Not every trainer you know has the perfect success story from the very beginning of their career. In fact, we can guarantee that nearly all of your fitness role models have been through some serious challenges when they started out. All of the obstacles they fought through were exactly what brought them to the success they have today. Hopefully this serves as some encouragement to all the gym owners and coaches out there who are having a hard time keeping their business going during the COVID quarantine.
To give you a glimpse of hope and help you along your way, we put together some highlights of a conversation between Sam Pogue, Vice President of Brand at TrueCoach, and Matthew Ibrahim, a highly successful coach, consultant, and speaker who has experienced a lot of ups and downs in his career. You look at Matthew today and he’s a wildly successful trainer who gets to share his knowledge and expertise with coaches all over the country. But little do many know—he struggled so much with his undergraduate education that it took him six years to graduate.
“I failed a bunch of courses, got punched in the face a bunch, tripped a bunch, failed a bunch,” he told Sam. “It’s good. It helped me.” Matthew has some valuable nuggets of advice that will certainly help you along your way. Here are seven takeaways you can apply to your business.
Go Out of Your Way to Learn From the Best
There are always people out there who have more experience and success than you do. Those are the ones you should develop a relationship with and learn from as much as possible. “I’ve learned from some of the best people in the industry,” Matthew said. “I reach out to every single human being like, ‘I want to learn from you. Can I shadow you? Can I volunteer?’ I still do that today and I’m 31 years old.”
“We always have to continue learning and developing,” he continued. Take every opportunity that comes your way; and if the opportunity you want isn’t available, create it for yourself. Matthew pointed out that most people are afraid of failure or rejection. This is normal, but don’t ever let the fear be a driving force behind everything you do. Reach out to the people you look up to and find a way to learn from them.
Never Burn Bridges
Every person goes through some rough spots in their career. You may have even experienced some difficult moments with coworkers, bosses, peers, or clients. But no matter how upset you may feel or how challenging the situation gets, never let yourself get to the point where you end a relationship on a bad note.
“Don’t burn a bridge. Don’t be bitter,” Matthew advised. “I’ve always been respectful and professional over the past nine or ten years.” Because he kept his eyes on the prize in the long term, he has been able to speak at places like Google headquarters, EXOS, Stanford University, overseas in Italy, etc. Matthew said even though he “sucked at an internship” he did several years ago, his former boss was still able to connect him with some amazing opportunities because they stayed on good terms and Matthew showed that he had more to offer.
“Consistency is huge,” Matthew said. “Be consistent, just do something every day. I think the biggest thing is you put your head down to work and you respect others around you.” Even if you take baby steps every day, just do something every day that’s getting you closer to your goals and helping someone.
“I think people chase perfection,” he added. This leaves so many people in a kind of decision paralysis. They think things have to be perfect and this prevents them from actually putting down their head and getting things done. Give yourself small, incremental goals that you can reach on a daily or weekly basis. This will get you one step closer to success every day.
Learn How to Communicate
“If I’m not communicating at a high level with the different amount of hats I wear, I’m going to suck,” Matthew said. “Brett Bartholomew’s book, Conscious Coaching, has taken meteoric rise in the past couple of years. If I can’t communicate with you effectively, it’s not going to be a good relationship.”
Even if you’re a remote coach, communication is a highly important skill to have. You have to be able to relate to your clients and make them feel heard and understood. Practice your communication skills as often as possible, even if it means you practice on your close friends and family members. A trainer who doesn’t communicate well is a trainer who likely won’t see much success in their future.
Be Patient and Stay Calm
It can feel like you’re never moving forward even though you’re putting in a ton of time and effort. When you feel yourself stressing out or reaching your wit’s end, pause for a second. “You know what? Breathe,” Matthew advised. “Take a deep breath. It’s all good. Let’s just breathe.”
Even if you messed something up with a client, you missed a deadline, your assignment is late for your class, don’t panic. In the grand scheme of things, a couple little screw ups won’t completely take you off track. It’s all about how you choose to get through the challenge and move forward with intention and positive thinking.
Be an Active Listener
Simply hearing what someone says and letting it go out the other ear isn’t the type of listening that will help you in the long run. Matthew referred to “the skill of active listening versus hearing someone.” When a client comes to you with a problem, an insecurity or a fear, the answer isn’t, “What are you talking about?” But rather you should respond with, “Let me actually sit and realize what you’re really struggling with.”
Matthew explained that active listening is “applying what they said and utilizing it in the response.” Repeat back to your client what it seems like the root of the issue is. Because let’s be honest—the true issue for your client isn’t that they keep eating sugar or failing to wake up on time. There are deeper issues going in their life. Maybe they don’t feel connected with their partner or family. Perhaps they’re feeling lonely and isolated during quarantine. Actively listen to what they’re struggling with underneath the surface, and use that as a springboard to truly help them.
Know Your Clients and Your Audience
“Know your personnel, know your audience,” Matthew suggested. “I may have a different interaction or level of communication with you during a training session if you were a client of mine versus an older gentleman who doesn’t like to listen but gets the work done. Body language is a language as well. Utilize some form of language, whether it’s verbal, physical, body language, whatever.”
The way you interact with each of your clients and your audiences will depend on their demographic, personality traits, etc. You have to be able to read the room and remember who you’re talking to.
“My favorite things in the world are food and coffee and movies,” Matthew said. “Now, you laugh because you know it’s funny. You’re not going to forget that, though. Something that you laugh about is impressionable: ‘This guy was a weirdo. Coffee, movies and food.’ But then those are easy relatable points.” Make yourself relatable and memorable so like-minded people will want to work with you. This will make it even easier to understand your clients and audience so you can relate to them in a lasting way.