How to Navigate Stormy Weather

mindset Aug 01, 2022
How to Navigate Stormy Weather

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:

⛈️ Becoming a strength coach was overwhelming for someone who was also enrolled in graduate school and working as a graduate assistant.

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.

⛈️ I was afraid of failure.

At first, I was working as a coach out of a traditional health club.

It was a great opportunity to gain experience and I didn’t want to let anyone down… my clients, my family.

Aside from my school responsibilities I had the crazy idea of creating a fitness-and-nutrition coaching program where I would treat regular folks like they were actually college or pro athletes.

This 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 ONE purpose…


I imagined my clients winning. Not on the field, but in life.

Leaner, stronger, more energy, and more joy.

At that time, if you owned a health-club membership (and actually used it), most of your workout was spent on the elliptical trainer (google it)...

...followed by a handful of machine-based resistance training exercises, done from a seated position with a seat belt firmly locking you in place, on Nautilus or Cybex brands of machines.

Most men walked around the place with a weightlifting belt, 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 fear-based procrastination.

Sound familiar?

Another challenge for me and my "dream program" was the lack of squat racks and the intolerance of the top brass, and malaise of the general gym population.

The owner of the facilities was, quite frankly, annoyed that folks actually showed up at the gym and trained hard.

You see, the classic health-club business model only works when most paying members rarely show up.

I was also incredibly brazen enough to suggest, to the president and vice president of this multi-location health club, that...

...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.

I remember the stuffy boardroom meeting and their slack-jawed expressions after I suggested they invest in tens of thousands of dollars of additional equipment...

"Absolutely not, Joe. You have a lot of b*lls! Get your own facility!" they shouted.

Meeting over. (And I did eventually get my own facility.)

⛈️ It’s easy to say, "I’d like to be a professional coach" 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.

⛈️ I chose to coach in one of the fattest, penny-wise-yet-pound-foolish, most out-of-shape areas of the United States… the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania.

Most residents, then and now, simply aren’t coachable because they don't prioritize their own health.

"Making a living is more important than healthy living," I heard someone say one time.


In reality, they're simply too sad to care... sedated by depression and obesity.

Too busy to care about healthy living.

(Choosing to have better days is a topic for another lesson.)

⛈️ 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?

But ultimately I accepted the premise above:

The best time to start is now.

And I learned as I went.

When I started coaching, I didn’t know how to run a training session, how to "motivate" clients or how to encourage others to get healthy.

By the way, self discipline is the new motivation.

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.

I had wild success with the few 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 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 been awarded “Best Fitness Coach” in my community.

Me and Sharon were featured on the cover of Lehigh Valley magazine and in a healthy-home renovation TV show called HomeBody Challenge.

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.

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.

But you must understand, 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 you 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.

So 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.

To your success,

Coach Joe

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