"Hello, I'm raw material with desire, integrity and hunger." That quote is precisely what we'd like to find emanating from the darkness in mining for human capital. For those who are presently accomplished in our field, the mine is sparse. If you're not yet as accomplished as you'd like to be, scarcity in the mine may be the best news you've ever heard!

This is a call to those who have one foot committed to pursuing a career in personal training with the other foot being held back by options, guesses and the perception of a need for something to fall back on.

Here's my official announcement: If you want to be great, a door is open. Only a few will walk through the open door. I'm committed to showing you the entryway and then leaving the ball in your court. Fifteen years ago, I shared a less-traveled "career path" with those aspiring to find futures as personal fitness trainers. Today that path is paved, trampled and muddied with footsteps of thousands, some of whom found success, others who turned back and others who jumped off the path to explore uncharted territory.

Though this path is still a valid means of getting to a career destination, the terrain has changed, and new paths have emerged. Although our industry has matured significantly, it still lacks a step-by-step career development plan.

Before I go further into the realm of "the open door," I'll share the still-valid path I shared in the past:

  1. Find your passion. Gain personal experience with exercise, learn from others, and personally find the joyous life improvements a fitness lifestyle brings.
  2. Study academically. Whether it's through pursuing exercise education via conventional academia or self-study, the step beyond passion is education.
  3. Achieve a credential. While certification doesn't make a great trainer, every great trainer operating at a professional level has a recognized certification. Examine the options, speak to those who hire and earn, and choose a certification you feel will serve as a preliminary measure of competence, one you'd be proud to hang on your wall.
  4. Work in a health club. Health clubs have always been the testing ground. Compensation in most health clubs is modest at best, but the low level of entry allowed for relative ease in finding health club employment — and the environment allows you to assess and develop your interpersonal skills and the application of your newly offered services with some guidance and support.
  5. Excel. The typical health club still fails to offer a sense of long-term financial security for trainers, but because many are accepting of mediocrity, you fast become a standout, making you enviable and visible among an active membership base.
  6. Build an arsenal of evidence. Even if the health club is just a step along the path, recognize it for the opportunity to prove the value of your services. Document improvements, collect testimonials, use your camera often to document visual change in your clients, and assemble a portfolio.
  7. Develop the power of influence. If you're preparing to venture out on your own, while gathering your evidence, take time to study
    psychology, learn from great influencers, read everything from Dale Carnegie to Zig Ziglar, and find comfort with promoting.
  8. Establish a business with procedural consistency. If you continue along a path toward independence, the business you're
    beginning is a business, and your clients aren't your buddies. Develop policies and procedures to minimize or eliminate no-pays, no-shows and clients who abuse your calendar and your time.
  9. Market. Once you take the leap into your own business, do so equipped with a marketing strategy and willingness to rely on affiliations, alliances and chance introductions.
  10. Touch, compel, capture, thrill. This is the essence of growth for any fitness business. Balance your efforts so you consistently touch people, compel them to take action, capture them as clients and thrill them by delivering more value than they might ever expect.
  1. The open door allows a shortcut from desire to success. It has its beginning steps in common with the path I just shared, but then comes the quantum leap.

    The Accomplished — in Need
    The primary element that allows new career path options is the
    emergence of role models living and breathing success in our field every day. There are now many who have mastered the standard path, found success and now desperately long for raw human material.

    Todd Durkin works with pro athletes. His two Fitness Quest 10 facilities operate in San Diego at a stellar level while he travels the country touching, compelling, capturing and thrilling. Todd is forced to rely on personal trainers who have gained insight through his personal tutelage, and he struggles to find additional trainers willing to do what it takes to contribute at a level of excellence.

    Juan Carlos Santana takes human performance and functional exercise to an entirely new level. The Institute of Human Performance helps people find personal growth on a daily basis, but it is limited in its potential to reach more people by the lack of human capital.

    Shelby Murphy is a name you're no doubt familiar with (she's the Editor of PFP!). She has built the only fitness center in Granbury, Texas, an upscale area outside of Fort Worth, and longs for someone to enter her doors with the desire, hunger and attitude that makes great trainers great.

    Brian Schiff in Columbus, Ohio; Brian Calkins in Cincinnati, Ohio; Cliff Latham in College Park, Texas; Matt Hunt, founder of Sonz Fitness in Atlanta and Florida; Rick Sikorski, developer of the Fitness Together Franchise; and scores of others can only find their growth by connecting with others who share vision and passion. I call these people my friends. They all, in some form, followed the paved path, and they've grown. As a result, the landscape has new life.

    Fifteen years ago, you couldn't fill a conference lineup with personal trainers who had built successful business models. At best, you could find a few who cracked the six-figure mark by pioneering new ground with their own talents. The necessary career path forced you to maintain 100% responsibility, not only for the direction of your pursuits but also for pursuing information that was elusive.

    The Untapped Opportunity Is Here, Right Now
    All of the names I mentioned, and hundreds like them, aren't limited because of personal shortcomings, the economy, the marketplace or the state of our population. They are all limited by a longing for quality human capital, for warm bodies with ambitious minds aimed at doing what it takes to find extreme reward by bettering the lives of others.

    If you're going to lunge through the door, know that among those who fall into the category of "accomplished," entitlement is not invited. Limits are not welcome. "Giving it a shot" is not the
    language they'll hear.

    If you want the quantum leap, connect with an accomplished expert and provide compelling reasons that expert should offer you an internship, a mentorship or an apprenticeship. Learn the language of responsibility and commitment. It includes frequent and sincere use of the following statements:

    "I will. I can. I'll learn. I'll master. I'll connect. I'll follow through. I'll question. I'll grow."

    If you want more than mediocrity, consider a legitimate shortcut through the vital stages of
    competence, confidence, and compensation. Find the willingness and innovation to reach out to those you might admire and learn from, and capture their attention with sincerity and integrity. Ask for the opportunity you deserve. You might find yourself whisked through the open door, paving a new path towards personal training success.

    Phil Kaplan shares success skills and strategies with fitness professionals worldwide. Visit philkaplan.com for information on his Be Better Project and Benevolent Uprising Tour.

    >>> If you're ready to take a step toward excellence and have the passion, knowledge and "X-factor" today's industry leaders are begging for, please send a letter of desire for an apprenticeship and resume to PFP's Editor atshelby.m@rbpub.com.

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