Thomas Plummer: The Immutable Laws of Money and Coaching, Part 2

This is an excerpt from The Soul of a TrainerFor Laws #1-8, here’s Part 1

Number Nine—One-dimensional coaches fail over time.
Coaching isn’t enough. If you want to be successful, you have to force yourself to be good at all aspects of professional coaching.

  • Have you mastered marketing and branding?
  • Can you handle your own social media, and then teach someone else how to do it for you? “Successful” is defined as social media that brings in enough new clients every month to create a financially successful business.
  • Do you understand money? Do you save and invest? Can you run the financial side of a growing business?
  • Do you understand staffing and can you hire and create a team to grow your business?
  • Have you learned to present your ideas in public or speak in front of groups to grow your business?
  • Have you ever had anyone look at your professional image and help package you as a professional?
  • Have you learned about negotiating professional contracts that might affect the jobs or endorsement opportunities you may have in the future?
  • Have you learned to network and surround yourself with a team who can help you and your career grow over time?

Being a professional coach isn’t just about learning to train people. Being a professional coach is about becoming a well-rounded person, able to create and manage a career that could span your entire life.

Number Ten—You can help more people with a million dollars in the bank than $12.92.
It is never about the money . . . until it is.

It is easy to say you are not in it for the money and be that reverse snob where your poverty is a badge of honor, but then a kid gets sick, you get married and look for a house, or your parents age and need some help. Then it is about the money and what little you earned or saved.

Money only has one purpose and that is freedom. Money lets you work where you want to work, leave when you don’t want to be there any longer, live where you are happy, help people who need your help, and allows you to live your life on your own terms without being held hostage by someone who controls your cash flow.

Chasing money is not important, but the process of chasing money is important in life. The difference is, you will build a more successful career, a more financially successful business, and enjoy a sense of freedom and peace missing in coaches who live check to check. Make creating money part of your life’s work.

We create money to take care of our families. We create money to allow us to say no to stupidity that makes us unhappy. Most importantly, making money validates your tal­ent in many ways, because making money proves you were right: You are a professional coach and people are willing to pay you for your help and guidance.

You can be happy and poor, and you can be a simple monk and change the world. How­ever, most people who desire to live as a professional coach will find they can help a lot more people with a few dollars in the bank than they can while broke and barely surviv­ing to the next payday.

There will also be a day when you might not be able to do what you do any longer. You might become injured, burned out, or simply have had enough and want to move on in life. Money is your way out. Money is your way to turn 50 and say, “I have had enough of this and want to go back to college and maybe teach for a few years.”

The hardest conversation in the consulting life is telling a person over 50 that the few thousand dollars he has saved isn’t enough and that he will have to work every day until he dies. Money isn’t made as a status; the biggest houses, newest cars, and most gadgets isn’t what you are chasing. You are pursuing the freedom that only comes from having enough money to live life on your terms.

Number Eleven—You did not get to be you without a hand up from somebody.
You are you because somewhere, at some time in your life, somebody gave you a hand up. There are no self-made people, only those who have forgotten where they came from and who helped them in life.

Remember who helped you and say thanks. Make sure to help others who are further down the ladder than you are. You are who you are because someone cared . . . and now it is your turn to care for others.

Number Twelve—Hire someone to coach you to break out of your comfort zone.
You have been training for 20 years and think you know it all? Hire a coach you respect and get coached for a week. You need to force yourself out of your comfort zone, but most importantly, you need to be reminded there are other ways to get results. What you know is not what everyone else knows and maybe, just maybe, you might learn something new.

The same thing is true in life. When you think you know it all is the day you should hire someone to ask the hard questions in life, everything from money and family to person­al goals and retirement. Often asking for help when we think we have it all figured out gets us to the point where we remember we don’t even know all the questions. Fresh eyes can help us leap years ahead of our slow and self-dictated pace.

Number Thirteen—Knowing when to say “no” is the sign of coaching maturity.
One of the best days you will ever have as a professional coach is when you look at a client and say, “I don’t think I can help you, but I can refer you to someone who can.”

That is the day you have arrived as a professional coach, because that is the day you stopped faking it and finally stopped forcing a client into what you know. You admitted there are clients who don’t fit your skill set and the best answer is, “No, I am not the one for this job.”

Young coaches too often force every client into a box, even if the client doesn’t fit their training model, or worse, has medical concerns they shouldn’t even touch. “Hey, this is what I know and if I throw you into the box I will force something to fit you somehow.” This approach is sort of like a guy buying a shirt and the clerk says, “It looks fine; we can make it work. You look amazing,” when the shirt is a 3XL and the guy wears a medium. I have the shirt for sale and it is the only one I have, and you will buy it now.

Knowing when to walk away is a sign of maturity. Knowing who to refer out to is a sign of a professional coach. You do not need to be right every time, nor do you need to know how to train every client. A professional coach needs to know who can get it done; sometimes the best advice you can give a client is to go somewhere else.

Number Fourteen—How are you different than every other coach?
Generalists eat last; specialists own the future.

The future of coaching belongs to specialists who focus on narrower populations and then master that area. For example, you might focus on:

Fitness after 50
Women after 40
Severely obese
Junior golfers
Stressed-out female executives
Guys over 50 with fitness and hormonal issues
Movement analysis and correction at a corporate facility
Male executives who are in the 40s and later

This is a partial list of specializations a coach could make a living and a career master­ing. There is truth in many of the old adages, such as Find something you love and learn more about it than any other person and you will always make a lot of money.

The age of the generalist coach is fading and the one-size-fits-all approach that worked so well 20 years ago is dead today. People want to work with coaches who understand them physically, but also mentally as well. Someone specializing in stressed-out female executives would not only have to know how to train those women, but know what they think, understand what are they going through at this age, know their special nutrition­al issues, how they learn, and what they really want in life and from their fitness.

Generalists eat last for a reason these days: The specialists in coaching have driven them away from the table.

Number Fifteen—You have to earn the right to be called a master coach.
There is nothing funnier than a coach with two years of experience. He has an entry-lev­el certification, 12 clients, a one-day wonder certification stating “You are now the man,” and who is still working for $10 an hour at a mainstream fitness chain and calling himself a master coach.

You have to earn being a master coach. You have to pay your dues over time. You have to take the beating through the years that molds you into a coach who has seen it all and who has practiced the craft with discipline through those long years.

What does it take to be a true master coach?

  • You have to have done at least 10,000 hours of sessions with every con­ceivable type of client.
  • You have to have a strong entry-level certification, a movement-based certifi­cation, and advanced nutritional certifications and training. Couple these with a never-ending string of new skill certs, such as kettlebells, the Olympic lifts, or sandbags that are added every year as new tools are introduced into the market.
  • At least 30 hours of education a year should be garnered through attendance at major coaching events, such as the Perform Better Summits.
  • The willingness to, at least once every two years, admit that everything you learned until then might be out of date and that you need to reinvent yourself one more time.

There is no certification for a master coach, but there is that moment when your peers come to you for help and guidance. Then you will know you have arrived at the point when what you know and who you are is respected by others in the industry. Until then, keep your head down and just keep working.

The driving force behind all of this, of course, is the premise that if you do not grow each year, you will wither and die early in your career.

Coaching is not only about making change; coaching is about accepting change and knowing what you knew even a few years ago might be considered out of date and something the industry has moved past.

Grow or die should be your motto if you want a career that lasts and is respected by others. If you put in the years, one by one, one day you might become the master coach the two-year wonder child already thinks he is.

Number Sixteen—You will not be successful until you know what it means to be you.
What do you want from your experience of being a professional coach? Ten years from now, what will you answer if you are sitting in a bar and someone asks you, “So you have been a professional coach your entire life. What did it mean to be you?”

You can’t reach the upper levels of success if you don’t know what you are trying to accomplish in your career. Ask yourself these questions:

What professional mileposts have you set for yourself? Speak at a major conference? Own a training gym that does a million dollars a year? Get an advanced degree? Create an online training empire?

The problem isn’t that you don’t know what you are trying to accomplish, the prob­lem is that you don’t dream big enough. Create a list of milestones that stretch out for years and dream big. Give yourself permission to chase your real dreams, not those wa­tered-down statements you share with your drunken friends over too many beers.

There are other questions that will also matter when you come to the end of your career. Did you make a difference in the fitness world? Did you leave the field a better place because you were in it? Did you help others and help get a generation of young coaches on the right path because you gave a damn?

What will it have meant to have been you?

Every coach who ever amounted to anything could answer this question.

Number Seventeen—You change lives.
If you want to be a respected coach, remember this: You exist to change lives!

Changing lives is your purpose in life. If you are a true professional, this is why you were born—to make a difference and to change the lives around you.

If changing lives isn’t your thing, you will have a difficult time reaching an upper level of coaching.

All the great ones make the world around them a better place every single day they are alive. If you think everything written in these last few sentences is something found steaming in a pile under a bull, you will not make it as a master-level professional coach.

Changing lives is what you do. Changing lives is what professional coaching is all about. You are either in or you are out. If you aren’t driven to change the world, it will be a very short and boring career before you leave to find work that might be important, but that will seldom have the impact on as many people as being a professional coach.

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