We are on the advent of another re-opening. I would love to be more excited about it but I am lingering somewhere between relief and exhaustion right now. I finished the last zoom class (hopefully!) of this lockdown and no sooner was I finished in one task, I automatically went straight into my work emails – a pavlovian reflex deeply ingrained during the last 9 months of ‘firefighting’.
There was one unread email waiting for me – one from the Small Firms / Business Awards regretting to inform me that my application for nomination was turned down.
Initially I felt a certain pang of disappointment – rejection is never nice, especially when it comes in the form of a generic pdf. But I also felt that I let myself down for filling out an application in the first place. Should one really ever put themselves forward to be nominated for something? Probably not if it is of any value.
I have always viewed award ceremonies as a loathsome circle jerk, generally intended to make the organisers some money in the form of overpriced tickets and give impressionable people somewhere to be seen, all judged by people who, for the most part, have never taken the risk of running a business themselves. The Irish Fitness Awards are on another level in terms of such fluff and bullshit – and this is probably where most of my repulsion comes from.
I was initially recommended to apply for these awards by a mortgage advisor. This person knew the exact amount of money I was making per year and for the past few years – so immediately I was sceptical as to why he would suggest I put my name forward.
Against my own judgement I did. I am definitely someone that is susceptible to staying within my bubble or comfort zone and lacking confidence in what I do at the best of times, so I made a point of fighting any internal resistance I had and submitted an application – what had I got to lose?? Well, nothing if I kept quiet about it and didn’t tell anyone…Admittedly it was a very lacklustre attempt at an application, maybe my subconscious was trying to tell me something.
It is said that business is never personal, but when it is your own business, it is the most personal thing ever. It is your creation and a part of your soul. Being told it is not good enough – no matter who is dictating this or by what standards, always stings to some degree.
The past 9 months have involved trying to secure a loan for a mortgage and any person that has done so will know is no easy task – add being self-employed and operating a business during a pandemic, and at times it all became a bit soul destroying.
Much of my energy and motivation in the first lockdown came from a place of fear and adrenaline. If the banks saw any slowdown in my income, the loan applications would be thrown out the window.
They drew out the application process as much as possible – to the point AIB are still processing things 5 months later – their tag line ‘backing brave’ makes me laugh, ‘backing their own board of directors at the expense of the country’ is more appropriate but not as catchy…
I fell into the trap since March of being motivated by the bottom line. This sounds like an entirely reasonable motivation for running a business but there is something not so tangible when it comes to helping people as one’s profession. I can’t quite put my finger on it but whenever I truly make it my mission to help my members as opposed to making money, things generally work out better on all fronts.
There is some weird universal power of good intention at play here but this obviously does not go down too well on a bank application. Whenever I genuinely look to positively impact people as much as possible and care for each member, things seem to fall into place.
Unfortunately with the general mood of fear and uncertainty permeating through our consciousness currently, the monthly income became a primary focus and I would start to get anxiety as this dropped. This was the first time since opening my business that the primary focus became about money (although it wasn’t far off in my first year when I couldn’t afford a cup of coffee).
This extrinsic source of motivation became extremely tiring. I have been suffering the effects of burn out the past while, looking at the bank balance daily, negotiating prices for a building, catastrophising about being evicted, trying to navigate ambiguity around government guidelines, waiting on banks and solicitors, figuring out ways to deliver value online, halving the capacity of our classes, doubling the hours of work. There has been a lot going on.
I am absolutely having a moan – mainly because I find it cathartic. I always get re-energised by writing about things weighing on my mind and feel better for getting them out of there.
I am also making a point to underline that I fucked up in 2020 – in terms of my own motivations and focus. Thankfully not by much and all is very much rectifiable. I know these are the high standards I place upon myself but even though our service improved, I felt that I was just a little too distracted throughout it all. Maybe work should feel like work but this was the first year that it truly did for me.
The job became about the money, and it was never about that.
Do not get me wrong, we still delivered value, everyone got looked after and our standards remained high (I made sure to use the restrictions as a catalyst to improve the service – true individual design, not empty promises of it) but I found this new motivation, which did not align with my original philosophy, draining. The process of helping others had an extra layer of pressure added to it now.
I fell into the trap of endless spreadsheets of projected cash flows and how we will earn ‘x’ amount of money by this month. It went against my belief that cash flows are mostly bollox. I wonder how many cash flows predicted a pandemic this year? After my 6thround of questions with AIB , I asked them will I predict Covid-20 for 2023 or 2024 (and this is probably the reason I still have not heard back from them).
I am really hoping to have the building purchase finalised by the end of the year. I would not be entirely surprised if it does not happen by then, as it has already been about 12 months in the making but it certainly would be a nice way to end 2020.
I am taking this opportunity to realign with why I do this in the first place – to help everyone that comes through the doors of SDSC. I never got into this game to make money or to call myself an ‘entrepreneur’ on Instagram. I always wanted to do things the right way – with integrity and professionalism. If the side benefit was a profitable business or money, then great.
Providing an actual pathway for other coaches to follow is something that inspires me also – something with substance and proof, not making money off of telling broke coaches how to make money. I would love to show that a coach can run a fitness business and actually do normal things like successfully apply for a mortgage, support a family or just be able to do some of things that people in other professions take for granted – all without having to sell ones soul or take up a second job.
When the business awards are taking place and people in attendance are getting their fill of cheap wine and perpetuating the egotistical circle jerk, I will have hopefully purchased my work premises. This to me will be enough validation, for 5 minutes at least. I have always been one for being humble but you better believe I will be patting myself on the back (and then working towards a personal mortgage). I have always been one to miss out on public applause or validation and I am not good at selling myself in any shape or form – which goes a long way to explain the source of my lack of confidence but it may also be the source of my work ethic and never being able to rest on my modest achievements.
I may sound sour about being rejected for those awards but I am actually more embarrassed that I let myself get caught up in wanting the external validation for a few minutes. I am constantly encouraging members here to look for intrinsic motivation and be confident in their own work ethic and abilities so that they do not have to go seeking cheap affirmations. I need to take some of my own advice for once. Work satisfaction has always been more important to me than endorsements.
I know we are not out of the restrictions yet but I genuinely want to thank everyone that has stuck with me and the gym this year. We are coming back strong December 1st!