Marquez book, that if a writer can not write...then he's not a writer!

If not for the work, the artist ceases to be...

For the artist the work never ceases, for it is the impetus that drives a life worth living. There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, nor a time when the work is done. For the artist, the craftsman, the artisan loves his work...and why would one seek to be without that which he loves?

The work is how the artist changes the world and brings joy to his fellow man. It is his contribution to the story of our lives.

We are all artists, we can all create, even if that creation is simply a little more joy and happiness. Your art may not be with paint on canvas, or words on paper; but.if you have found the work that pulls you forward and compels your passion, that flows with joy and love, then your art, your work can be that which brings joy to your life, and is the change that changes the world.

   Blessings,
  ~ Cliff


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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Intention for Reward vs. Intention Leading to Reward

I was having a conversation with my Dad when he was up on a recent trip to Vancouver, BC.
While we walked the beach I was telling him some of my ideas about free 'price pointing'and the gift and love economies.
After listening (patiently!) he said quite plainly: "But Cliff you have to make a LOT of money!"
"But what if my definition of success is different? What if creating positive change in the world, and affecting people's lives individually is my 'set point' of success?"

He told me that he was proud of my motives and of the success I have had helping people but not to look past financial success too. He went on to say that "You may have to support me and the family!"

My father was not born in the lap of luxury, in fact far from it. And he has had to struggle to create the lifestyle that he now enjoys (and my Sister and I were part of that struggle growing up) and so I can see and understand that his set point of success is perhaps more defined by monetary markers than mine.

Now of course (and any of you who have had the pleasure of meeting him will know!) that my Father, like myself can say many things with tongue firmly placed in cheek and his statements were definitely thus...and designed to get a 'rise'out of me! But...there was also some truth and inquisition too.

You see we all fundamentally align with groups or 'tribes'.
We all have communities that we belong to in increasing scale and in greater and greater circles of acquaintance.
We seek to preserve the safety, comfort and security of those closest to us (in our closest circle of acquaintance or our 'tribe'). We do this to have a sense of belonging, love and to provide social currency by which we in turn will be looked after. There is an expectation from those in our tribe that we will work for the good of the tribe and not against it in our day to day actions.

Our family is the closest and most evident example of our 'tribe', and in the modern world it can be the only real, stable and lifelong 'tribe' that we have, as community and actual tribal (hapu, iwi etc) connections are not self evident for many of us.
I'm not suggesting that the family unit is necessarily a bastion of lifelong stability and support, because unfortunately for many it is not, but it remains as one of the last potential, enduring tribal units, and where there is a supporting and loving environment the expectation (and I think rightly) is that you look after your tribe.

This can provide a conundrum for those amongst us who define ourselves less locally, less tribally and more globally (in terms of having a 'universal family').
In spite of universalism though there will always be a special connection with those in our closest circles of connection.

And so there is a channel of security and protectionism of those that we love most that needs to be recognized in striking the balance between financial security and philanthropy; which of course is not a negative but a pragmatic recognition of the way things are.

In terms of our human spiritual evolution it may even be considered a crucial starting point.
The security and comfort of acceptance and belonging within your tribal unit is equated with the 1st Chakra, without which we can feel fragile and alone in the world.

So how do we handle the conundrum?

Here is where I stick to my guns (ironically like my Dad taught me.)

I embrace the notion of creating abundance in ANY aspect of your life, and the financial/monetary realm is part of that. Money after all is just another form of energy (information = specifically encoded energy) and is in no way negative, merely the inappropriate use of it is.

The basis for action however should be motivated by what our passion and purpose in life is not for money in and of itself. The financial rewards we reap from exercising love, creativity, passion and purpose is what we can then engender support, security and a degree of comfort to not just ourselves but our tribal unit and as we distribute excess and what would otherwise be largess to others less fortunate, to the global community as a whole.

The intention to do what is right dictates what we should in fact do. Financial reward is the end result of doing 'the work'.

Blessings,

~ Cliff

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Simple words...life is beautiful...

Write, and let not words be your master.
Speak the truth, but let not what has been said bind you.
Act righteously, knowing that some may be hurt.
Trust as much as sense allows.
Be honest, be humble, be loyal...
and above all - love all...and do it completely.

~ Cliff

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Training Like a Rockstar....

I had scheduled to train with my best mate Kent from the rock band Like A Storm, but when we connected in the morning we realised that time was running short...with him writing and recording new songs while on hiatus from touring, and me putting the finishing touches on my new book and packing up, seeing clients and preparing for a shift to New Zealand for the summer there was a little less time than we had figured for training.

Kent: 'I might just do a little workout here bro...'
To which I replied - 'Nah bro - I'll tell you what, we can fry ourselves in under 20minutes....let's go and do some sprints in the park.'

Now having both been out on tour for most of the last 3 months we both certainly hadn't been able to train with our usual intensity, which was especially true for me...
And as anyone who has done a decent sprint session after a hiatus knows they can be brutal the morning after!

Due to the limited time I decided to run us through the following schedule:

4 minute warm up ~ Consisting of jogging, side shuffles, crossover lateral shuffles and backward jogging.
6 x 80m sprints ~ resting long enough between sets to catch our breath(ish!) ~ approx 20-40 second rest.
4 minute cool down ~ Slow jog, adding in high kicks, front 'teeps' and butt kicks.

We had a few minutes to spare afterwards so we got on the rings on the childrens playground next to the park and did some ring pullups ~ 3 x 10+ reps approx.

Under 20minutes in the park and then back to the studio to lay down some more rifs...now that's how to train like a rockstar!




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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How do you define success?

Regardless of our own conscious views on what really constitutes a successful life, many of us will fall into the set-point of thinking that success, by and large is primarily measured monetarily. That is after all the prevailing paradigm.

Think about some of the conversations you may have had in the past. "Oh yeah, he's a really successful guy but he just doesn't seem happy" or "Even with all his success he/she was never really happy...."

Wow...really?

When we define success by one measure we miss the importance of what success actually is. And sadly we define ourselves further into a paradigm into which it is deemed to be crucial to be a 'success' in life even when that 'success' is defined by a measure that may not lead to any degree of lasting happiness, life fulfillment or satisfaction.

Success....




Pronunciation:/səkˈsɛs/

noun

[mass noun]

  • 1 the accomplishment of an aim or purpose:the president had some success in restoring confidence

  • the attainment of fame, wealth, or social status:the success of his play

  • [count noun] a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains fame, wealth, etc.:to judge from league tables, the school is a successI must make a success of my business[Oxford Dictionary Online: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/success?view=uk]

The primary definition of success in other words is: The achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted.
And so success is predicated upon what you want to achieve, not what is considered to be the norm in society.
But does the definition of successfully denote what it means to be successful?
The secondary definitions of success certainly show how synonymous the idea of wealth (or fame) have become with success.
But we must consider that if you desire for and plan for material wealth and in the achieving of this you don't find a measure of lasting happiness, and a sense of life purpose and fulfillment then is that indeed moot? And ergo could you really say that you are a success?

To truly not just be considered against a societal benchmark to be a 'success' but to truly feel and truly BE successful one must measure their success against the measures of their own making.

When I wrote 'Choosing You', as with any other ventures I have been involved with, I did have certain financial aspirations and goals for the book. When I began to evaluate what would make the book a success,  my conditioned mind immediately began jumping to ideas of profit, revenue and the sales that would need to occur to make this a reality. None of which there is anything at all wrong with!...except that it wasn't truly a measure of my success.

I had many nagging doubts around releasing the book due in part to a reticence to put myself 'out there' to criticism, but also in part because fundamentally if you realize that your measure of success is different to that of the prevailing world view then you can become worried about whether people will understand; and of course that they will think you are a failure (i.e. not a success) if you don't reach their measure of success...even if you reach yours. 


My friend and mentor, author; Dr Ian Brooks (www.ianbrooks.com) encouraged me to release the book for me, and be defined by my own measure of success. Sage counsel that I was blessed to receive!

I had to sit down and refocus, recentre and contemplate what 'success' really means to me and by THAT measure decide what success for the book would truly mean to me...


My measure of success for that, my first book was simple:
I would consider the book a success if I positively affected the life of just one person. 


The measure I used to quantify that was that if I got just one unsolicited testimonial from someone that I didn't know (because friends and family will often be glowing in their praise regardless....bless them!) I would have accomplished this goal.

And so when I did receive my first unsolicited testimonial from a woman in South Africa I could justifiably say that my goal had been achieved and that the book, I could feel proud to say, was a success. There have since been many testimonials like that and although I couldn't retire off the proceeds of the book sales nor live in the lap of luxury because of the royalties, as those were never measures of success for the book  it is moot. The exercise was a success!

And all of this is not to say that the financial rewards of our labours are not important. I need to eat and put a roof over my head just as you do (and it must be said I was proud of the sales of my first book). But the achievement of gross levels of wealth is not a factor in determining my success. Creating a positive impact on the world and helping people to live happier, healthier lives takes precedence over the abject pursuit of material wealth.

That more than anything defines what I consider to be a successful life for me. To see someone smiling where before there was a frown. To have someone leave my office pain free after a life of debilitating hurt means more than any amount of money could. That is my life of success....

So how do you define success for you?


Cliff's Note: My next book 'Time Rich...Cash Optional!' will be available early 2011. Follow me on twitter or join my facebook page to stay updated!

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Egalitarian Myth of Capitalism - A Neoeudaemonistic Viewpoint

It is considered by many that capitalism provides for a form of egalitarianism, in that anyone in a free, modern, democratic society has the same opportunities and therefore what one has is related to their own efforts, and any one in turn by their own efforts can improve their circumstances.

Whilst I don't fully dispute this, and I do think that any one can improve their circumstances through their own efforts; it is not such a simple equation as effort = reward.

Their are elements of social prejudice and social privilege that play a major role in the creation and retention of wealth in society....and let's face it, we are talking about wealth as a predicator of security in our currency driven society.

A neoeudaemonsitic view of taxation
I was, for a long time, in favour of a flat tax rate. I considered that a flat tax was the most fair because everyone paid, proportionate to their income, the same amount as a contribution to society.

I no longer believe this...

The major change came as a result of several studies I read that showed that there appeared to be a critical tipping point where happiness increased up to a point of income and then didn't further increase with increase in income. Once peoples needs are met and there is a minimal level of 'creature comfort' and security happiness indicators do not improve.
Let's say that people earning under $30,000 a year are more unhappy than those earning over and further, that as people approach $30K p/a they become more and more happy but do not continue to become happier as they earn 35, 40, 50, 100 or 200K per year.
This to me shows that if we want to live in a society that is at it's absolute best, a society that truly cares for it's citizens and a society that takes it's citizens happiness as something of primary importance then the bench mark of happiness should be an important indicator for policy.

In this hypothetical scenario I would propose that there should be NO tax up to $30,000 per year and that tax should then be graduated (as it currently is) in proportion to someones income.
This way more people (at least those working) would have the greatest opportunity to live happily. This argument could be taken further to encourage minimum wage levels more conducive to happiness and not just survival in the most meager sense of the word....

I often hear the argument "Why should I pay more because I worked harder and improved my position?" and while this argument is in some ways valid, it is also flawed for the following reasons:

- The highest earners in society do not necessarily work harder than others. Can you honestly say that an executive earning $200,000 per year works harder than a single mother working 2 jobs at $12 per hour to support her kids? I would say not.

- High earners are not necessarily more productive than others. In fact I would say that in many cases the productivity per dollar is considerably lower. We see a glaring example of this in law firms where 1st and 2nd year associates provide the greatest return on output (salary) as their productivity is proportionately higher than their salary amount.

- Often high salaries are given in the presence of losses and/or poor investor and shareholder return. Meaning that it has become a culture of largesse - not one of reward for value, which of course is truly anti-capitalistic! This has also served to strip small investors of their wealth which has been siphoned away to executive pay and perks.

- Executive salaries have grown disproportionately to all other workers. Take for example CEO pay which was approximately 42 times higher than non-management workers in 1982, rising to 107 times higher in 1990 to the 2000s where it fluctuated between 300 and 500 times what an average worker makes. (http://money.cnn.com/2005/08/26/news/economy/ceo_pay/)

I have also heard it said that it is about 'responsibility'. That high earners are being paid for the burden of the economic machinery that they manage that is responsible for society. And I do agree with this. I don't necessarily think that the burden is that much greater than the average worker, however I certainly don't begrudge high salaries to executives. In fact I applaud it...but I don't agree with the exorbitant salaries now paid out to many execs...especially where this has drastically outstripped the earnings of middle management and workers.

Stress?
Is being a high salaried exec more stressful than being one step from the breadline?
We could all have different opinions on this...but I can tell you that in my experience it's not. However the self imposed stress of being caught up in the materialist money game is a very real problem.

There also seems to be a real sense of entitlement of "I worked hard for this...so why don't other people?" Hey - here's a freakin' wake up call....people are working hard and some of them, but not all, are becoming wealthy. Some of them don't have the same connections or the right skin colour or background to maximally encourage their rising up the ladder which many claim is so easy to climb.

If you are white, male and middle or upper class you cannot claim that your wealth is built purely on the sweat off your own back, because there may well have been women, the poor, and ethnic minorities who were working as hard  or harder than you who were overlooked for your benefit.

There has always been an upper class and lower class. In some countries (like the new world economies of the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) society has been seen as more egalitarian. But that is changing.
Since the Second World War there has been an increasing consolidation of wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people in these countries.
Increasing wealth in fewer hands increases relative poverty. It is that simple.
Think of it this way - if there is a finite amount of money in an economy and more of it is controlled by fewer people, there is simply less to go around for the rest.

Again taking a eudaemonistic view point: IF this means that more people live below the level of income required for happiness then this society is not working for the greatest good of it's people, and by extension is not working in it's own highest good (as we are all part of the greater whole and our health/happiness affects that of the whole and everyone else within it.)

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