Mike: [00:00:05] Hello and welcome to episode one of the How To Become A Personal Trainer podcast. We’re your hosts, Mike Vacanti.

Jordan: [00:00:09] My name is Jordan Syatt. And Mike, this was a fun first episode.

Mike: [00:00:12] This was really fun.

Jordan: [00:00:13] We spoke about a lot, number one being personal trainer certifications. We get a lot of questions on what are the best certs, which ones should you get, and also about internships and we spoke about the combination of the two, which ones you should get, how to get them, and what we value more and why.

Mike: [00:00:30] Yeah. From there we talked about some of the most common traits and characteristics we see in really good coaches and even in individuals who decide to become a personal trainer and within one or two years are doing very well and helping a lot of people and growing a business in the process, as opposed to the mindset of the individuals who burn out more quickly and burnout around social media, around fitness, burnout in general.

Jordan: [00:00:59] Yeah, and that was really a topic I think a lot of people are going to enjoy, is the discussion on social media content, how not to burn out, and then really how to present yourself online regardless of whether you’re just starting out as a coach or you’re a veteran coach, how to avoid burnout and how to be true and honest to yourself in a way that will help the most amount of people.

Mike: [00:01:17] Let’s get into the episode.

Hello, Jordan.

Jordan: [00:01:27] Hello, Michael.

Mike: [00:01:29] How are you doing?

Jordan: [00:01:29] I’m doing well, my friend.

I’m very excited that we’re officially  starting the How To Become A Personal Trainer podcast.

Mike: [00:01:35] How long have we been wanting to do this?

Jordan: [00:01:39] Over a year? Over a year at this point. And different name variations have surfaced, but this one turned out to be the most fitting for a number of reasons.

But it’s like, at the most basic level we want to help people become better coaches. That’s it.

Mike: [00:01:56] Absolutely. And we’re going to get into that, you can read about what today’s episode is going to be about. We actually just said it in the intro, but right now we’re just kinda going to talk about what’s going on with us. And for me, that is having a snapped up lower back because I’m, like, struggling over here.

Jordan: [00:02:17] And what happened? How’d you do that?

Mike: [00:02:19] I’m an idiot, first of all.

A few plane rides, sitting a lot, and then on Thanksgiving morning, I had gotten bad sleep, I felt rushed, and I was trying to get a little training session in, and basically didn’t warm up. And during one of my warmup sets of Bulgarian split squats, just felt like a tinge in my lower back.

Jordan: [00:02:45] Oh, that’s what did it, Bulgarian split squats. Got it.

Mike: [00:02:48] Mmhm. I think from being so tight and it was a higher than normal bench behind me, and yeah, like, I felt a little something and then immediately went over to lay down with a lacrosse ball thinking maybe I should actually warm up so I don’t hurt myself.

And then progressively throughout the workout and throughout the day, my lower back just locked up to the point where–

Jordan: [00:03:09] Just getting tighter and tighter and tighter. That sucks.

Mike: [00:03:11] Yeah.

Jordan: [00:03:12] And you’re taking a flight before that and then also you said you’re on the couch and stuff a ton, just like you’re sitting and sitting and sitting and sitting and sitting and then just went right into the workout.

Mike: [00:03:21] Yeah. Really smart, huh?

Jordan: [00:03:22] Yeah. Yeah, that’s a good idea.

So, how to become a better personal trainer…

Yeah. No, I mean that’s, I think, one of the biggest struggles is: you can know exactly what to do for your clients and you can know exactly what the right thing to do is, but then it’s so easy to just say, “ah, not for me today,” and then that’s when you fuck shit up.

Mike: [00:03:41] Absolutely. Yeah. I’ll be back soon here just with a few days off of training and being smart, ’cause this has happened before. But, yeah, very annoying.

Jordan: [00:03:53] How was Thanksgiving otherwise?

Mike: [00:03:54] It was great. It was really good. Yeah. So, I got that workout in with my dad.

Jordan: [00:03:59] Oh, he was there? Was he like, “what’s going on?”

Mike: [00:04:02] No, I didn’t tell him. I just kind of, like–

Jordan: [00:04:04] You just pretended everything was okay?

Mike: [00:04:05] Yeah.

Jordan: [00:04:07] Does he know now?

Mike: [00:04:08] Yeah, he knows now, but he was getting a good session in and I didn’t want to distract him with that. But it was great, hung out with my family. My mom cooked and had my sisters over and saw a bunch of my friends that I grew up with, so it was good.

Jordan: [00:04:27] That’s awesome.

Mike: [00:04:27] Yeah, I know you guys got some good, some quality family time with your mother as well.

Jordan: [00:04:31] Yeah. My mom came in, hung out with her and the girlfriend, just hung out, went out to eat. It was pretty relaxed. Got a lot of sleep. I basically took the whole week– I didn’t go 100% away from work, but I’ll call it like 75% went away from work and then slept a lot, ate a lot, did a bunch of jujitsu, got several lifting sessions in, so it was good.

Mike: [00:04:54] Does taking a few days of way fewer work hours like that lead to you being more motivated to work now?

Jordan: [00:05:04] 1000%, yeah. And it’s interesting, a lot of people ask me, cause I create a lot of content, and a lot of people are always like, “do you ever get burned out of making content? Does it ever stress you  out?”

And I don’t think I’ve ever gotten burned out of making content. I think that what’ll happen is, based on whatever’s going on in my schedule– like, for example, my mom comes in to town or something else, in that moment or in those days or that week, the ability to make as much content becomes far more difficult.

So, in that point in time I just don’t make as much content as I normally do. And so, then when I’m not making as much content, I get super motivated to come back harder and really go into it again. But I never feel myself pittering out, I think it’s mostly that I just have to adjust to whatever environment I’m in.

And I really  think that that’s been the major key to me, making so much content is that I’ve put myself in an environment with you, and then also with Gary, and then with people who are just always bringing me up and always like– if I ever said to you, “Hey, listen man, I can’t hang out ’cause I need to do work,” like, you’re always cool with it. Or if it’s like, “Hey man, I need to cancel our plans ’cause I have to do work,” like, you’re always cool with it.

And I think for me that’s been probably the most important part of being able to make a ton of content and not get burned out. ‘Cause I think people burn out for one reason, because they feel like they have so many other obligations that they can’t put the time into the content that they want to put into it because of the other obligations that they have, and then they feel like they’re being pulled in so many directions that they can’t devote enough time to content.

Mike: [00:06:42] Don’t you think a lot of that is people, and I’m not saying this is easy, but people lacking boundaries and lacking like the, call it guts, call it whatever to say, no? Like, so-and-so friend wants to go out drinking, and I feel bad saying no to them, so I’m going to do it to appease them.

Jordan: [00:07:03] Massively, massively. I think it’s part lacking boundaries and also part, I think, even realizing that their environment is an issue. I’m not gonna name any names, but I have a very good friend that you and I both know who recently, we started communicating and he literally ended a friendship with someone who he was friends with for years because they got in a big fight and whatnot, but when he started talking to me more about that friendship and what was going on, I was like, “dude, I never have conversations like that, arguments like that with Mike or with Rico or with Gary or with anyone in my life.” It’s like, those conversations don’t exist. It’s like, basically the conversations mostly being made up of a lot of complaining, a lot of blaming other people, a lot of nonsense like, “Oh, look at this coach doing that nonsense. Oh, this coach is a fraud, oh this coach is stupid. That stuff is ridiculous.” And their entire two, three-hour conversations with just be poison of just how awful everyone else is rather than being productive. And I think sometimes people feel like that’s normal. Like, that is a normal conversation that you’re having on a regular basis.

I’m like, man, I mean, if that’s a normal conversation that you’re having on a regular basis and it’s dragging you down, making you feel awful, keeping you unproductive, you have to then establish boundaries and say, “I’m not going to be a part of this,” and then find that new environment, which always is easier said than done, but for me it’s like, yeah, everything is easier said than done, but just because it’s easier said than done, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

Mike: [00:08:33] Absolutely. I think that taking one step in the right direction is the easiest way to start that process because it’s not like if someone is in a bad environment, or if the people who you spend the most time with, whether they’re family members, friends, colleagues, if they’re people who don’t embody both the values and the interests that you aspire toward, then cutting all of them out completely is completely unrealistic and probably unnecessary, actually, but finding other people who have similar interests to you or who have a temperament similar to what you want– I don’t remember where I heard it, but, something along the lines of “we appreciate in others the traits we look up to and others, that we admire.”

Admiration is a compass that we can use for our own personal changes. So, seeing someone like Gary, for example, and we both had the opportunity, if anyone listening doesn’t know, but I coached Gary Vaynerchuk for two years, Jordan coached him for three years after that, we’ve both been coaching him since. And for both of us, one of the things that we realized immediately being around him was how hard he worked at something he enjoys doing is it brought us up. And so for someone who might not be in the best environment or might not be thrilled with where they are in any place in their life, looking for friends, looking for new people who embody those traits or have those similar interests, and trying to spend time around them is going to be beneficial for you and hopefully it’s going to be beneficial for them as well.

Jordan: [00:10:26] Incredibly well said. And I think one of the reasons people get burned out, especially in online fitness, never mind in person, which is a whole separate ball game, like, people get burned out of that because it’s really freaking hard being on your feet for 10 to 12 hours a day.

But like the online world, I think people get burned out of social media because they’re spending so much time, number one, trying to put on an image of someone that they are not. And also, because they are trying to do something that maybe other people don’t understand. And other people are like, “why are you spending so much time on social media? Why are you doing this? Why are you posting so much? Why are you posting this content?” And it’s usually coming from, at the beginning, your close friends.

I mean, I’ll never forget this story. You probably– you’re smiling, like, you know the story I’m gonna tell. When I first started posting on social media, I was posting on Facebook and I was posting on Twitter and I was posting on Fitocracy and I was posting on LinkedIn and Google Plus and all that stuff.

Instagram didn’t exist yet, and it was 2011 and my older brother had a friend named Aaron and Aaron’s father followed me on LinkedIn. And I was 20-21 at the time and I was posting three times a day, every single day on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Clout, whatever, all this stuff.

And I’ll never forget one time Aaron’s father emailed me and was like, “Hey, Jordan. Stop posting all your stuff on LinkedIn.” He was like, “stop posting all your stuff on LinkedIn, it’s clogging up my feed.” And I got pissed and I was like, “then unfollow me.” Like, “I don’t care.”

And I remember, like, this was in like 2011 and my mom got really mad at me, ’cause I apparently spoke very rudely to Aaron’s father and she was like, “you can’t do that,” And I was like, “he shouldn’t be telling me what to do.” And then, literally like a year ago or a couple of years ago I ended up seeing him at some point and I was like, “Hey, you probably don’t even remember this interaction, but imagine if I listened and I took your advice and I stopped posting. I wouldn’t have my business.”

And I think I’m very fortunate to have the mindset and the personality in which I didn’t let that stop me, but I think a lot of people would get that from someone who’s older than them, someone like a family friend, whatever it is, and they would literally be like, “okay, well I’m just going to stop ’cause I don’t want to annoy people.”

I think it’s super easy to think that social media is burning you out when in reality it’s like, if you’re doing what’s important to you and if you’re doing something that you know is going to be a net positive for not only yourself, but for other people, it’s going to help other people if they see it, even if they don’t like it, even if they don’t comment on it, even if they don’t tell you, if someone sees it, it will benefit them in some way.

If you keep that as your compass as opposed to being like, “I hope I’m not annoying people,” and just know that whatever you’re putting out is going to help people. It’s much harder to burn out from it.

Mike: [00:13:21] I completely agree and I especially like that you’re talking about putting stuff out and burning out because in my experience, it’s much easier to burn out from consuming content, from scrolling, from looking at other people’s stuff, from being, “addicted” to social media in that regard, compared to being burnt out from actually making content, and I think that’s really smart.

What would you say, because where my mind went there was: what if someone isn’t getting positive feedback initially, which is most of, or at least a lot of us aren’t getting enough positive feedback when you start putting content online or when you start converting your personal pages into like, “I’m going to be talking about fitness here now,” which actually does make sense if you’re just getting started up.

My mind goes to, in poker most poker professionals had at least a couple winning sessions early on. Because if they got unlucky early on and had many, many losing sessions in a row, a lot of those people were weeded out in that they just didn’t want to play because they thought, “okay, I’m just going to keep losing at this game,” and my mind went to receiving negative feedback like that or criticism of any kind, or, “Hey, stop doing this, you’re clogging up my feed,” any kind of– something that isn’t positive feedback. You’re mentally strong, you knew what you were doing, and you also were confident that you could help people out.

What would you say to someone who maybe doesn’t have those same characteristics and faces criticism early on?

Jordan: [00:15:04] Yeah, I mean, I think– I don’t think I know. I know one of the main reasons, if not the main reason, I kept posting content is because my definition of success was very different at that time than what many people going into it now is.

And what I mean by that is: when I started posting content online — it was 2011, online coaching was barely a thing, if at all. I didn’t know PayPal existed. I was in college. I wasn’t doing it from the perspective of, “when I post content, I want people to then request to become an online coaching client and pay me.” Which is usually what people are doing now because a lot of what’s happening now is people are becoming online coaches because they saw some fitness person on Instagram that they really liked, maybe they hired them to be an online coach or they hired someone to be an online coach or they bought a guide on Instagram and they’re like, “Oh, I could do this. I’m super passionate about this. I love fitness. It changed my life. I want to do it for other people,” which is great. The issue is they think that it’s supposed to be that fast.

And they’re going in with the intent of, “okay, so when I post content, I’m going to get a lot of likes very, very quickly.” And even if they don’t think that logically, emotionally, that’s what happens. They’ll post content and they’ll just expect more likes and more followers immediately and then they get demoralized and they feel bad because they aren’t getting people following them, they aren’t getting comments, they aren’t getting engagement, and they aren’t getting people requesting to be coaching clients.

For me, when I didn’t even know a business was possible, all I was looking for was for that one like. Literally one. And there was a period of time where all I would get is like zero to two likes on a post.

And if I just got one, I was over the moon and all it took was just one like or two likes or one comment or whatever it was. And I think that’s the main reason I was able to stay consistent is because, in the same like poker example where they got winning streaks early on, my wins were defined by one or two likes, as opposed to saying, “okay, well this person is getting 15,000 likes and I’m not getting like more than 50, so I suck, no one’s requesting to be my coaching client. I’m not getting paid. So clearly under I suck.”

Mike: [00:17:16] You had very realistic expectations. And to quote the great Jordan Peterson, and I say “great,” like kind of funny, but both of us like a lot of his work: “compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to what someone else’s today.”

Jordan: [00:17:34] Yeah, 100%.

Mike: [00:17:35] Which is going from zero to one to two, and you also were doing it with the intent of helping the person who is consuming that with fitness rather than trying to immediately convert someone into a client because– I have, like, we both have very similar backstories as far as how we approach business, which we know, which will probably come out very clearly in a lot of the stories we tell.

But both of us started making content, “content,” we didn’t even call it that, but it was because we were both somewhat obsessed, at least with fitness. With weightlifting, with nutrition, with how it can positively impact the body and putting out good information about that.

Jordan: [00:18:24] I think it’s really interesting when people put out content on social media with the intent of getting a client on the backend. What inevitably happens is they’ll put out content and then even if they get one like, three likes, 20 likes, 50 likes, a hundred likes, whatever it is, even if they get people messaging them saying, “this was great, this was so helpful,” they disregard all of the positive feedback and say, “but why isn’t anyone paying me for this?”

And they take all of this positivity and optimism and good that they’re doing for the world and say, “well, but it’s not good enough because I didn’t get what I wanted out of it.” And it’s the easiest way to burn out and demoralize yourself and think you’re failing because you didn’t get someone to deposit $300 into your fucking PayPal account. When in reality is if you spent more time doing exactly that and doing what you and I did for years– like, I mean, I wrote an article a week, every week, at least one, from 2011 all the way until somewhere in 2015. That was the vast majority of my business growth. And the reality is, it wasn’t until 2013-2014 when stuff really starting to pick up.

So, it was from 2011 until 2014, years, like years– and this is so funny ’cause this is what people talk about. Coaches will tell their clients this. It’s like their coaches are like, “what do you expect? You think you’re gonna get a six pack in four weeks?” Like, “cool, you think you’re gonna have a six-figure business in four weeks?”

What the fuck do you think? Like, cool, you think you’re going to get a client on social media just because you posted seven pieces of content? Like, are you out of your mind? Do this for three years, then you can start to be like, “Hey, maybe there’s something that I’m not doing well enough. Maybe I’m not spending enough time on my captions. Maybe I should stop screenshotting other people’s posts and start making my own posts.” Whatever it is. It’s like, the same stuff that we tell our clients when you are trying to reach and help more people online is the same thing, like stop going out with the intent of “converting,” I hate that  jargon that so many marketers use, stop going out with the intent to “convert” and all of this nonsense of like “don’t give away stuff for free,” like, “don’t give.”

This is another thing; people don’t give discounts. Like, this is something that a lot of people in the online fitness space that they had their own certifications or they have their own programs or whatever it is, and they’ll be like, “don’t ever discount your program, ever. Don’t ever give away discounts. Don’t do stuff for free ’cause you’re devaluing your stuff.”

I’m like, some of my most long-term, loyal, friendly customers who have become best friends, if not family at this point in my life, came from doing stuff for free or at a discount. Like, Susan Niebergall, like, she’s a business partner at this point, but she started off working with me when I discounted my coaching program from 300 a month to 200 a month because she said it was a little bit out of her range at that point on a teacher’s salary and now, literally, she runs the Inner Circle with me and she’s going to help us with the Mentorship now, and it’s like, I don’t think everybody needs a discount and you, over time, will learn how to be better with understanding who should have one and who shouldn’t have one, but I think too many coaches are going into coaching, not because they love coaching, but because they have this idea of making easy money and it’s like that’s why you burn out.

You burn out because you’re not getting what you want out of it. When, if what you wanted was just to help people it’d be very simple. It’s a lot of work, but it’s very simple.

Mike: [00:21:37] Yup. I didn’t have online coaching when I started making content. I literally didn’t have that offering. And it was 10 months after I started my website, was writing multiple articles a week initially, and then after that, an article a week and then a couple articles a month, but I was doing that as well as putting content on Fitocracy and Twitter and Facebook 10 months before anyone paid me money to be an online coaching client.

And I think initially it was like, you know, $99 a month or something very reasonable. And then after that, there were clients who were paying even less, but if I would have gone into that, like so many people do, with, “I need to make money and that is why I’m doing this,” I would have stopped before I got to that point.

Jordan: [00:22:25] 100%.

Mike: [00:22:26] Now here’s another question that takes things in a different direction: for someone who is thinking that they want to do good and they want to help people and they have the right mindset about things, but they question whether or not they actually have the knowledge to help people, what would you say to someone like that?

So, for example, someone who maybe was a coaching client of yours for four months, and then at the end of the four months realized, “I made a really good physical transformation for the first time in my life. I want to help someone else do this.”

Jordan: [00:23:06] Yeah. I literally just had something like that with an Inner Circle member of mine who was a one on one coaching client and became Inner Circle and he’s just super passionate, like super passionate. He was like, “I want to start an Instagram about this, I want to write more,” and I was like, “that is amazing. I love that, and I think you should.”

When I told him, I said one of the main reasons that coaches will fail is because they’ll get into a situation like this, and they feel like now that they’re creating content, they have to be an expert and as an expert, they can never be wrong. And as an expert, they can never say that they don’t know the answer to something. And I think that is something that creates a massive amount of internal stress, it creates a lot of imposter syndrome, and a lot of the content that you create will be from a defensive perspective rather than an offensive perspective.

And what I mean by that is the content they’ll create will be more specifically saying things to try and prevent other coaches from saying you’re wrong or stupid, rather than trying to help other people succeed or improve, or people who don’t know as much. Which is a very bad place to be because now you’re essentially trying to create content to show other coaches how smart you are as opposed to making content to help people actually need it and improve.

Mike: [00:24:22] And those other coaches don’t care.

Jordan: [00:24:24] They don’t care at all. And if they do care, their business isn’t doing well. I promise you. Because coaches who do care are spending time with their clients and their audience, and coaches who are spending time looking at your content, trying to pick yours apart, they’re suffering very, very badly.

But I would say, just like I said to this guy who was like a tremendous friend and a really good guy, I was like, I would very much encourage you before you start trying to get people into a coaching program, before you start charging anything, I would work with a lot of people for free, and I would start off by saying, “listen, I am not an experienced coach. I am relatively new to this. I’m unbelievably passionate and I will do anything and everything in my power to help you. If I don’t know the answer to something, which is very likely, I’ll go out of my way to find it and ask people who are smarter than me and have more experienced than me. But the reason I want to coach you for free is because I want, number one, experience to do this, and I know that I can help you, but I’m not at a point in which I think it’s fair to charge you when I haven’t built up the experience for it yet.”

I think it’s a really important conversation to have, and I think it’s one of those things where a lot of coaches feel that way, but then they’re being pulled aside by the other fitness marketers and gurus being like, “you’re the expert, you’re the one in charge. Don’t ever tell them that you might not know the answer.” It’s like, why wouldn’t you just say the truth? Like, I never in my content say I’m an expert or a guru. I have no problem saying I’ve made mistakes and I’ve done things in the past that I disagree with now.

And I think by saying that up front, you set yourself up to, again, not burn out. And this, it’s funny, this conversation is very much going down that, “how to not burn out path,” and I think the best way to not burn out is to not lie. The best way to not burn out is– and not lie as in, do not actively lie. Do not say things that are not true. But also, if you don’t know the answer, don’t pretend you do and don’t skirt the issue and don’t dig your heels into the ground. Just say, “Hey, listen, I don’t know and I’m going to try and find out for you.” And just saying something like that–

Mike: [00:26:25] People have so much respect for that.

Jordan: [00:26:28] So much.

They love it because then they can trust you. Versus if you pull something out of your ass, and even if you do convince them that you do know what you’re talking about when you don’t, they’ll eventually find out that you don’t, and then they won’t trust you anymore.

But if you say, “Hey, listen, I’m gonna be very honest with you. I’m not 100% sure about that answer, but I’m going to find out,” they’ll immediately love you and trust you and be very loyal and best of all: you’ll be more happy with yourself. You don’t have to try and put on this front or persona of something that isn’t accurate anymore.

And I think that’s why people feel pulled in so many different directions. So much of what becoming a personal trainer has become about is to try and sell people on these “mastermind” programs to try and make a lot of money. And I think, if you’re really a coach, there’s nothing wrong with making a lot of money, but if you’re really a coach, you’re starting off because you want to help people, not because you want to make a seven-figure business.

And I think that’s really where– and again, there’s nothing wrong with make a lot of money. I think at a certain point, making more money will actually allow you to help more people in many aspects of your life. But if your goal is to be a coach, then first become a great coach, and then from there more income will develop and come as opposed to trying to make a greater income based off of a subpar coaching knowledge.

Mike: [00:27:53] 100% agree. How to become a great coach: so step one, start putting out content and coach people at a deep discount, or for free, admitting that you don’t know everything, that you’re very passionate about this, that you’re very interested in this, that you really want to help them, but that you’re not an expert.

So, laying your cards out, being completely honest about it, getting that experience coaching, but at the same time, here are a few things that come to my mind: one, a lot of people want to help people without having hands-on, in-person coaching experience and guess what? I know a couple people who are brilliant and who do help a lot of people who never were a personal trainer.

You can go that route. It’s much less common, but like a Mike Matthews is someone who comes to mind who has helped friends and family on the gym floor in that regard, but most of his knowledge is self-taught. So, that’s definitely one route you can go, but for most people, getting a personal training certification of any kind, and we can talk more about that, but getting a certification, getting insurance, and getting a job coaching people in-person in some way, even if part-time, that’s definitely on that list.

Reading really good articles, reading books. I’m sure there are a handful of both nutrition and training books that we can recommend that are, alongside being upfront and honest in your content that you’re putting out, but also getting coaching experience and educating yourself, that combination of things, as well as a few others, is really going to lead to you having a solid foundation of becoming a better and better coach over time, which is going to lead to your clients seeing better results, which is going to lead to you not being the type of person who has your business and your career, and what you’re doing in this industry built on a house of cards.

Jordan: [00:30:04] Yeah. 100% agree. And you know, it’s interesting, we were speaking about certifications before even started the podcast, like, a lot of people asked me, “what’s the best certification to get?” And I always say– we can talk about certifications, but I would, 10 times out of 10 rather someone get an internship than a certification.

And it doesn’t mean that certifications are bad, but the way I look at it is this: I know a lot of coaches who have certifications and very few of them who are actually great coaches. But I know a lot of coaches who do not have certifications and are phenomenal coaches because of how much they care and how much time and effort they’ve spent actually coaching people, doing internships, and it’s funny, a lot of people are like, “well, how am I going to get an internship if I don’t have a certification?”

When people ask me that question, I know for a fact that they’ve never actually reached out to a number of gyms and asked to intern. Like, I know for a fact, because not only myself, have I interned in a number of high level facilities without  any certification whatsoever, but I know a number of other people who have as well, and any gym owner that I know of a private facility, who wants interns– like, I’ve spoken to a ton of them. They don’t care if you have a certification, they don’t care if you went to school for exercise science.

Mike: [00:31:20] A lot of them don’t expect you to have a certification.

Jordan: [00:31:23] A lot of them don’t even want it. I know, for example, some of them, they don’t like it when people come from a background of having certifications because they’ve learned a lot of nonsense and then they come in almost being like a stuck-up intern, being like, “well, know all of this because I have these letters behind, my name and this cert, and this cert, and this cert, and this cert, when in reality they just taught you a bunch of nonsense and bullshit to try and up level you to the next level two certification, next level three certification, teaching you just enough until like, “okay, well now we want to teach you more because certifications are a business too, blah, blah, blah.”

I would way rather you spend your time on the gym floor, interning, spending some of your time picking up, cleaning the floors, taking the trash out, organizing the weights, and then other parts of the time during your internship asking the coaches for help, looking at their programs, coaching real people, actually getting experience as a coach on the floor.

That’s gonna make you a better coach. And that comes back to why I would really like people to take people on for free. ‘Cause that’s going to be where you get the most experience. It’s going to be where you learn the most and it doesn’t take the place of studying, but you always have to look at if you’re paying for something,  it’s a business, right? It’s always a business.

A lot of internships you’ll be able to go for free. They’ll just let you go in there and work for free. They’re not going to pay you, but it’s okay ’cause everything you’re getting in return is invaluable.

Mike: [00:32:46] Correct. I don’t know the answer to this, did Cressey pay you as an intern?

Jordan: [00:32:51] Absolutely not. No.

Mike: [00:32:52] When I moved to New York City to intern for Roman, I didn’t get paid for the first couple months.

Jordan: [00:32:58] Yeah, no.

It was six days a week, seven to eight hours a day on the floor at Cressey performance. But the thing about that is people are like, “really? You did that for like three months where you didn’t get paid at all?”

It was about an hour commute either way, every day, six days a week, about seven hours of coaching every day. Not only did I learn more in those three months than I did in four years in college. I’m just going to say that again: I learned more in those three months than I did in four years of college.

But also, the people you meet. Like, I got to work with Eric Cressey and Pete Dupuis and a lot of the other interns that I worked with have become gym owners and other people. It’s like, and I was actually talking about with my mom about this over Thanksgiving, so much of the process of becoming someone, in terms of like growing a business and getting more clients is just the time it takes and what happens over that time, the people you meet. Like, some people call this networking. I don’t really like that word just because the negative connotation that comes with it, but the reality is just meeting new people along your journey.

And you can do this online, you can do this on social media. Reaching out to people, whether it’s someone who follows you, someone who doesn’t follow you, someone who you see commenting on a kettlebell hashtag, whatever it is, or actually someone at an internship, someone in your class, whatever it is. So much of what happens is just developing good relationships with people that you meet along the way.

And that also includes the people you coach for free. I mean, a lot of the people that I coached for free when I was interning at Westside Barbell, I coached every one of my roommates that summer for free. And not only did they become some of my greatest success stories, but some of my greatest longtime clients who then also referred people to me later.

Mike: [00:34:42] But Jordan, if you coach someone for free or if you take an unpaid internship, you’re devaluing yourself. That’s not fair.

Jordan: [00:34:51] It’s so funny. It’s like — and anyone who doesn’t know Mike, that’s his sarcastic voice — it’s like, I didn’t deserve to get paid at that point. Like, I’m devaluing what, my lack of knowledge?

That’s really what it was. If I had enough knowledge at that point, then I would have been doing what I wanted to do. And knowledge aside, it’s paying for the opportunity, paying for the opportunities that come from that. There’s so much that comes from working for free. And this is something that people do not want to hear nowadays. People feel very entitled to get paid for their time, “I’m giving my time. I should be paid for this.”

It’s funny, Rico came to work for me. When Rico first started working for me, he was like, “just so you know, I’ll do this for free.”

It’s like, I started him off with a salary, like, a great salary and he’s incredible and he deserves even more than I’m giving him, but it’s a good starting salary. And he was like, “you don’t even need to pay me. I would do this seven days a week for free.” And it’s one of those things where it’s like, just that makes me want to work with him even more and give him more opportunities.

Mike: [00:35:54] Let’s dig into the practical side of what you just said, because I can already hear some people, and rightfully so, thinking, “well, I can’t work a full-time job for free, completely unpaid.”

So, personal finance is something that I’m big on and it’s a mistake that I see a lot of coaches make that can either lead to the end of their “shot” at being a personal trainer or the end of their career, or can just put them in a really bad place. And Jordan and I both have a similar backstory with working for free and taking on many clients for free to build experience that made us smarter, better coaches, that put us in a position where we could help more people in, and thankfully, luckily do so for money in the future.

Saving on the front end is something that we both did. And if you look at us right now, we’re both in sweat pants, we’re, we’re not fancy. I wear almost exclusively white tee shirts from Target, Hanes brand, size medium, because I’ve been, you know, I’ve got to get the bulk back and get back into the large, but especially early on, not being flashy, not spending money where you don’t have to. Spending money on experiences, spending money with family, spending money on things that are really important to you, great. But spending money on basically anything that is a luxury or anything that is to impress someone else or anything that you could find a cheaper option just by putting in more time and effort, what that is going to do is it’s going to free up time for– and maybe you can’t take on a full time unpaid job, but maybe you can take on a part time internship for a period of time that’s going to get you experience because in the 12 to 18 months leading up to that, you worked really hard and spent as little as possible and then you had savings, which is essentially wiggle room. Which is freedom. Which is the ability to not earn as much for a period of time where you earn something that isn’t dollars, that is knowledge and experience, that’s going to pay massive dividends in the future.

Jordan: [00:38:16] And the reality is, I think creativity is something that a lot of people struggle with.

You’re only limited by your imagination. And I really think that’s important to understand for people, when, if you want to learn from somebody do whatever it takes to help that person help you. And so, I mean, for example, I remember when I first applied to my first ever internship, when I was 14 years old. I was denied by the first gym.

They said, “no, our clients don’t want a high school kid hanging around.” So, I go to the next one. And I think that’s an important lesson is, number one, don’t ask one person, then quit. Like, if you really want to learn and you’re willing to work for free, go ask a lot of people. You literally might not get what you want on the first try.

And it turned out to be a blessing because the first one that I went to was pretty shitty and the second gym was very science-based and they actually ended up becoming clients of mine later down the road. It was crazy and because of them, I learned some really incredible stuff.

I would say like, in that point in my life, and I’ll talk about something else later, like I had a lot of time. I was a high school kid. I a lot of free time, I was willing to go out of my way to do stuff, which is very different than someone who might have kids and a full time job, and I’ll talk about that in a second, but I was like, “I’ll clean the floors, I’ll take the trash out,” same thing with Westside Barbell. I was like, “I’ll clean the floors, I’ll walk your dogs.” Like, I knew Louie had dogs. It’s like, I’ll walk them even though they were scary as fuck, like really like, huge dogs that like, you know, whatever.

But basically, what I’ve found over time is: even if you have kids and a full-time job and you can’t take three months away just to do that, you’re only limited by your imagination. And you can email someone, you could call someone, you could ask them, you could be like, “what can I possibly do for you?” And as someone who gets requests like this on a fairly frequent basis, I’ll tell you the worst thing that you can do is just end it with that.

Just say like, “what can I do for you?” ‘Cause someone who’s really, really busy might not know, but if you go out of your way to look at what they’re doing, look at their content, look at what they’re doing on their content, on different social media platforms, call their gym if they have a gym or whatever, ask their front desk person, what you might be able to help with. Get your foot in the door in whatever way possible and figure out how you might be able to help them two, three, four hours a week.

Just do something and then anything could happen. Whether it’s they invite, “Hey, we’re going to have a seminar here. We would love for you to come. We’re going to pay for your ticket. Just come help out, you could set out the chairs, you could be here for the seminar.” Boom. Then what happens? You’re at the seminar with 100-200 people, you’re learning from the best people in the world, you’re meeting more people, you’re making more connections. Like, this stuff happens.

Mike: [00:40:57] You’re literally describing something that happened to me, and then while at the seminar, one of the light bulbs on the, they were using some kind of projector at the time, broke and I volunteered to sprint down the road to whatever, like 17 blocks to Upper East Side to get a– when I was interning, but before I was working at Structure, in 2014 I believe, to get the light to plug back in, so that the projector worked, so that we could all watch what was going on. And maybe six weeks later, Kev, who we’re still close with, who’s the owner of the gym, offered me a job on the gym floor as a personal trainer there.

Jordan: [00:41:36] That’s so crazy, and I didn’t even know that story. So, you just never know what’s going to happen. And when I say you’re only limited by your imagination; it means that just because you might not be able to do a full-time internship doesn’t mean that doing something for two to six hours a week isn’t beneficial.

In the same way you would tell your clients if your client can’t work out five days a week, it doesn’t mean you’re gonna say, don’t work out at all. You’re gonna say, “Hey, like, let’s start off by walking two days a week.” Like, doing something is always going to be better than nothing, which, you know, goes in the whole topic of “action is the foundation of motivation.”

It’s like, what it really all circles back to is this discussion on certifications, which I think a lot of people are like, “well, what are the best certifications?” It’s like, the reason we’re spending so much time saying what else you can do and specifically working for free, getting internships, interacting with the people that you admire is because we very, very radically believe that your time and money is better spent working for free, interacting with people whom you admire, learning from the best people in the world, rather than trying to invest in a certification that might teach you some things and be a net positive overall, but if you’re really strapped for time and you’re really strapped for money, you could either spend a lot of money on a certification that might not have a lot of ROI or invest your time and money into an internship or working with someone that you admire, which will then lead to far greater ROI in the long run.

And I think that’s really why I’m hesitant to recommend any certifications because if you want a certification, you can go online and find a certification, get certified, and go to any gym in the world. Like, you could do this anywhere.

Mike: [00:43:15] I literally, in– I took a 40-minute test that took about six minutes today, just flying through multiple choice, to get a certification because I restarted, we’re three months on, three months off coaching Gary and I restarted with Gary literally today. And I did that for his gym.

Previously, I got certified through the National Strength and Conditioning Association because that’s what the people who I followed online said was the certification to get. Almost all of my knowledge has come through experience, not through that first test, which was harder and took longer, and I had to go down to a professional setting to take the exam, or even the test I took today, which was kind of a joke, basically, but required to get in the building.

Yeah. We see eye to eye on this in that the primary function of just getting a certification of any kind, right? Like bare bones, is so you can coach in person, so you can learn.

Jordan: [00:44:18] Right. I mean, I think most people will get a certification either to check it off the list. It’s like, “okay, well I want to be a coach, so I just have to get a certification.” And/or to put it on their Instagram profile,” Hey, look, here’s my letters behind my name,” to try and impress more people. Which is like, just so you know, one of the more obnoxious things that I see, like, just to be very frank. Like, I hate it when I see that. I really do.

And like, if you do have that, it doesn’t mean I don’t like you. It just means that I’m like, I don’t care. And most people don’t.

Mike: [00:44:55] And most potential clients not only don’t care, but don’t understand what that means. Like, those could be any letters.

Jordan: [00:45:01] Yeah, it’s exactly right. Like, it’s so funny. I’ve never heard of any coach who puts their certifications in their profile, who’s getting clients being like, “Oh my God, you have the RKC, SFG you have the CSCS,” but like, the amount of messages that I get being like, “Oh my God, I saw your Instagram profile. You’re like ’27th degree black belt in chugging coffee.’ That’s so funny.” It’s like, it says a lot more– if you’re going to put something in your profile, make it something that says something about you rather than random letters that you can literally just make up.

And that’s like a little bit off topic, but point being: if you have to get a certification in order to work at a gym, for insurance purposes, then go for the cheapest, easiest, least expensive one. Oftentimes ACE is a really good option.

Mike: [00:45:47] You don’t recommend expertratings.com.

Jordan: [00:45:50] Should I tell the story?

I’ll tell the story. So, when I first started coaching Gary, Gary Vaynerchuk, which I actually– so Mike told me that I got the job coaching Gary and I didn’t believe him at first. First, Mike told me I got the job and I thought he was joking and I thought he was, they were playing a mean trick on me, ’cause I was like, how in the hell is this possible? How am I possibly coaching Gary Vaynerchuk?

But I didn’t have a certification. At all. And especially in New York City, if you’re going to coach someone at their personal residence, a lot of times the gyms will require you to have a certification from an insurance perspective. It’s smart. It keeps them safe. Sort of. Like, if you really want to go at it, like, it’s hard to keep someone safe on that.

But either way, I didn’t have a certification and the person who is running the gym was like, “yeah, you need the certification or else you’re not gonna able to coach him here.” And I didn’t want to spend $1,000 or $800 or $2,000 on a certification, whatever it was.

I didn’t want to take the time. I was living in Israel and I was starting with him in a couple of weeks. And so, what I did is I just Googled. I Google searched, like, “online training certification,” and I looked and looked and like on the 7th page or like 10th page of Google, I found this expertrating.com certification that was like, I don’t know, like 40 bucks or something, 19 bucks or something, like something ridiculous. And there were like, how much was it?

Mike: [00:47:06] They’ve upped it since then. I believe that it is now priced at $69 99

Jordan: [00:47:11] Oh really? Okay. Got it. So yeah, it was cheaper three and a half years ago.

Mike: [00:47:15] But you’re not going in for a weekend, you’re not going to a testing center like it’s bang, bang. It’s quick.

Jordan: [00:47:22] And I took, it was a 40-question thing, and it was so old and outdated that I knew the right answer to some of the questions based on how awful the questions were. And I knew that it was a wrong answer, but I knew that was answered they wanted and it was so bad. And I got that certification in order to coach Gary Vaynerchuk. Which it just goes to show, it’s like, if you have– and keep in mind the only reason, this is great, this comes around full circle, the only reason that I got the job coaching Gary Vaynerchuk is because Mike followed my content in 2012 and the only reason Mike followed my content in 2012 is because I interned with Eric Cressey for free for three months, seven hours a day.

And the only reason that I did that is because I reached out and told him that, “Hey, I would love to work for free. I’d love to do this.” I was sharing his content a lot. I was interacting with him on an almost daily basis on social media, just saying thank you for all of his work. And then because I got that internship, Eric let me post a guest article on his website and from that guest article, Mike started following me on my website and that’s how it started.

It’s like, when you really break it down the only reason that I started coaching Gary Vaynerchuk is because I got this internship that I did for free, and if I didn’t get this internship and have this opportunity to write on Eric’s website, then I wouldn’t have had that opportunity to coach Gary.

Mike: [00:48:40] Because you weren’t entitled from the get go.

Jordan: [00:48:42] That’s right. That’s exactly it.

Mike: [00:48:44] Because your intention was in the right place.

Jordan: [00:48:46] Yeah.

Mike: [00:48:47] Which is why, and Jordan and I have coached a lot of fitness clients, obviously, but we’ve also helped a lot of coaches with their business. And one of the most common, consistent themes across the board is that if someone is genuinely passionate about both fitness and helping people with fitness, they see better long-term results than those who are coming in thinking that they can make this a full time job in three months or six months or a year, whatever it is. It’s what they prioritize that shows where they will be in two to three years.

Jordan: [00:49:26] Yeah, that’s exactly right.

Mike: [00:49:27] And you’re 100% right, by the way. I remember finding you through Eric, ’cause I followed Eric, who’s just a king in the fitness world, and I remember making content using words that I learned from Eric Cressey specifically, so that if any of these, Dean Somerset, or if any of these guys or women stumbled across my stuff, they were going to see and be impressed.

Like, I remember being in that mindset for a while. So, it is very common. But yeah, and that was when I went on the search, when there were six months left with Gary and I in 2015 and he said, “find me some of the best candidates to be my coach,” Jordan was one of the three who I put in front of Gary and said, “I have full faith in these three individuals,” and yeah, that’s how that transition happened.

Jordan: [00:50:16] It’s crazy.

Mike: [00:50:18] This is really fun. We had a strategy for how to do this, which was, we were just going to talk and see where that went and then whenever we hit a place, we had a list of things to hit on, which we’ve already naturally, like we talked about personal finance, do you want to talk about action being the foundation for motivation?

Jordan: [00:50:44] How long are we into this right now?

Mike: [00:50:46] We are, I believe we’re over 50 minutes into this.

Jordan: [00:50:49] How about we save that for next time? We’ll talk about if you ever struggle with getting your clients motivated. And also, with yourself, if you struggle to get motivated. Like, if you struggle to get motivated to create content, to study, to do whatever, or if you struggle with getting your clients motivated, to get them motivated enough to get to the gym, to get them motivated enough to track their calories, to track their food, whatever it is.

If you want to learn about motivation and specific strategies and tactics you can use to increase motivation in yourself or your clients, that’s what we’ll start with for the next episode. We’ll go over that. And it starts with action being the foundation of that, but we’ll go into more specifics and how you can actually use that practically.

Mike: [00:51:31] Cool. This was great, man.

Jordan: [00:51:31] Yeah, this was fun. I’m excited.

If you enjoyed the episode, please just leave a rating. If you hated the episode, you could get a one-star if you didn’t like it. If you do like it, get a five-star. Let us know if you have any questions and, dude, this was great.

Mike: [00:51:44] Yeah, this was awesome, man.

I really enjoy this. I’m excited. We will be releasing these one per week until one of us dies. That’s a promise.

Jordan: [00:51:55] That was awesome. Thank you for listening.

Mike: [00:51:57] Thank you guys very much for listening. If you have any questions, if you need us, I’ll drop our emails in the show notes. You can find Jordan on Instagram @syattfitness.

My Instagram handle is @mikevacanti. And we will see you next week.

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