Being Risk Adverse May Make You Success Adverse
April 30, 2009
Here is my first guest/article contributor of the year
Not gonna say much, read for yourself. It’s a great story.
“Mike Mahler is an expert in the challenging field of sports
conditioning. His unique and innovative teaching tactics
guarantee high retention of these one-of-a-kind
workouts. His extensive knowledge feeds a powerful
passion to explore the human body with safety and
strength. If you get a chance to train with him;
do so or regret it”.
- Frank Shamrock, 5-Time UFC Middleweight Champion
About Mike Mahler Click HERE
“Zajonc insisted that we delude ourselves when we think that we evaluate evidence and make decisions by calculating rationally. “This is probably seldom the case,” he wrote back in 1980. “We buy cars we ‘like’, choose the jobs and houses we find ‘attractive,” and then justify those choices by various reasons.”–Daniel Gardner in The Science Of Fear
Human beings are incredibly adept at rationalizing any line of behavior. We decide what we want (whether rationally or emotionally) then go into lawyer mode amassing the support material necessary to justify our actions. We are incredible defense attorneys when it comes to what we want. The problem is we’re often not honest about what we want and further, what we think we want isn’t the real thing.
People email me all the time asking for business advice. They want to get into the fitness business but always have an array of excuses why the present isn’t a good time. They desire motivation to jump into the business and hope I have the magic words to thrust them into action.
They’re deluding themselves about what they really want: They don’t really want to get into the business, it’s just the passing thought excites them. If they were ready to make a change and jump in, they’d do it without rationalizing why. People ready to make a change, make the change, then rationalize why they made the change, not the other way around.
People make dramatic changes in their lives when they’re fed up internally or feel forced by external circumstances. They prefer to stay in their comfort zone, reinforcing all their reasons for avoiding change. Big changes typically occur dramatically, not gradually: one day you’re working in some office, bored out of your mind, and the next week you’re engaged in the business you’ve always dreamed of doing but were simply not committed to pursuing. One day, you’re fifty pounds overweight, and the next year you’re lean and in shape. A year isn’t a long time–big changes can happen within a year given determination and tenacity.
Major life changes are often thrust upon us. For example, fitness has been my passion for many years: I got hooked in 1992, and spent most of my time test driving fitness programs and reading every training book and magazine I could find. (I continue these practices, reading twenty or so training books a year, and too many articles to count.) Fitness was my passion, yet didn’t become my occupation until 2002. From 1996 to 2002 I worked at various jobs I couldn’t care less about. Why? Because I was influenced by others, neither prepared to take charge of my life nor make my own decisions about what I wanted to do.
Every time I considered quitting my job and plunging into the fitness business I found many reasons to justify staying put. I refer to this period of my life as a time in which I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do, but in reality I was doing what I wanted. Truly, if it hadn’t been what I wanted, I’d have taken the steps to change. While the job was boring, it was easy, providing me a comfort zone and a steady, every-two-week, paycheck. Why would I give that up to take on the risky proposition of self-employment? I didn’t give it up and it wasn’t until I got fired, felt completely fed up, that I decided I was finally ready to push forward and not look back.
I feel irritation around risk-averse people who lack the courage and tenacity to do what they really want with their lives, yet I know the reason I feel irritation is because I used to be those people and they remind me of a part of myself I don’t like. I know what it’s like to stay in the comfort zone, performing meaningless work day after day. I’ve been there, I know what it’s like to know what you really want and still find excuse after excuse to stay put. I’ve been there and my discomfort reminds me it’s easy to return there.
We each have an inner coward (for lack of a better word) discouraging us from risk taking and life’s other active engagements. This coward has a subtle, albeit extremely persuasive voice, but if you give in you’ve done so of your own volition. No one makes you live a life of passivity (certainly not in America where possibilities are endless) and if you don’t fight the voice of the “passive way”, you’ll find your life becoming ordinary, i.e., never leaving the comfort zone. No, living it up two weeks of each year on your scheduled vacation isn’t enough (try as you might to make those brief vacations distracting) and “living for the weekends” is nothing less than pathetic.
In their formative years, businesses typically display innovation, courage and persistence. Over time, they tend to stall as the people running them become more comfortable and risk-averse. Gather seven people, all sharing the same belief system, in a meeting room together and you’re guaranteed a non-innovative time! All they do is reinforce their mutual beliefs and nothing original comes of it. This happens with companies and organizations all the time.
When I entered the fitness field in 2002, I decided to focus on kettlebell training. Sure, I’d written training articles for magazines and websites that were conspicuously not about kettlebells and I also did online consulting without using kettlebells, yet the majority of my income came from kettlebell workshops. No one else at the time was making their full-time income as a kettlebell instructor nor was anyone presenting kettlebell workshops. Kettlebells were a ground-floor opportunity but there weren’t many people to invite to the party! Probably there weren’t more than one hundred people who owned kettlebells in 2002. Most of my early seminars brought less than four hundred dollars (which is the cost of a single registration these days.) My first workshop in 2002, in Los Angeles, a whopping three people attended.
I didn’t make much money back them, but it was an exciting time, the first time in my life I was making money doing something I was excited about. Over the next few years the business grew and in 2005 I took a huge step forward, enjoying ample income ever since. It’s a blessing doing that which you love and making a great income at it.
Over the years, I’ve become more efficient, gradually shifting from a workshop-emphasis business model to a product-focused business model, resulting in a welcome passive income–this means I make money while not actively “working”.
I love the passive income business model but if you’re not careful, it recreates the comfort zone. I’m not materialistic by nature, so I’m unmotivated to work hard in order to buy fancy cars and big houses. The house we live in is fine and the same Honda Civic I’ve been driving for years still gets the job done. Thus, materialistic goals are useless to urge me out of my comfort zone. In early 2006 I fell into a comfort zone and knew I had to change things around.
In 2006 I decided to break with Dragon Door and go off on my own (in a previous article I discussed the reasons why, so I won’t bore you with the details again.) Once I was on my own, I learned more about marketing my own company and taking further charge of my destiny. It was another exciting time, resulting in more professional and personal growth. In spite of all this, in getting the business on track I fell into another comfort zone.
I decided to break out of the comfort zone by taking on a bigger project : The Boys are Back in Town workshop, where I teamed up with long-time friends and colleagues, Steve Cotter, Steve Maxwell and Nate Morrison, in presenting a two-day workshop in Las Vegas. The four of us had worked together at Dragon Door but never collaborated on a workshop of our own in which we did everything from promotion, to registrations, to instruction. This was our opportunity to present a workshop of our own ideas without any restrictions. It was also a chance to create an unprecedented offering…
Someone I go to for business advice is my friend, Tim Larkin. In addition to his self-defense expertise, Tim is a marketing master and he recommended I video tape the Boys are Back workshop and produce a DVD set for sale. It was a great idea and it paid off handsomely. More importantly, it provided an opportunity to create an exciting offering: Not only would our workshop attendees benefit from this great seminar but they’d also receive the ultimate souvenir of a DVD of the workshop itself. No more information overload wherein you go home retaining only 10% of the information presented. Now, the possibility of 100% retention became reality, since you can watch the DVD set as many times as you wish.
I paid for the production of the DVD myself and also gave every attendee a free copy of the finished product. This offer was not included within the promotion copy when people signed up, so they had no idea beforehand. When I announced at the workshop that we were taping the event and everyone in attendance would get a complementary copy, people clapped in excitement.
While the workshop was a huge success, the accompanying DVD set proved to be a bigger success and remains the gift that keeps on giving. The combination of workshop plus DVD is an incredible offering; something I think will become a standard in the fitness industry.
The Boys are Back in Town project was exciting and took me right out of my comfort zone. It in fact, catapulted me out of my comfort zone. It’s a hard project to top but that’s exactly what I must do to remain outside the comfort zone.
Given the success of The Boys are Back in Town workshop, logic dictates I simply replicate the original workshop. After all, why mess with a winner? If the first one succeeds, the second one will be a bigger success, especially given the success of the DVD. Yet doing the same workshop over again doesn’t excite me. For one, kettlebells are no longer the obscure training tool they used to be. While they’re not yet a household name, there are now many more people training with kettlebells and innumerable kettlebell instructors presenting workshops and making DVD’s. In fact, I’d guess there are more kettlebell instructors and DVD’s than trainees!
Kettlebell-focused workshops, when promoted properly and with a great line-up, are a sure success but it’s time to go beyond kettlebells, and I wanted a seminar with a diverse line-up that no one had ever done before. Kettlebells would be a part of it, not the focus. After all, kettlebells are an incredible training tool, and you can get a lot out of kettlebell-only workouts, but you’ll get greater benefits combining kettlebells–correctly–with other training tools. Top strength coach Louie Simmons says if you read only one great book, that is all you have, but read that great book and several other great books and you have that much more to work with. This is precisely the case with kettlebells: kettlebell-only training is great, but kettlebells combined with other solid training tools is even better. This is what all top strength coaches do with kettlebells: they integrate them into their systems, not making kettlebell training their only system.
I wanted to present a workshop to take the trainee to the next level. A workshop providing new information to not only upgrade your kettlebell workouts but additionally introduce you to extremely effective training and nutrition information.
This is how the Collision Course workshop came to fruition. It’s truly a collision of diverse instructors. What all the instructors have in common is their use of kettlebells. While this isn’t a kettlebell-focused seminar, it is a seminar of expert instructors who use kettlebells effectively within their unique training paradigms. As a result, they each know how their respective systems uniquely benefit kettlebell training and vice versa. Established kettlebell trainees will benefit immensely from this seminar as will those new to kettlebells–and even those people who couldn’t care less about kettlebell training.
When I perused the course’s final line-up I got really excited. This is an unprecedented course which I’m not only looking forward to presenting but also looking forward to attending since the information and experience are incredible. Additionally, 10% of the revenue is being donated to a great organization, Kids Kicking Cancer–you can’t beat that icing on the cake!
As excited as I am about the seminar, it’s a riskier production than any workshop I’ve done before. In fact, I have to convince everybody there won’t be information overload and they’ll be able to put what they learn into action. With people losing their jobs and homes left and right it seems a less than ideal time to promote an expensive workshop, but waiting for the ideal time is a long wait, making it likely that nothing ever gets done.
Whatever the reasons, registrations came in a lot slower than previous events, like The Boys are Back in Town. While The Boys are Back in Town sold out within a month of being announced, the Collision Course workshop took a lot more work on my part to get even close to filling up. However, as we get closer to the event in October it is almost sold out. While it will not be as profitable as The Boys are Back in Town on the front end but I’m committed to seeing this project through and I know the DVD set will succeed on the back end. Is this guaranteed? Of course not! There aren’t any guarantees: this DVD set could be a big flop. Not because the content isn’t great–it is–but simply because people don’t care.
Do I have regrets? Absolutely not! I don’t want others taking risks, then me following the paths they’ve blazed. No way! I’m the one blazing the path and taking the risks! Without risk there’s no chance of big success. Risk is what brings the excitement to life and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve no doubt the registrants will be blown away. The people who’ve decided to wait for the DVD to come out will kick themselves when they see what they’ve missed. Yes, the DVD is valuable but nothing takes the place of live instruction in a room full of other serious trainees. The people attending the workshop and receiving their free DVD benefit the most–as they should–since they’ve risked the time and money and time to attend in person.
Life is an obstacle course of comfort zones and just because you’ve broken out from one comfort zone doesn’t make you free and clear. Comfort zones creep up on you when you’re distracted and before you know it, there you are, comfortable, again. In order to escape the comfort zone, you must take on discomfort–and that means risk! And risk means things won’t always go your way. Destiny favors the bold, but you may have to exhibit boldness for a good long while before the payoff. Detach yourself from the anticipated fruits of your labors for just a moment and realize that risk taking in itself is exciting. Risk taking in itself is the juicy fruit–not the paper you’re vying for.
Wherever you are in life right now, it’s exactly where you want to be. (Yes, there may be an exception–or two–don’t flood my email box with complaints describing your unique situation.) The bottom line? If you’re not doing what it takes to improve your current unhappy situation it’s because you don’t want to. There’s always something you can do to make things brighter–the key is you actually have to want it.
NYC Personal Trainer