Sunday, August 01, 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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