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Turning Pro

A white spotlight cuts through smoke on stage, with the words "Only pros get to stand here."

Becoming a professional coach takes a lot more than a certification.
After more than 23 years coaching fitness, here’s what I know of professional coaches.
 

Professionals show up and do the work. On time. With a smile.

 
Professionals look like professionals.
Professionals know they’re “on stage” even when they’re not in the building.
Turning pro means showing up, at your best, every single day.
Turning pro means smiling when you’re tired. Turning pro means that you don’t have excuses anymore. Turning pro means you do the stuff you don’t want to do instead of just punching a clock.
Turning pro means putting the client’s perception of your brand ahead of your desire to drink coffee, hit “snooze” or skip your morning shower.
 

Professionals aren’t too good for the basics.

 
Greg Glassman said: “Stick to the basics, and when you feel you’ve mastered them, it’s time to start all over again, begin anew—again with the basics—this time paying closer attention.”
Professionals can get excited about teaching the air squat.
Professionals don’t mind explaining the same thing in a different way.
Professionals don’t have clients who “just don’t get it.”
 

Professionals just keep showing up.

 
Steven Pressfield wrote “The Legend of Bagger Vance” and “The War of Art.” He also wrote “Turning Pro,” a book about developing habits and committing to a higher level in life.
Steven is also a professional exerciser, even though it’s not his career or even his passion. He’s a pro because he turns up to meet his trainer at the gym every day, even when he doesn’t feel like it.
He learned to be a pro exerciser by being a pro writer. He doesn’t always feel like writing, but he does anyway. And on an interview this morning, he said:

“The defining feature of a professional is the willingness to go back to basics over and over again.”

Amateur writers get “writers’s block.” Pro writers write.
Plumbers don’t get “plumber’s block.” Orthopedic surgeons don’t say, “I’m just not feeling it today.”
Pro fitness coaches don’t let themselves off the hook.
Pros deliver at the same level for the first client and the 100th.
 

Professionals have coaches.

 
Tom Brady has a throwing coach. After every season, he starts from scratch with his coach: learning the forward pass, just like he did as a 6-year-old.
When you get a certification, you get to call yourself a trainer. That doesn’t mean you’re a professional coach. Not yet.
You have a lifetime of learning ahead of you—you’ll go back to the basics all the time—but you get to wear the same badge as me. Thank you for reshaping our world.
You’re not done learning. You will never be done.
 

Professionals know that exercise cuing and corrections are essential but insufficient.

 
If the client doesn’t want to come back tomorrow, you’ve failed that client.
Consistency is greater than everything else. A client doesn’t have to fix movement problems today.
Coaching is more than teaching or correcting.
 

Professionals are method agnostic.

 
Professionals find a way to get results.
Professionals rise above ideology, dogma and their own biases in order to help the client.
Professionals care more that the client gets results than about how the client gets them.
Professionals don’t “compete” with other exercise practitioners or therapists.
 

Pros never complain, criticize or condemn.

 
Professionals don’t try to tear others down to build themselves up.
Professionals aren’t scared to listen to other opinions.
Professionals play the infinite game.
 

Professionals behave like professionals when they don’t have to.

 
Guys like Gary Vaynerchuk have made entrepreneurship cool.
This new breed wears snapbacks onstage. They wear designer jeans and have cameras following them around just in case they say something extra special.
But they’re never unclean. They don’t yawn on camera.
They get away with some stuff—using F-bombs, for example—because they have a solid foundation of professionalism. One bad habit is the exception to their rule; it’s not the rule.
A real pro lays personal style on top of professionalism. The standards of a pro don’t dip to meet the amateurs or copycats. Being a pro means you can’t turn it off.
 

Pros create more pros.

 
Real professionals upgrade their profession.
Real professionals inspire others to be like them.
Real professionals are models for the next generation.
 

Real pros are made, not born.

 
No one turns pro quickly.
No one turns pro easily.
No one turns pro without sacrificing the habits of amateurs.
No one turns pro without help.
And pros know that “professional coach” isn’t the same as “professional gym owner.”
 

Other Articles in This Series

How to Coach Forever
How to Make a Living as a Personal Trainer
How to Open a Profitable, Scalable Gym
How to Start and Online Training Business, With Jonathan Goodman

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