Books, Blogs & Business - Installment 2

Oh man, that book looks legit. I love the cover.
— CSP Intern, Frank Duffy

Isn’t it funny how easily we can be sucked in to a bad book decision thanks to a decent cover design?  Well I’ve got to raise my hand and acknowledge that I’ve done just that.  I made a mediocre book selection when I pulled Daniel Goleman’s FOCUS off the shelves of my local Barnes & Noble simply because I’d heard his previous book Emotional Intelligence was good, and I thought the cover was pretty. 

Book Report – FOCUS, by Daniel Goleman

Had I taken a few moments to read the reviews of this text, I would have quickly realized the irony in that the critical component that FOCUS is missing, is actually, focus.  The author states in the introduction that his objective is “to spotlight this elusive and under appreciated mental faculty in the mind’s operations and its role in living a fulfilling life.”  Sounds interesting, right?

Unfortunately, the material bounced in unpredictable directions from one chapter to the next, much like publishing a series of arbitrary blog posts in succession and calling it a book. In the end, I found myself with a collection of interesting but disjointed takeaways. 

This being said, you can always find useful tidbits from a book if you look closely enough.  Here are three quotes from FOCUS that inspired me to pull out the highlighter:

1. “What information consumes is the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

Goleman is specifically speaking to the obvious and dramatic attention deficit issues which are resulting from the constant introduction of new technology, apps, social networking platforms, etc.  I’d imagine that most of my readers would agree that this is a problem, but few of us are doing much about fixing it.  I am as guilty as the next person, as I have a tendency of losing myself in an endless Facebook newsfeed.

This is EXACTLY why I don’t “follow” anyone while managing our CSP Instagram account; I don’t trust myself to avoid giving hours of my time and attention to funny memes each day.

A poverty of attention is a dangerous thing when you’re teaching athletes how to lift appreciable weights.  We got ahead of this issue by posting a sign above the door to our gym from 2007 through the summer of 2012.  It read:

Attention CP Athletes:  Please be advised that by passing through this doorway with a cell phone in hand, you are hereby authorizing Eric, Tony, Brian, and/or Pete to beat you beyond recognition with the cell phone in question. Thank you for your cooperation, and have a nice day!  - The CP Team

The only reason this sign is no longer on display is that our cubby area for client belongings transitioned into the training space when we moved to our current location here in Massachusetts.  I’d encourage gym owners to post something similar, as it sends a clear message and inevitably becomes an entertaining talking point with parents.

2. “Rapport between doctor and patient greatly increases diagnostic accuracy and how the patients comply with their doctor's instructions, and enhances patient's satisfaction and loyalty.”

In this case, Goleman is discussing the factors that impact the likelihood of a physician being sued for malpractice.  The quote applies to CSP, and fitness professionals in general, because we are all fighting an uphill battle when trying to make an impact on a client’s decision-making process while NOT inside of our gyms.

A considerable chunk of the CSP athlete community is provided with “at home” training material which is executed without the supervision of our team of strength coaches.  In every scenario, the athlete is taken through a thorough walk-through of proper technique and execution prior to returning home.  Our coaches’ efforts to build rapport with our athletes while learning our programming material is intentional because it directly affects our athletes’ compliance with the intricacies of the programming. This keeps our clients happy, and keeps our athletes injury-free.

A coach can absolutely do a bad job of introducing content despite demonstrating flawless technique and execution.  Your ability to imprint the material in the mind of your client is entirely dependent upon your ability to engage with them during the coaching process.  Going through the motions leads to a lack of program adherence upon returning to a home gym.  Be engaging.  Enjoy the interaction component of the coaching process.

3. “A mini-industry of consultants stands ready to guide companies through a standard playbook of strategic choices. But those off-the-shelf strategies fine-tune an organization's tactics--they don't change the game.”

This quote is two things to me:

1.     A reflection of the fact that I took a lot of very random information away from a book about focusing more effectively.

2.     Awesome.

I do a fair amount of business consulting these days and this quote is apropos because it perfectly encapsulates the primary issue I currently observe.  There is an abundant source of individuals and companies advocating that their systems work for everyone’s business.   

Instead of instructing my clients to “do what CSP did”, I take the CSP training approach which emphasizes individualization.  My first call with every consulting client is an initial evaluation of his or her business to understand what makes that business unique.  Uniqueness, or differentiation, sells. Differentiation is what Seth Godin would refer to as “the beauty and greatness of what you’ve set out to build.” Awesome blog post on Godin's two-review technique

If you want to run a fitness business that positively impacts the direction of the industry as a whole, you need to stop worrying about that standard playbook of strategic choices.  CSP’s offering of individualized training materials to every single athlete who comes through our door is neither efficient nor scalable, but it is what allows us to deliver unique results.  It is anything but standard playbook material.

If you’re going to seek advice on business development, make sure that the person delivering the ideas starts by asking you questions about yourself and your company before outlining their system.  If they can’t ask questions and listen from the start, (1) they’re not good at business development and therefore they aren’t good at their job, and (2) they don’t care enough to get to know your business and why would you pay them?

An article from outside the fitness industry that made me think…

Chef Marcus Samuelsson on When Real Leadership Means Getting out of the Way

Article Link

I came upon this piece while reading a segment of the November edition of Fast Company Magazine titled “Secrets of the Most Productive People.”  What caught my eye was Samuelsson’s answer to a question of whether or not he works on weekends:

“I don’t have weekends. I don’t have vacations. When you’re a chef, you give everything to your work. My work is personal. That’s the point.”

This quote jumped off the paper at me because Chef Samuelsson’s complete immersion in his work reminds me of the way that Eric Cressey runs his business.  The difference between Eric and the thousands of strength coaches who are trying to emulate him is always going to be work ethic and the willingness to put in the extra hours.  His gym identity is closely tied with that which people see outside of CSP.  His work is personal, and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

Seeing as how the word “personal” is the main component of Chef Samuelsson’s message, it is certainly applicable to the fitness industry.  If you’re a personal trainer, your work is personal. That’s the point.  Throw yourself into the work now and earn yourself the right to achieve work-life balance a little later down the road.