The first time I ever heard that question was from my long-time mentor Andy Andrews. He was speaking live at a large business convention and shared the story about how his mentor, Jones, asked him that very question. Andy was a young man then, and the answer would change his life.
The critical question is not about how you see yourself but how others see and view you. How you see yourself is crucial; however, how you show up to others can be drastically different despite your best intentions. Everyone has blind spots when it comes to how they see themselves, and unless you have the good fortune of having a trusted friend or family member reveal these to you, you could potentially come across much differently than you might think. And this is typically for the worst.
The answer to the question of how others see you may be uncomfortable. That was definitely the case for Andy, leaving him with a choice. He could ignore the wisdom of his mentor, Jones, and continue along his current path. Or, he could choose to accept 100% responsibility for his lot in life and make some changes that involved some severe upgrades to his skills in dealing with other people.
Fortunately for him, Andy made the responsible decision and rebuilt his character from the inside out. It wasn’t easy; however, his hard work would pay off quickly. He would become a highly acclaimed keynote speaker, advisor to college and professional sports teams, advisor to the US Military, and a New York Times best-selling author multiple times.
The first time I was challenged with how I was showing up was in 1997 while training at Brickhouse gym in Coppell, TX. I am a bit shy by nature and tend to be pretty reserved. Further, I take my gym time very seriously. Combine these traits with the fact that I was in the best physical shape of my life, and you get the following.
Her name was Jacklyn, and I often saw her at the gym. She was a tall and beautiful brunette and honestly a little intimidating to me. Therefore, we were around each other for some time before I spoke to her. When I finally said that first hello, we introduced ourselves, and we had a lot in common, as it turned out. In time, we became excellent friends, and she hired me as a vendor for her company.
During a meeting one day at her office, she commented on how surprising it was to her how things turned out between us based on her initial impression of me. Curious, I asked her to explain. She said that because of my overall demeanor in the gym, she figured I was arrogant and stuck on myself. And now I asked? She said her initial impression was completely wrong.
Wow! Jacklyn’s full explanation provided some relief, but ouch! Her comments were an eye-opener. I was grateful that once she got to know me, she didn’t think I was an egotistical jerk; however, her initial impression gave me serious cause for concern. I knew I was shy and tended to be more serious-minded; however, I had no idea that I was coming across as being an arrogant narcissist.
When I left her office that day, I knew I had some work to do. Fortunately, I’ve always been a sponge for learning, and I was more than willing to do the necessary work to build and polish my character and break out of my shell.
Fast forward about twenty-five years to Monday, April 18, 2022, when I celebrated my fourth anniversary as a fitness professional with Life Time Healthy Way of Life. Monday is my big leg day,
including two of my favorite exercises, Trap Bar Deadlifts and Banded-Glute Ham Raises. I love my Monday routine, and on this particular morning, I was extra fired up due to my anniversary.
Towards the end of my workout. I ran into two of my longest-standing clients. Let’s call them Bob and Sue to protect their identity. They were just starting as I completed my last set, and I walked over to say hello. After a quick rundown of our respective weekends, I told them thank you. Looking puzzled, they asked why. I replied that it was my anniversary and their support over the past four years helped me reach my little milestone.
Bob and Sue expressed how much they appreciated me constantly checking on them in the mornings. They are the exception to the rule because they don’t train with me one-on-one. We met during my first few months on the job as we worked out at the same time in the early mornings. After some time, we developed enough of a relationship that they hired me to build their workout programs, and the rest is history.
Several other clients like Bob and Sue have hired me only to build their workout programs; however, I give them the same level of support as my regular one-on-one clients. As far as I’m concerned, once I walk in the front doors, whether I’m on the clock or not, I’m on stage and responsible for serving all of our members, especially my clients.
Customer feedback is invaluable, and I constantly ask my clients if there’s anything I can do to serve them more. Bob and Sue acknowledged this and said they also appreciated that I walked my talk with my personal training and nutrition. I see them and several other clients who also train in the early mornings five to six days a week, so they know I’m taking my own medicine.
As I stated above, when I’m in the club, whether in the dressing room, Life Café, or on the gym floor, I’m on stage and there to serve. While I have to carefully manage my time during my personal workouts, I strategically seek to connect with any of my clients who may be training and the rest of the club members. Years ago, I heard that the most influential person in the room is most actively involved in introducing themselves.
In my mind, the only way I’m going to help someone with their health is to gain some influence. Leadership expert John Maxwell often says, “You must touch someone’s heart before you can ask for their hand.” To me, that means proactively seeking to meet members every day.
Unfortunately, Sue said that not all trainers are as friendly as me. Her comment wasn’t directed at anyone in particular or LifeTime for that matter, as she has trained at numerous gyms over the years. It was just a general statement based on her personal feelings. I apologized and tried to downplay the whole scene. I further shared that twenty years in outside sales before becoming a fitness professional gives me an advantage in knowing how to engage and connect with people.
Afterward, as I was driving home, I reflected on Sue’s comments. The trainers at my club are excellent in their craft and have genuinely good hearts, and I consider them trusted friends. Further, trainers employed by LifeTime nationwide are held to extremely high standards and are generally top-notch in delivering exceptional client experiences. However, according to one of my best clients, who I also think to be of high moral character, we as trainers have an opportunity to improve.
While I can’t speak for the training industry, I will share the events that took me from being an apparent arrogant narcissist to where I am today. And please let me emphasize that while I’ve come a long way, the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know and how far I have to go. For example, there are numerous things regarding my people skills where I feel like I’m just starting.
In particular, I hate conflict and avoid it at all costs. Because of this, I still sometimes struggle with crucial conversations with family, friends, and clients. This is an opportunity for me, and I’m actively working with several accountability partners to overcome this weakness.
You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
I have been following Andy Andrews since the mid-90s, and fortunately, I had already heard his story about his encounter with Jones before meeting Jacklyn. While the experience with her was disturbing, on the one hand, I quickly saw the parallel to Andy’s story and immediately went to work reinventing myself.
Looking back, I am so grateful for having met Jacklyn. It’s a simple yet profound phrase that you don’t know what you don’t know. No one had ever called me out the way she did, and the whole experience was a huge blessing.
If you’ve never had a Jones or Jacklyn in your life, you might consider asking a best friend or family member about how you’re showing up. For bonus points, you might consider talking with someone you spend a lot of time with, like a co-worker, but with whom you’re not close. Their insight into you will likely be more objective than friends and family. Ultimately, these may not be the most comfortable questions to ask; however, the feedback you receive may be life-changing if you take it to heart and do the work needed to polish your rough edges.
Your Work May Be Right in Front of You
John C. Maxwell is another long-time mentor I’ve been following since the 90s. Many consider him to be one of the foremost authorities in the world on leadership; however, he started out many years ago as a pastor. I once heard John tell a story about one of his top leaders. John was the senior pastor at the time at Skyline Church in San Diego, California, and to protect his name and integrity, let’s call his executive pastor Bill.
Bill entered their facility one morning and walked right past John, speaking with several other staff members without saying a word. Overall, the group didn’t pay attention to Bill’s lack of courtesy; however, John definitely noticed. And after wrapping up his conversation with the group, he headed straight to Bill’s office.
After exchanging good morning greetings, John cut straight to the point and challenged Bill for his massive oversight. He replied that he meant no harm and had a lot of work. John replied that his work was gathered back in the lobby and that he had missed an opportunity to engage and add value or simply offer an encouraging word.
Before joining Life Time, I heard that story when I worked as a manufacturer’s representative for Workrite Ergonomics. It had a positive impact then because of the broad responsibilities and the multiple levels of decision-makers and influencers I dealt with and served daily. However, now in my role as a fitness professional, I know that I’m on stage every second of every day from the moment I get out of my car in the parking lot. My members are watching, and that’s been proven to me many times through various conversations.
Therefore, my personal standard is to treat all my members like million-dollar customers and with no expectations of anything in return. First and foremost, it’s the right thing to do. And second, you never know who may actually become a paying client. Doing any less is a disservice to our members and Life Time.
I’m Still Shy
In 1995, I took the DISC Personality Profile for the first time. For those familiar with DISC, I tested as a high C and high S. For those unfamiliar, it means I’m very conservative and detail-oriented. My D and I barely showed up. This means I’m not the life of the party or the hard-charging, “It’s my way or the highway” sort of person. My profile didn’t precisely match up for a company looking to hire a sales rep. In fact, my soon-to-be sales manager coached me on how to retake the test to come across with much more D and I.
In 2017, I retook the DISC test to prepare for a sales training boot camp with Pici & Pici in Orlando, FL. Since my first experience back in 1995, I’ve studied personality types in-depth, and I can take pretty much any test in such a way as to manipulate the outcome. I shared this with Joe Pici in a phone conversation a few months before the event, and he encouraged me to take the test from my heart.
Want to take a guess at my results? In twenty-two years of growth in my personal development, I’m still shy, reasonably reserved, and detail-oriented in my thinking. However, I have learned to be outgoing and strategically courageous when it counts to excel in my career and in life. Am I saying it’s easy? The answer is definitely no; however, the “why” behind my personal mission to serve people through the vehicles of business and fitness is much bigger than my natural inclination to keep my mouth shut and not make any waves.
When I attended the boot camp taught by Joe and Dawn Pici, one section focused on mastering the DISC personality model. The training I received substantiated how my core traits are ingrained from birth; however, my adapted styles explain how I can adjust my behavior to cope with the requirements in a given environment. Your adapted profile demonstrates your conscious understanding of yourself and your behavior in a given situation.
For most, the environment makes all the difference. When I’m in the gym, training myself or a client, or with nutrition or life coaching, I’m in my strength zone and come across as very confident and strong. This includes public speaking, where I feel secure as long as I’ve had the opportunity to prepare. However, suppose you send me to a business after-hours networking event where I know no one. In that case, I will likely default to my natural state of being shy and stand in the corner waiting for the required time of attendance to pass.
You might consider doing so if you’ve never taken a personality test. DISC, Myers-Briggs, and Standout are all excellent choices. Your results, combined with the feedback from your family, friends, and coworkers, should arm you with all you need to work to maximize your strengths and shore up your weakness in dealing effectively with people.
Can You Be Courageous for 20 Seconds?
The scenario I shared in the last statement is accurate; however, I recently learned a simple strategy to overcome my natural inclinations. Can you be brave or courageous twenty seconds at a time? Fear is an allusion; the best way to overcome it is to run straight through it. So at the same networking event, let’s say I have a goal to meet five new quality contacts with whom I can potentially do consulting with their company. And let’s say I need to meet fifteen to get my five.
Now I don’t need to be brave for the entire two-hour event; I only need to be brave for the five minutes it takes to walk up and introduce myself to fifteen different people. The hardest part is the initial approach, and that’s the magic of the twenty-second burst of courage. Once you extend your hand and introduce yourself, it’s really not that big of a deal to meet new people.
You can apply this same strategy to basically anything where you’re procrastinating in taking action. The late great Zig Ziglar used to teach that fear is false evidence appearing real, and Andy Andrews teaches that fear is a misuse of your creative imagination. Both statements are factual; in either case, your best bet is to commit to the task and take action. The first step is the hardest part. Once you move into action, I promise the rest will be much easier.
Closing thoughts for my readers:
My purpose in writing this post is not to cast a shadow on the personal training industry or make myself look good. First, while I’ve made tremendous strides in my personal development over the years, I still have tons of work to do. And as I said above, my teammates locally and throughout our company are all highly skilled in their craft and loved by their clients and our membership. Unfortunately, the role of being a fitness professional is to always be on stage. You are always being watched by your members and should conduct yourself accordingly.
In the summer of 2017, my sales manager at the time sent an email in response to a question I had asked him earlier that afternoon. I had given a formal presentation to a large group of people, seeking his feedback. I thought it went well; however, I needed his word of approval.
His reply was positive enough regarding my presentation; however, he took the opportunity to share something that was shocking on a personal level. I was embarrassed more than I could ever explain, and it compelled me to make some immediate changes. For personal reasons, I choose not to reveal the details; however, I assure you it was a massive deal to me. The changes it drove me to make were quick and permanent.
In hindsight, while I was mortified then, I will be forever grateful for Robert sharing with me. I know it wasn’t easy, hence sharing it by email; however, he cared enough about me to share some tuff love under the circumstances.
My purpose in writing is always to serve others by offering a little perspective and an encouraging word. So whether you ask for objective feedback from your inner circle to improve yourself or to speak some needed truth into someone’s life, I wish you only the best in your efforts.
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