01 Jul Quarterly Insights, Part Two
Time is flying. It’s crazy it’s already been 3 months since the first instalment of this series. Ever since publishing part one, I’ve been excited to sit down and write the next one. More and more, it’s the articles that force introspection, and touch on topics that people can relate to beyond fitness that I enjoy writing most, and have the most impact.
This time I’ve had the benefit of writing the majority of this while in the beautiful town of Taormina, in Sicily. In a small hotel room situated in the hills overlooking the sea and Mount Etna, I couldn’t have asked for a better place to dive deep and reflect on the past quarter, while scoping out the plan of action for the second half of this year.
- Learn to back off
Up till a few months ago, I thought I was a machine. I thought no matter how much I burnt the candle at both ends, my body, brain and mind would keep going. I guess many of you will have felt the same thing at some point, but the outcome was one I didn’t see coming at all.
From March to the end of April, a combination of working too many hours while training and dieting too hard culminated in maybe my first real episode of burnout.
I’ve flirted with it in the past on a number of occasions, but always caught it in time. This time it caught me completely off guard. I woke up everyday feeling like I’d been hit by a bus, I was falling asleep at my laptop while working, and I had a constant twitch in my left eye. My productivity, creativity and discipline all dwindled.
It took about two weeks off all training, putting limits on my daily workload and a nap everyday just to feel somewhat normal again. Just as I did, the US trip came! So while it was perfect timing, the nature of the trip was far from relaxing!
The lesson learned here was that if I want to continue to build RNT over the years to come, I need to manage and tame the type A tendencies I know I have. In the short run, it’s my advantage. But I know to stay in the game, I need to be shift my attitude towards being more ‘aggressively patient’. I guess it comes down to the (good) problem of loving what you do.
- Battling for an outlet
One of the best things I’ve done in the past few years is take email off my phone. I genuinely think it’s a game changer for anyone who runs their own business and struggles to switch off.
This, combined with time spent around family and friends out of the house is now the only real time I can truly detach myself from work.
It allows me to mentally recharge in a way I didn’t think I previously could. As someone who’s always thought of himself as an introvert, it should be the opposite. Yet, now that I work from home alone most of the day, it means I can get out of my own head and reignite my productivity output for the next day.
At the same time, I’m also in search of a new outlet. Something completely unrelated to what I do. For some people, it’s playing a musical instrument. For others, it might be painting or learning a language. And for many of my clients in particular, it’s training.
Training still forms a part of my outlet, and I can’t live without it. Especially on the really big sets where you can enter that ‘void’ state and be completely in the moment. As does writing. There’s no better feeling than hitting ‘flow state’ during a piece of writing. You’ll know when you’re in it. You’ll feel like you’re in a box with nothing around you, with waves of thoughts running around and flowing onto the page.
As I’m writing this, I also realise I’m onto a winner in that I’m living and breathing a combination of my different passions on a daily basis, so maybe it’s my inability to never settle or be satisfied with what I’ve done so far that leads me to thinking there should always be something more to it (more on this later…).
- Training is engrained into life
I recently agreed to taking a psychometric assessment as part of some research a friend of mine was conducting with different business owners on their values, priorities and daily processes.
When adding up the answers, she was surprised by the outcome. She thought it’d be all about training, nutrition and well-being. Instead, my top three reoccurring answers were centred around business development and strategy, family and friends, and writing.
This wasn’t a shock to me. I’ve been following a ‘healthy lifestyle’ for ten years now so while it’ll always be high up on my list of values and priorities, it’ll rarely float into the top three.
It’s just part of what I do. I know that four days a week, I’ll train. It’s in my diary every week, and it’s a non-negotiable. I know 80-90% of my meals will be on point. I don’t feel good if it skews any lower. It’s just part of what I do, and I don’t give it second thought anymore.
Sure, if you ran this questionnaire 3-5 years ago, my answers would have been different. It ultimately stems back to the different seasons of life you’ll go through, and the juggling of priorities at various points.
I do strongly believe though that fitness should never be your number one priority. I’ve been there before, and it’ll destroy your social life, your work and turn you into a narcissist. I see it all the time on social media too with people’s entire identity becoming wrapped up in their fitness lifestyle.
Instead, it’ll always be in my top five. When I’m in lengthy muscle building periods (as I spend most of my time), there’s no reason for it be any higher than this. I don’t plan on being a professional bodybuilder, so there’s never a need to turn down social occasions, or the opportunity to travel at the possible expense of an extra pound of muscle. That being said, if I’m 3-4 weeks out from a bodybuilding show, it’ll probably sit at a number two, and in some parts of the day it may even be number one. It all depends on the stage of your journey.
The secret to long term success in training is finding the right balance. For the majority of the time, your goal should be to continue ticking all the right boxes. This means when the time calls for it, you’re able to flip the switch for a short period of time and take it to the next level.
- Disconnecting through travel
One of the things I love about what I do is the flexibility it affords me. I can essentially work from anywhere and anytime. Since leaving full time PT and setting up RNT, I’ve fully embraced this, and I absolutely love it.
There’s no need to put work on hold, and if anything, it makes me more productive with the time I do have. If I’m abroad, I like to wake up, crank everything I need to do in 1-3 hours, then go out and explore.
My rule of no email on my phone means I can truly disconnect and absorb a completely new environment.
I’m also a firm believer that travel broadens the mind, sparks creativity and enables you to look at the bigger picture. We spend so much time staring at the trunk of the tree during the daily grind, that we never stand back to notice the branches.
Some of our best work and ideas this year have come from being out of our normal environment. The RNT ‘promo’ video we filmed came from a brainstorming session out in Florida back in February (if you haven’t watched it, check it out on our YouTube page here, or you can watch it below).
When we were in San Diego, we penned an idea down by 9am on the first day that we truly think will be a game changer in how we grow RNT. We’d been trying to solve this issue for months, but within an hour of sitting down in a new setting, we had a plan of action ready to execute on our return.
- Celebrating small wins
I spoke earlier about being unable to feel much satisfaction from anything I accomplish. The positive in this is that I’ll never rest on my laurels, and continue to push more and more. I always think I can do a better job. Whether it’s an article, a client transformation, or a business target.
Mentally though, it can’t be good.
I’ve talked about this with a few close friends who also run their own businesses, and a recurring theme was to learn to celebrate the small wins.
This doesn’t mean a pat on the back to yourself every time you do something worthwhile. That’s not the aim. But if you know you’re on a long road, and you’re the type who’ll keep driving until you run out of gas, you need to incorporate pit stops along the way to acknowledge what you’ve done.
Until the last few months, this concept was completely foreign to me. But it’s now firmly at the front of mind. I plan to continue being aggressive in my pursuit of my goals, but in a manner that I can enjoy the ride and stay fresh throughout.
Travelling more often, and spontaneously, is one way. Going for the best steak in town with my closest friends is another. I also have a new found love for watches, but that could get dangerous…
- Surviving our first year in business
I have no idea what the start up failure stats are exactly, but I know they don’t make for fun reading. Which is why reaching a year on the 24th May 2018 was something worth celebrating, which we certainly did in style during our trip to the West Coast (I’m learning!).
I’d always wanted my own business, and I remember while working for my previous employer that all my spare time would be spent either reading about business, or dipping my toes in small side ventures that never really took off.
It wasn’t until I went all in on RNT that I finally realised my dream. I love running this company, and couldn’t imagine my life without it now. From the team we’ve built, to the growing community, and having the ability to put our message out there exactly the way we want to is truly liberating.
While most of my learning now is spent on topics away from fitness, the results our team are producing at the moment are the best I’ve seen. And I believe much of this to be due to the culture we’ve created at RNT that breeds a relentless focus on results, both within our trainers and in our clients.
- Scaling is all in the team
If it wasn’t for our team, RNT wouldn’t be anything. We’re very fortunate to have an awesome group of trainers in Nathan, Kunal and Ben who are all in this together to help grow the brand.
Beyond the immediate team, our ability to grow the business has been amplified by the willingness of so many people always happy to offer help and advice where they can.
This is my hidden trump card, and I know at any time I can call on a number of close friends, family and clients. In fact, most of my difficult ‘problems’ are typically solved over food or drinks with one of my ‘consiglieres’ (I’m in Sicily so what better way to word it!), and I’ll always be forever grateful to those who have put in an extraordinary amount of time and effort to help us.
I know I’ve mentioned this point a lot in previous articles and on social media, but it can never be repeated enough!
- Duty of giving back
When we had the owner of elitefts, Dave Tate, on our podcast earlier this year, we asked him why he thought his company had stood the test of time in an industry known for ‘flash in the pan successes’ and no real stability.
His answer was simple: giving. Elitefts is an education company that happens to sell top of the line strength equipment and accessories – not a strength equipment company that happens to provide education.
I like to think the way we run RNT is similar with our intense focus on education. Every week we’ll put out a brand new article, video and podcast with the aim to provide as much value to you as possible.
I still get asked every week why we don’t have a pay wall on our content. My response is always the same – ‘why should we? We’ve got no right to’. When I started out in the industry almost ten years ago, I spent all my time reading everything I could get my hands on, both in form of physical books, and in free content on the Internet.
This education has been an integral part of developing my own training philosophy, as well as allowing me fast track my learning to avoid the same mistakes others before me had to learn the hard way.
That’s why it’s now my duty to be able to relay my own experiences to the next generation. It’s why it’s my aim is to make our free content better than anyone’s paid content.
To give isn’t a marketing strategy or a business model. It’s a duty and a way of life. A responsibility of us as humans to be able to make the world a better place.
It’s why when one of my clients, Jai, asked me to talk about nutrition at his father’s meditation workshop, I jumped at the chance. Helping educate a part of society (over 50s and Asian) in such dire need of it provides so much fulfilment, and helps reignite my purpose amidst a world of chaos.
- Social stigmas in Asian culture
I was taken aback earlier this year by the response to the article ‘Social Stigmas in Asian Culture’. Never has an article I’ve written hit home with so many people, which is both eye-opening yet also worrying.
For such a fantastic culture to have such deeply rooted stigmas within it means a real shift in education, identity association and values needs to be discussed.
I’m not denying the positives our culture brings. I couldn’t be prouder being Asian. But I’d love to be able to help us be more open minded to the idea of different careers and placing a high priority on self-care.
Hopefully my own career journey inspires others to think about job prospects outside of the traditional worlds of finance, law and medicine.
If there was one thing I’ve learnt since starting my career in health and fitness is that it is possible to follow your passion, make a living and enjoy the ride along the way. I see far too many people making money but merely existing in dead-end, unfulfilling jobs out of fear of failure. This isn’t saying everyone should run their own business, but life’s too short to hate what you do.
I also hope our work with the many Asian clients we’ve helped transform into the shape of their lives can spread through their networks and communities to create a domino effect in sparking even further change.
I know it’s not going to happen overnight. It may not even happen in my lifetime. But hopefully I can plant enough seeds in the coming years to create the future generational change I know is desperately needed.
- The RNT family effect
I touched earlier on the culture of RNT being a breeding ground for results. It’s been amazing to witness the increasing quality of results as we’ve grown, and I can only put this down to what I call the ‘RNT family effect’.
I like to think that while our business is ‘1-1 coaching’, the education we provide and the community we’re building means our clients are able to feed off and draw inspiration from each other, and all the different coaches, in order to push themselves.
An example that always comes to mind is when one of our clients Sachin was struggling to juggle the demanding hats of family, business and fitness in his quest to be in the shape of his life. Instead of giving in, he reached out to fellow RNT’er Biraj, who had been through similar problems during his transformation. They spoke, and Sachin immediately felt better about the process.
When I heard about this, I knew we were onto something with the culture and community that was being built. This is exactly what we wanted when creating RNT, and it makes me excited for the upcoming summer RNT meet up!
Building and fostering relationships between trainer and client is an integral part of the coaching process. But building meaningful conversation between clients is what creates the tribal atmosphere that we all crave when on a journey to self-improvement. We want to surround ourselves with like-minded individuals with similar goals and struggles, as it helps us stay aligned on our path to what we class as success.
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