Each year, as we prepare to post new calendars, as the annual countdown from 10 down to one rings in resolutions to be better than in the previous year, authors, nationwide, are asked to write articles about reflection and planning. And as one of these authors, I've written my share on such topics. In fact, I've traversed the subjects of "Preparing to make next year more prosperous," "Helping clients make effective resolutions" and "Capitalizing on America's renewed January promise." However, this year, I'm going to do something different, something necessary if you and our profession are going to find unprecedented achievement in 2007. I'm going to help you determine if you are an able servant.


"Did You Say Servant?"

            Now, here's where many of you reading this might share the sentiment, "A servant?!?!? I am not a servant." This is a typical reaction. However, if you were to stop reading the article here, like those who might be offended by my suggestion of servitude, you would believe me to have a flawed and condescending perception of what a fitness professional does and what our profession is all about. But many of you know me better than that. In fact, you know if I'm referring to any fitness professional as a servant, then the word servant must be re-examined. Maybe, just maybe, I'll prove to you that the idea of "serving" is noble, and to take this idea a step further, if we nobly serve others and position ourselves to prosper by doing so, we can collectively form the happiest organization of servants on the planet.

            Unlike other articles that show up around December, I'm not going to ask you to look ahead not yet. I'm not even going to ask you to reflect on the past, at least not immediately. Rather, I'm asking you to explore the moment (the here-and-now) and assess whether you are positioned for excellence.

            To do so, you will need to determine whether you are ready to marry the idea of "serving" with the reality of achievement. It's a scary exercise. And you might find that you're not as well suited for the role of a fitness leader as you thought. On the other hand, you might gain some new insight, perspective and motivation that will kick things forward without any need for those all-too-familiar resolutions. Rather than setting goals, focus on positioning yourself to land precisely where you want to be.


A Fitness Professional's Real Job

            The question of "what fitness professionals do," or more specifically, "what trainers do," separates many in our field. There are many in our industry (including myself) who would give the world a more realistic glimpse of our career

reality, one that exists beyond the traditional workout model. Unfortunately, there are many men and women, wearing shirts that define themselves as trainers, who would agree with this former ideal of the fitness professional. They might even be offended if they were asked to be servants and would find unity in the idea that they are workout leaders first and foremost.

            Part of the challenge of seeking excellence in our profession rests upon the paradigm that's already been solidified; thus, public perception is formed from that paradigm. Consumers believe trainers earn their living by taking people through workouts. However, that's analogous to saying "pest control professionals earn their living by spraying bug spray,"

or "surgeons earn their living by cutting people open," or "teachers earn their living by giving homework." These are all truisms but are clearly unfair if they're presented as global statements without additional explanation. In fact, pest control

professionals may earn their living by ridding homes and offices of unwanted pests and insects, and perhaps they spray bug spray at times, but without inspection, knowledge and follow-through, they leave happy pests and unhappy customers. The same can be said of surgeons who earn their living by performing life-altering operations and surgical procedures that are preceded by extreme examination and are a part of a therapeutic process to restore or improve health. Perhaps surgeons make incisions, but that's only to gain access to the area that requires their professional expertise. Moreover, teachers earn their living by preparing children to become self-sufficient adults who contribute to society and enjoy productive and fulfilling lives. Is homework a part of the process? Sure, just as workouts are a part of "what we do."

            Fitness professionals earn their living by using exercise knowledge and

an appreciation for the pliability of the human machine in order to better the lives of others. If, as fitness professionals, we are to serve adequately, we will have to go way beyond just "the workout."

Many may begin by assessing strength, endurance and physical capacity, but even these skills would best be described as only the tip of the iceberg. If we are to nobly and proudly serve, we will have to assess and uncover emotional elements, including goals, false beliefs, limiting thoughts, motivational triggers and lifestyle obstacles, which may interfere with adherence. Today, true fitness professionals are those who have learned to take a baseline of knowledge, combining exercise science, nutritional fact and some level of understanding of human reaction and response, and have become adept at using such knowledge to help others gain control over the way their bodies look, feel and function. Therefore, as such a leader, you should be committed to your work,

passionate about your commitment and also comfortable with asking for the fees you deserve.


De-Mystifying De-Serve

            Wait there's a phrase we all like. "The fees you deserve." The word "deserve" is an interesting word.

            de·serve (d_-zûrv') from Latin d_serv_re, to serve zealously

If, based on that definition, we are to command the fees we deserve, then clearly, we increase our value by being of greater service to others. Don't mistake the idea of a

"servant" to be synonymous with one who is enslaved. You "serve" of your own free will, and the measure of your service is assessed by the value you provide. If we are going to serve the majority of our clients, "taking people through workouts" isn't enough to ' justify these significant fees. However, giving people the power to achieve their health, fitness and weight loss goals is a completely different story. So, the question in assessing your worth is, "How valuable is the service you provide?"

            A noble servant, one who helps others achieve all that they desire, can amass power, influence, affluence and respect, and there are few, if any limitations, on the potential for growth in any of these areas. In assessing the here-and-now, answer the following three questions, and summon up all of the honesty you can find. Nobody will see your answers unless you opt to share them.  


Do your clients REALLY achieve the results they seek when they first retain you?

            Some may say, "A few do," which is actually better than most in the field. Others might say, "Most of my clients achieve the results they seek," which places these trainers in the top echelon of fitness

professionals. But I'm going to suggest you should be able to make the statement, "All of my clients achieve the results they seek." Those who can boldly make this statement and stand behind it are the future leaders and role models for our field.


Do you thoroughly empower your clients so they no longer need you? 

            I know the apprehension that many professionals have related to this idea. If you empower your clients, then you become obsolete. But nothing could be further from the truth. When you truly empower your clients to understand precisely how the human machine works and how the process of stimulus and adaptation can lead to continued and ongoing improvement, your clients become more than fans; they become evangelists. Often, clients leave because they become discouraged or dissatisfied. However, if you "serve" these clients, they will enjoy the time they spent with you, treasure the impact you've had upon their lives and, if you so choose, follow you to the end of the earth to help promote your "service."


If you were to write down what you believe one hour of your time is worth for a one-on-one session, would that equal what you actually command hourly? 

            I've asked this question in many workshops, and even with those who earn $80,000+; in most cases, the answer is eye-opening. Free sessions, discounted packages, favors and

discounted group offerings often play into the rift between what fitness professionals believe they deserve and what they're willing to ask for. With a new understanding of the word "de-serve," it should become crystal clear. Whatever you believe your time is worth should unequivocally equal your rates. Your real rates.


Looking to the New Year

            In a recent teleconference where I worked with high-level trainers to help recognize key elements for powerful adjustments in mindset, I chose to share a quote from Albert Einstein: "Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile." If you recognize that your chosen profession can be one of the most worthwhile pursuits our society offers, here are some thoughts I suggest you approach the New Year with:


  • There is extreme power in mastering servitude.
  • If you ask for the fees you "de-serve," you control your financial destiny.
  • To "serve" as a fitness professional, you must take a holistic view of each client, recognizing that he or she is more than just the body that is reflected in the mirror. The client is a combination of the experiences (physical, emotional and mental) and shifts in those experiences, which will dictate his or her outcomes. While "mind, body, spirit" may sound hokey or a bit too esoteric, its implication is appropriate as our clients are manifestations of all three.
  • Position yourself to prosper without limit by serving others, and the equation becomes simple. Serve more people, justify greater reward. If you decide to continue on the route of setting new goals, making resolutions and evaluating the past year, feel free. But if you do it by recognizing the value of the "service" mindset, 2007 will become the year you are unstoppable!

            Phil Kaplan is a fitness professional committed to helping personal trainers establish lucrative and rewarding careers. Find a vast resource of fitness truth for consumers and fitness professionals alike at www.philkaplan.com or visit www.PTBAonline.com for more of his articles and seminars.