I guess it’s normal to look back on what’s happened over the past 12 months around this time of year.
Generally speaking, us humans will assess what’s changed in our lives, what we’ve achieved, what we wanted to achieved but haven’t quite managed, etc.
I’m no different.
Around about this time every year, I sit and take stock. I think back over what’s happened in my life and I aim to either congratulate myself or learn. (Unfortunately, at this stage in my life, it’s mostly learning I do, but that’s still a positive.)
There’s been a ton of stuff happen in my life in 2016, and I think I’ve probably got a bit of explaining to do.
Not necessarily to anyone in particular. Well, no one actually. But I went majorly off the boil for probably around half of the year. I was getting messages from people I don’t even know, who follow my social media channels, asking if I was okay because I was very quiet online, for the first time since I started writing/posting.
It took me aback a little, but the bottom line is I wasn’t really okay. (I wasn’t medically not okay…let’s not get that mistaken. I just wasn’t myself.)
So, I figured now’s as good a time as any to talk a little bit about what’s gone on.
Obviously, I’m not going to wash my dirty linen in public. That’s classless and I’m just a bit too solid a human for that.
But I’ll break my life down into two sections – personal and business – and hopefully there’ll be a lesson or two in there for you; rather than me simply venting. Alas, even if that’s all this post achieves it’s probably still been worthwhile taking the time to write it.
Here’s what went down:
It’s been a bit of a strange one for me; ’turbulent’ may actually be better than strange.
I went from finally getting my wife-to-be into the UK (after a 3 year visa battle with the UK immigrations department) to moving in with her, marrying her and then separating from her and moving back in with my parents.
Jesus, that was tough just writing that.
Up until the last half of this year, I’ve documented pretty much everything I’ve done on social media: holidays, relationships, training, days out, business, etc.
I’ve always viewed it as a positive.
I’ve got nothing much to hide as a human. I think I’m pretty stand up and I don’t live a particularly offensive or jealousy-inducing lifestyle. I give off ‘good vibes’ 99.9% of the time and have some (hopefully) interesting things to say, so it’s always made sense to share my life with the world.
However, after the break up – well, probably from a month or two prior to it – I felt my positivity levels plummet.
I had zero creativity. No ‘mojo’. And basically just nothing positive to say.
So I battened down the hatches and shut my mouth. (Yes, for the first time in my life…before you say/think it, you cheeky little rascal, you.)
I guess the reason for my temporary demise was twofold.
Firstly, I had brought someone I cared about immensely over here, leaving everything she’d ever known behind, and decided after 6 months that it wasn’t going to work out.
I felt truly terrible about that. The decision to split was mutual, but at the same time, the transition back to ‘normal’ life was relatively simple for me, in comparison.
Secondly, and more selfishly, my identity was flipped upside down.
My identity is something that’s always been pretty set in stone. I’m a strong-willed, dominant male who does what he wants when he wants. (That’s how I view myself, anyway.)
Since being regarded as a ‘nae-user’ in school, I turned the tables around and have carved a path for myself that most would consider as a somewhat of a success – at least at this early stage, anyway.
So I was on track.
I had a decent – albeit not amazingly profitable – business up and running, was winning awards and being touted as ‘better than shite’ at my job, was on the radio pretty often, had a group of mates who’ve been by my side since school and now I was married, living with my wife and planning my future: kids, places to live/bring them up and all that jazz.
Pretty much overnight, I was separated (soon-to-be divorced) and living with my parents at 28 years old.
Everything else took second place to that sentence, and that was – very simply – how I viewed myself.
A total failure.
For between 3 and 4 months, I was useless. The only positivity I had was launched into the sessions I was coaching at the gym.
Put people in front of me exercising and I’ll light an atmospheric fire for ‘em. Coaching was my therapy. It was the only time I didn’t think about the cluster-fuck that was my personal life…the only time I didn’t feel as if I was failing.
I’m not looking for sympathy at all here. I’m all good. I just think it’s important for me to be honest about where my head was during that period, because I know others will have experienced – or will currently be experiencing – similar feelings and emotions.
After burying my head in the sand for 3 months, I finally started to feel better.
I can’t recall what the exact trigger was, but I remember feeling like a weight had been lifted all shoulders. Like I could finally give myself permission to be myself again.
I had got stuck into a lot of ‘behind the scenes’ work (developing systems, operating procedures and equally boring, albeit non-personable tasks) so as not to totally waste the time when my ‘spunk’ wasn’t quite where it usually is.
I also dove back into training at the frequency and intensity I’d been used to when I was a competitive athlete. My diet improved and I cut out all unnecessary drinking.
Essentially, I was getting stuff done work-wise and was getting in better shape by the day.
There’s not many better ways to deal with stress and/or hard times than a combination of those two, by the way.
As the days ticked by, I started to feel more and more of my mojo coming back. I was getting to the point of borderline-intolerable confidence again. People were starting to comment that ‘the old Ross’ was coming back and that I was sounding more like myself again.
It felt good, and I currently feel good.
I guess there’s a couple of takeaways from the stuff I’ve just written.
The first is that persevering when times are tough is crucial in life, but knowing when to quit and walk away is equally important.
I’ve persevered in everything I’ve ever done…even when everything within me told me to quit. Whether that be in training; particularly in the lead up to fights. Or when I had approximately 3 clients after the first 4 months of my Personal Training ‘career’, making next-to-no money at all.
Quitting would’ve been the easy choice in those instances, and no one would have blamed me if that was the choice I made. But I knew that the upside was huge if I doubled down and persevered…and so that’s what I did.
Thankfully, I won a few fights and felt feelings of elation that I’ve thus far not been able to match in any other area of my life. I’ve also managed to build a business that essentially allows me to hang around with my mates wearing a tracksuit all day. So, yeah, I’m kinda reaping the rewards there, too.
But sometimes quitting is the best option. And, as much as it’s regarded as ‘the easy way out’, I actually think it’s harder in many respects; particularly for someone as proud and stubborn as myself.
Once you quit you’ve got to tell people you threw the towel in. You’ve got to listen to the “I told you so”s and just generally deal with the red face that comes with failing. For me, that’s harder to deal with than the agonisingly hard work involved in making something work.
However, when you analyse a situation and look forward into the future and see no upside, you’ve got to make the smart decision, irrespective of the potential embarrassment/feelings of failure.
Hard work and perseverance are paramount to success, but having the self-awareness and wherewithal to quit and focus your attention and efforts elsewhere after you recognise something isn’t working, and can’t be fixed, is also invaluable.
2015 saw me open my first gym and I essentially ‘learned by doing’. It was tough and there were many months I didn’t even take a wage out of the business. When 2016 rolled around, I was still making a ton of mistakes…without even realising I was making them.
It wasn’t until I hosted a seminar that a gym owner from London (Jean-Claude Vacassin) put on that I could finally see the woods past the trees.
Everything we were doing from a coaching perspective was good. But the business model and my processes were was holding us back. That was the issue, and it needed to be corrected.
I also wasn’t a strong enough leader until mid-way through this year, in my own opinion.
For me, a leader should celebrate every success – no matter how incremental – and pass on that praise to his/her team.
I was (and still am, to a lesser extent) shockingly bad at celebrating. Nothing is ever good enough for me. I always want more and the next time always has to be better. It’s what drives me to constantly improve myself, but it can be demotivating for a team.
Similarly, but on the flip-side, a leader should take his/her knocks privately and protect his/her team from them.
The team does not need to know when the leader is having a bad day, or when things aren’t going well. The team need a positive, goal-orientated and fun environment to operate in so as they can perform at their best. Projecting ill feelings, nerves and stress into a team is unnecessary and, ultimately, inhibits performance.
Lastly, on this point, a leader should be vision-orientated, clear with communication and be able to delegate.
Up until recently, I was useless at all three.
Now…I think…I’m only useless at delegation. The control freak in me demands that I do everything myself.
My main goal for 2017 is to overcome this for the greater good, because we simply can’t push forward and achieve the goal that is Improve Glasgow 2.0 if I’m constantly caught up in the minutia.
In terms of actually running the business, by mid-2016 I had more of an idea of what I was doing, but it probably wasn’t until late summer when I really got a handle on things.
It turns out “I make enough to pay wages and bills and sometimes there’s a few quid left over” is not a good enough answer when asked how much money your business makes.
When asked: “What are your retention/attrition rates, Ross?” The answer: “Erm…pretty good, mate” is not good enough either.
I realised I had to ‘turn pro’ as Stephen Pressfield would say. I was running my business like an amateur, and, in order to make things work, I had to step up to the pro ranks.
I got some accountability and support, and immediately began started tracking numbers (for the first time in my 6 years as a self-employed numpty) as it was clear that was the main missing piece of the puzzle.
Low-and-behold, after spending around 3 days trapped in spreadsheets, I felt infinitely better.
Kinda similar to someone trying to lose weight on their own and not using any tracking methods to monitor how much they’re eating. Once they’re told how much they should be eating and are given a simple, effective way to track what they’re eating, their life becomes a helluva lot easier and they now feel they’re in control.
That’s pretty much where I’m at with ‘work’ now.
Because of that feeling of ‘control’, I managed to shake off any feelings of insecurity and self-doubt that have always plagued me…underneath my laddish bravado.
I spoke in front of a few hundred people at Scotland’s biggest ever fitness and nutrition expo (SFN EXPO), I spoke at my first event exclusively for Personal Trainers, gym owners and other fitness professionals, and I got my face-for-radio back on the national airwaves multiple times. I also recently launched a podcast, which is something I’d been toying with for some time now. (Let’s hope I keep the ball rolling on that one.)
These things, along with the constant (if painfully slow) growth and increasingly smooth operations in the gym, have given me the confidence to shout from the rooftops that we are the best Personal Training facility in Glasgow.
My goal, from the very start, was to be the best. That’s why I became a Personal Trainer and it’s why I opened a gym. However, it’s only now that I can say with extreme confidence that we are.
As I move forward into 2017, I can say that this past year has been a steep learning curve. Irish martial arts coach John Kavanagh recently released a book called ‘Win or Learn’, and I think that title sums up my 2016.
For me, as an individual, and I think for many others too, it doesn’t matter how many times you’re told something, you have to actually experience it in order to truly understand.
Here’s a few things I now totally understand, despite having ‘known’ essentially my whole life:
• Quitting is sometimes wiser than persevering.
• A team cannot succeed without strong leadership.
• You can’t measure what you don’t track.
• Achievement is the best cure for feelings of fear, failure, doubt and insecurity; and the only way to achieve is by constantly doing.
• There’s only so long you can keep a good man down.
I didn’t win anything in 2016, but I definitely didn’t lose either. For me, it was about learning.
I’ll always be thankful for 2016; I’m a better man for it.
That said, I’ll be brutally disappointed if I’ve got a similar outlook this time next year when reflecting on 2017.
Next year, I have to achieve.
I have to win.
Nae pressure, wee man 😉
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