A Surprising Lesson Learned While Building An Online Fitness Community

Note from PD: Today's guest post comes from my good friend, Todd Bumgardner. Todd has recently given me a unique forum to share weekly fitness business insights with his crew at the Strength Faction, so I was excited to get some of his material up on my platform when he offered. Enjoy! 

A Surprising Lesson...

We were standing in the gravel lane outside my buddy Josh’s house shooting the shit. We’d just finished taking a few passes up and down the fence row in his fields, hoping to kick out a few rabbits but really just taking our guns for a walk. A guy we went to high school with stopped by because he was borrowing some camping equipment from Josh. Josh is friendly with the guy, I remembered him from school, and we played a bit when we were little kids, but we weren’t really friends. He started in, however, on the current state of affairs in his life.

“Yeah, I’m at $13.21 an hour right now, I’m hoping that if I get this new position at the plant that’ll bump be up to an even $14 an hour.”

My first thought was something like, “Holy shit, man, how do you eat?” He worked hard, 40-plus hour weeks at a diaper and hygiene products factory a little closer to town. Though his story held a twinge of convoluted and corroded gratitude, he didn’t seem to take much joy, or pride, in his work. By all accounts he’s a decent guy, and don’t think for a second that I’m dogging him for a humble job and a humble wage. I sincerely believe that no work done well is trivial. It’s also taken me a lot of hard work to make a decent living in the fitness industry. There were quite a few years of trying to figure out how to pay all of my bills and put gas in my car.

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I was raised by someone that worked a humble job for a humble wage. My mom worked in a super market deli for 20 years. Her final wage, before she had a stroke could no longer work was about $16 an hour. So, when I considered where I came from, mostly, I thought, “Holy fuck, there’s no reason that I couldn’t be doing the same thing as him.” I could be right along side him, stuffing boxes or moving them. But I’m not.

I think we’ll all agree that doing something that you deeply enjoy, and know has a profound impact on other people, is better than working some job just to get by—even if all work, no matter how humble, is in some way honorable. The experience of building something you love is deeper at all levels than just working a job. And the whole of the production actually holds more capital—no matter which way you choose to apply the word in context. And I get to do that.

My job is to getter better, to continually develop myself, so that my partners and I can take this thing we created, Strength Faction, and evolve it so that it better helps people. We created something that didn’t exist before, and it helps personal trainers and strength coaches learn, grow, and live better lives. And I stop for a second and think, “Fuck, man, that’s my job. This is bananas.” That’s where my mind went that evening in the gravel driveway.

A few years ago when I was in transition out of one job and into the wide-open ether that is fitness entrepreneurship I wrote on a post-it note that I wanted to be “The Dave Grohl of Strength and Conditioning.” I stuck it to the wall in front of my desk and stared at it every day for months as I worked. To me, that meant, and still means, to be a good dude, someone that brings passion and energy to their work, that creates things that people enjoy and also greatly improves their lives, to do my best to be approachable and fun to be around. Dave Grohl has been one of my heroes for a long time, and it’s because of how hard the guy works to put out quality art while also appreciating that he gets to do what he does—entertain millions of people all over the world while writing songs that relate to parts of life we’ve all encountered and felt the pain or joy of. It’s his palpable gratitude that’s so magnetic to me.

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As I’m writing this article, blog, whatever in the hell you want to call it, I’m listening to the Foo Fighters song “Aint It The Life.” The first verse goes like this:

“Dear Haley

 Can you save me from the borrowed cloud I’m on?

 All you’ve gotta do is try, pray you’re just getting by.”

Sometimes I feel like I’m on some borrowed cloud, like this shit can’t be real. I get to run a business with two of my best friends. I get to build a program that educates people, that helps them develop personally and professionally, and watch the people of a community congeal to take care of each other in so many ways. And I feel grateful.

I know I could be working a factory job back home in Pennsylvania. I could be doing something that isn’t nearly as meaningful to me or anyone else, and I could be bitter and resentful about it. I realize that if I sit on my ass and grow complacent that all of this will be taken away, and that I’m not the only one that will suffer because of it.

But today, I woke up with the coolest job in the world, building an online community of people all over the world that want to kick ass, be better at their jobs, and be better people.

So, apart from all of the tactical lessons, the learning about how to organize systems, get people on the same page, and develop something from the ground up, the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the past two years of running Strength Faction is to be even more fucking grateful for my life and what’s in it.

That’s something we can all take away from whatever situation that we’re in. We get to be wherever we are, doing whatever we are doing right now, when things could be impossibly worse. But they’re not. And we have all this opportunity to impact other people and help improve their lives while doing the same for ourselves.

Ain’t it the life?