A couple days ago, a 19-year-old college student asked me this:
“I want to work in the fitness industry and help people. If you could go back to when you were 19, what would you do over?”
It was a good question; and I felt honored that he trusted me, a college dropout, to answer it.
Now, I don’t remember everything I told him, but I do remember one Big Point:
Don’t get loaded down in debt. Instead, get creative, help more people, and you’ll make (and keep) more money.
When I was 21, I took out a $25,000 loan to buy workout equipment and rent my own personal training studio.
The first year I was open, my mom had to bring me care packages of food and toilet paper because I didn’t have any cash left over at the end of the month.
All my money went to paying two rents (my apartment and my workout studio), bank loans and…weekly matinee movies where I snuck a couple cans of beer into the theatre and drank them in the back row. I learned that a regular 9-5 job wasn’t for me early on. I’ve also gotten better with money. Still drink beer at the movies, though.
From the outside, of course, it looked like I was doing great. And to a point, I was.
I didn’t have a “regular” job. I was starting to write for fitness magazines. I made money helping people get in shape.
But I really had the illusion of success because I had the nice “upscale” studio. No one knew how much money I made…or how much money I paid to have the nice studio.
“Hey, there’s that young go-getter with the fancy workout place!”
So while I was good at training people and had some wonderful clients — the best, actually — my studio was too small to train more than one person at a time. Plus it was above a nice hair salon who didn’t appreciate the thump of early-morning deadlift sessions.
Plus, I wasn’t having that much fun eating canned tuna and wiping my ass with low-grade, single ply sandpaper.
So…if I were just starting out and had to do it all over again…
I’d buy a cheap beat-up truck and $300 worth of kettlebells and other random workout stuff, and train people outside in the sun. Park, beach, backyard…it wouldn’t matter.
No more training studio with an astronomical rent. No more bank loans.
If it rained, I’d negotiate some kind of flat-rate deal ($20-40 bucks for a few hours) with a high school gym or a martial arts studio or some kind of community-building-thing and train people there instead.
And I would never ever train one person at a time. Only groups of 2-3.
Quick aside: training 3 people is pretty much the same as training one person, and it’s even easier to get clients, since everyone wants to bring a friend and hang out and make the thing social.
Plus everyone gets a discount and you make more money per hour. It’s winning all around.
One person: Pays you $50 / hour to watch them do lunges. You make $50 per hour.
3 people: Pay you $25 / hour to watch them all do lunges. You make $75 per hour.)
Of course, coaching is a skill and involves much more than watching people do lunges. But that’s still a part of it.
If I was 19 or 21 or hell, even if I had to quit everything and start from scratch now, that’s what I would do. And when I wasn’t training clients, I’d be writing and hustling in other ways.
I’m not saying it’s perfect or even a good idea.
But still. It sounds kinda nice, right?
What I’m currently enjoying: Choose Yourself by James Altucher.