What Really Happens When You Put Off What You Should’ve Continued On With Five Years Ago.
Potential Client: “I joined a gym and hired a personal trainer about 5 years ago and I got really fit.”
Potential Trainer: “Good, having some success under your belt always makes things easier going forward. So, what happened?”
Potential Client: “I stopped.”
Potential Trainer: “Why?”
Potential Client: “Got expensive.”
Potential Trainer: “Was it cheaper to quit?”
Potential Client: “No, not really, I ended up working a lot, not sleeping much, partying a lot and getting really stressed out and fed up with my life. I ended up spending a lot of money on eating, drinking and partying. I got weak and fat and then I got sick”
Potential Trainer: “Really, so what did that look like?”
Potential Client: “I was tired all the time. I wasn’t enjoying anything much. The things that used to be fun just weren’t. Everything was like climbing a mountain, a major hassle. I didn’t want to go to the beach because I didn’t feel good about myself. Burned out, I was caught in a landslide. You wouldn’t understand.”
Potential Trainer: “What makes you suppose that I wouldn’t understand being caught in a landslide?”
Potential Client: “Well, because you’re a tough fitness guy, a gym guy. Things don’t hurt you as much, you’re not sensitive, you’re used to it.”
You need to start being a little careful here. You must sometimes take potential customers gingerly by the hand and tread somewhat cautiously through this new terrain. It’s a fine line. On the one hand, you want them to know that you understand and share many of their issues and concerns. On the other, you’re there to help them solve a problem. It’s sometimes a mistake to be too accessible.
Maintaining a certain distance is usually required. You need to exercise the necessary discipline to do your job properly and get the client to do what they need to do to get where they want to go. You can certainly try to be as friendly and empathetic as you want. Nobody likes an unsympathetic asshole. But you are, after all, being hired to do a job and you need to ensure that the job gets done. Sometimes it is necessary to rewire a person and alter the way they look at the whole process of getting fit, so they see it under a new light, the right light. There is an enormous traffic-jam of ignorance, false belief, just plain old-fashioned garbage information in our line of work; sometimes you need to get a shovel and pick-axe out to excavate and get rid of all the crap that people believe to be true, but isn’t.
There will be some pretty tough customers who take it out of you, sucking your soul dry and exhausting you and your professional resources in the process. Others are a golden joy to work with, you feel almost guilty about taking their money. But take it you will. And hopefully, they will go away with the feeling that you’ve earned it. Or else, if they don’t, it won’t be long before you’ll be driving a truck for a living.
End of Intermission.
Potential Trainer: “Ok, I’ll tell you a little something, it’s actually just the opposite of what you think. There’s a reason that I got into this business and spent so much time and sweat equity on it in the first place. It wasn’t all girls and glamour. In fact, very little of it was. I had a lot of problems to solve and I was astonishingly unfit, my own health was terrible. I needed to do something to save myself. While these facts aren’t flattering, they are some of the essential ingredients that go into making me a rather useful trainer for some people.”
Now, at this point in the interview, you probably have either just lost the job or have managed to line up a little more work for yourself that you will somehow manage to cram into your schedule. (I didn’t necessarily feel the need to go into my whole life story of how I got here and why I do what I do. I’ve told that story so often that even I am starting to find it boring. This particular customer wasn’t here to listen to me talk about myself, anyway).
I was pretty certain that I hadn’t landed this job. Whatever it was that I should have said, I hadn’t said it. Whatever it was that this potential client had wanted to hear, she hadn’t heard it.
Each of us thanked the other for their time and she left the little room in the gym that serves as my office. I caught myself thinking about how many trainers she had interviewed before to me. I wondered if she would continue to try to find the “right one” and if that trainer would tell her what he thought she wanted to hear. And if he managed to figure that out, whether he would get the job and do it properly.