How to Navigate Stormy WeatherAug 02, 2023
I learned about "taking imperfect action" way back when I officially became a strength-and-conditioning coach at the ripe old age of 23.
At that point I was quite inexperienced and felt scared due to proverbial stormy weather.
For someone who was enrolled in graduate school and also working as a graduate assistant, it seemed overwhelming to start a business in health and fitness during that busy time.
Coaching some of my first "official" clients was a challenge because I had not developed the proven systems I use today.
To be honest, managing everything was far more responsibility than I’d ever had before. Also, I was afraid of failure.
At first, I was coaching out of a traditional health club. It was a great opportunity to gain experience and I didn’t want to let anyone down, especially my clients and my family.
Aside from my school responsibilities I had the crazy idea of creating an age-management coaching program, for over-50 men and women, where I would treat clients like they were college or pro athletes. I called it the "Over-50 Strength and Conditioning Program."
It was 1996 and, generally speaking, college and pro athletes were the only ones who followed a structured training plan, practiced mindful nutrition, had accountability check-ins, and approached everything with the singular purpose of winning.
I imagined my clients as victorious. Not on the field, but in life. Leaner, stronger, and slowing the aging process.
How to Navigate Stormy Weather
At that time, if you owned a health-club membership and actually used it, most of your workout was spent on the treadmill or elliptical trainer.
You would perform a handful of machine-based strength exercises, on Nautilus or Cybex brands of equipment, done from a seated position with a seat belt firmly locking you in place,
Most men and women wore their weightlifting belts, cinched extra tight, for arm curls and other non-essential moves.
Squats? Deadlifts? Sprints? Pullups? Only a handful of old-school gym rats or former athletes performed these tried-and-true basics.
My program was very slow to develop, perhaps due to my lack of marketing, and my excessive research. I basically used "research" as a form of procrastination. Sound familiar?
Other challenges for me and my newfound age-management program:
- Lack of free weights and racks
- Intolerance of the top brass
- Malaise of the general gym population
As the longevity program started to grow, the owner of the facilities was, quite frankly, frustrated that clients actually showed up at the gym and trained hard.
In his eyes, hundreds of 50-plus-year-olds were showing up more often and monopolizing the equipment.
You see, the classic health-club business model only works when a large percentage of paying members don't show up.
But, looking back, I had limited business experience and really didn't understand the traditional big-box fitness model.
One afternoon, in a meeting with the president and vice president of this multi-location health club, I suggested that the owner purchase more strength equipment.
I said something like, "Based on my calculations, a 20,000 square-foot facility should have 20 power-rack stations, in order for me to institute a 'proper' strength-and-conditioning program."
Of course, at that time, I wasn't the one signing the checks so this request was especially brazen. I recall the president's stuffy office and their slack-jawed expressions after my investment advice.
"Absolutely not, Joe. You have a lot of b*lls! Get your own facility!" they shouted. The meeting was over.
It’s easy to say, "I’d like to start my own coaching business" but actually stepping up and doing it, and potentially being rejected, was something that I struggled with.
I looked at all the “famous” coaches, featured in magazines and working with Hollywood celebrities and pro athletes, and it was obvious that they were far more experienced, more knowledgeable, and had superior resources.
I knew that the circumstances I was potentially entering were not ideal. A “pie-in-the-sky” program with a limited budget and no track record of success wasn’t exactly the ideal launching pad for a successful career.
In addition, I chose to coach in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania, which remains one of the most obese and out-of-shape areas of the United States.
Most residents, then and now, simply aren’t coachable because they don't prioritize their own health and, as a result, find little value in coaching.
"Making a living is more important than healthy living," I heard someone say one time. Huh?
In reality, they're simply too sad to care, likely sedated by depression as a result of preventable disease. Or maybe "too busy" with grownup responsibilities to take action and get healthy.
The vast majority of 23-year-olds, that were interested in a professional coaching career, were taking positions as interns for college strength-and-conditioning programs, not attempting to help, at the time, a half-million people living in the Lehigh Valley.
Why should I be any different?
The best time to start is now.
So I took a leap of faith and I learned as I went. When I started coaching, I really didn’t know how to make a website, market my business or how to hire an employee. But I accepted this new challenge and started living my passion anyway.
The first few months were really tough. As I said before, I had no real systems manual to follow. After my first year I still hadn’t “found myself” as a coach.
Sure, I had wild success with the clients I was helping, but it was more of a throwing-stuff-against-the-wall-to-see-what-sticks approach than actually figuring things out.
Thankfully, the experience taught me a lot. The next year the program grew and my clients did better.
By the third year we were growing even more, and in the fourth year I had a full staff of coaches to manage and four locations.
I spent the next two decades gaining valuable experience and honing my coaching skills. There were so many lessons learned, like the concept of forward failure.
Over that time I also met and married the most amazing woman, Sharon, and we started a family. Now we have two fun-loving roommates named Giavanna and George.
During my coaching career I’ve been blessed with many amazing opportunities. I've worked with the top coaches and athletes on the planet.
I've also published books and magazine articles. I've even been awarded “Best Fitness Coach” in my community.
My "overnight success" has been an evolution over the past 25+ years. And none of this would have happened unless I took the first step in spite of my insecurities.
What I learned through this experience has benefited me time and time again. No matter what your goal, success is a process and it requires overcoming limiting beliefs and taking action.
Maybe your goal is to finally lose weight and get healthy. Perhaps it’s to feel happy and less depressed.
Maybe your goal is to lose 50 pounds of dangerous abdominal visceral fat over the next 12 months. But it really doesn’t matter whether you want to lose five pounds or drop 40 pounds, or transform your life and lose 88 pounds.
Actually, I’d encourage you to dream big and set lofty goals for yourself. That’s part of what makes life worth living.
Really, the key isn’t so much what the goal is, but how you act on it. Once you’ve set your goal, big or small, you will do so much better if you spend more time thinking about your “first steps” versus the big-picture goals that you dream about.
By the way, an experienced coach can help you create a safe, fun, and effective body-transformation plan.
Just recently, while doing a coaching session with a client of mine, I suggested that in addition to the big-picture dreams he had set out for himself, perhaps he might also benefit from having some realistic goals for the short term.
I then proceeded to suggest a few.
While I don’t know your particular “big goals,” here are a few examples of first-step goals that will help you generate momentum and start making real progress toward where you want to be:
- If you want to get healthy and achieve athletic bodyfat, consider setting a deadline and hiring a coach.
- If you want to radically change your life, and you have at least 10 pounds of unwanted fat to lose (or even 100) start by losing one pound this week.
To someone who is already where you want to go, these kinds of goals might seem rather small and insignificant – but to get the momentum you need to succeed, they’d be a good start.
To get to your big dreams there are a lot of "boring little" steps in between.
And many of those steps might not be as exciting or as fun to think about as the big endpoint you’ve identified as your ideal destination.
One of the things I've come to accept is that successful people are weird. But often it’s important to focus on the very next steps that you need to take in order to move towards your priority-one goal.
This is how you generate momentum.
By putting one foot in front of the other. By completing four workouts per week. By purchasing fresh food at the grocery store and batch-preparing your meals for the week. By knowing your numbers.
Success isn’t some massive leap. It’s the combination of hundreds or even thousands of "boring little" steps in succession.
But most people don’t recognize that, so they look for the magic bullet. The quick-fix tricks (think detox juice cleanses and random bootcamp workouts).
And while this isn’t good news if you’re looking for immediate gratification, it’s great news if you’re willing to take the first few steps to lifelong success. Because you understand that the magic is in the process and the process begins with that first action.
And don’t think that you’re stuck taking these so-called baby steps for long. Once you’ve achieved these first small goals, start to increase them.
You might want to go from taking your body fat percentage from a dangerous 40% to a healthier 20%. In a few short weeks, you’ve put a series of steps together and you’re well on your way to achieving your big goal.
But before you can run, you need to walk.
To quote Dr. Denis Waitley: “There never was a winner who was not first a beginner.”
The most important thing you can do to make your goals a reality is that first step.
The lesson is about how to overcome challenges and fears to pursue your passion. You may start with limited resources or face resistance in introducing a new approach. Despite insecurities and initial struggles, success is a process of taking action and breaking big goals into manageable steps, which ultimately will lead to your success. Focus on the first steps and embrace the process of achieving your goals.
To your success,
Joseph Arangio helps 40+ men and women lose weight, gain strength, and slow aging. He's delivered over 100,000 transformation programs to satisfied clients around the globe. If you want to increase longevity with the best online age-management program, or you want to visit the best age-management program in the Lehigh Valley, you can take a free 14-day trial.