We were at just over 13,000 feet. My friend, Tomas, who had traveled to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with me, had been coughing all throughout the night. The cough sounded more like a gurgle, and it persisted when we all woke up at 5:30 am to get back on the trail.
Reluctantly, he checked in with the guides, and they discovered his oxygen level was sitting at a robust 63%. Against his wishes, but for his survival, they told him he was going down the mountain.
For the next two days on the mountain, I was bereft. I felt horrible for convincing my friend to travel all the way to Tanzania to climb a mountain he would never summit, and I worried about his health. It also wasn’t the same finishing the climb on my own.
“The devastation he must be feeling,” I agonized.
Summit day was more a relief than a celebration, since I was hardly conscious at that point, but I also still felt terrible about Tomas.
Once we came off the mountain, though, we reunited with him and found him in good spirits. He was a little bummed he couldn’t be there when we summited, but all things considering, he was in a pretty good space.
I have to say I was pretty surprised.
I learned he had high altitude pulmonary edema on the mountain, fatal if not caught and treated early.
With that revelation, not summiting, and spending the last two days on his own, I worried he might be questioning the point of his trip to Tanzania and maybe even resenting me for the wild idea.
But that didn’t seem to be the case at all. In fact, upon his return to the States, he got a tattoo commemorating his experience on Kili.
It took me a long time to understand, but it eventually dawned on me that for Tomas, it wasn’t just about the opportunity to summit.
It was about the week we had already spent in Tanzania, meeting locals, making friends, and enjoying the culture.
It was about the sights of nature we saw on the mountain that left us in speechless awe.
It was also about the challenge he confronted, regardless of how things turned out.
Tomas got the sense of adventure, the unpredictability of mother nature, and the risks of altitude that he came seeking. Not summiting the mountain he traveled 10,000 miles to climb didn’t make a dent in that fact.
The same principle applies to us as gym owners.
It’s not simply enough to know where you’re going or how you’re going to get there.
We need to know why we’re doing it.
The why allows us to weather the storms when we never make our destination or when we get lost on the way there.
Because we all know what our vision is.
We’re encouraged to think about it and write it out, from our 1 year, 3 year, 5 year, 10 year, all the way up to our lifetime vision. We hang our vision boards and post-it notes around our desk scribbled with positive affirmations.
We don’t just know what our vision is–we’re bombarded by it.
Many of us also have a good idea of how we’re going to fulfill our vision.
We’ve read the business books. We stalk the Facebook threads. We have calls with our business coach. We know how we’re supposed to do it.
But deep down, many of us are stuck wondering why we’re pointed in the direction we are, with the route that was given to us.
“I want to have 300 members by the end of next year,” you might say to yourself.
But, why? Is it for the increased revenue? A bigger community to lead?
And even still, why is that important?
Why is that so important you would sacrifice everything to attain that?
Tony Robbins talks often about the six human needs that drive our behavior and the decisions we make in life. They are:
4. Connection and love
You can read more about what each of those means here, but the thing to understand is that these human needs form your why.
Framing your why through the lens of our fundamental needs, you can finally tap into the endless emotion and energy that will propel you forward.
“I need to make more money,” is a source of motivation that gives you maybe a quarter tank of gas. You can drive around town for a day or two before you suddenly run out of gas on the highway.
By the same token, wanting to own “the best gym in town” might give you half a tank.
You get my point.
If you don’t understand the basic needs that drive you, some more than others, you will never have the self-awareness needed to keep your gas tank perpetually full.
For me, I’ve realized I’m a bit of an uncertainty junkie.
When I convinced Lee to take over the gym with me years ago, it wasn’t because it was clearly a good idea.
It was because it wasn’t.
Going from the Navy to unemployed to a CrossFit gym owner, after a few months of being a member at this gym, was probably the most unexpected thing I could think to do at the time.
The challenge and uncertainty of getting the gym from struggling to standing on its own two feet kept me preoccupied for months! Until it didn’t. Until paying rent no longer depended on the highly-anticipated first of the month deposit.
Then I found myself, wittingly or not, searching for situations that offered even more uncertainty.
Tinkering with the gym, traveling to places I don’t speak the language (although in San Antonio, I don’t have to go very far), or meeting different groups of people, if I couldn’t find uncertainty, I was surely going to create it.
The dangerous thing is that our pendulum can swing wildly when we don’t pay attention to how our needs drive us.
We need balance. We need to understand how much our needs are driving our behavior and decisions, and at the same time, determine if that behavior and those decisions support the rest of our needs.
As an example, let’s say certainty is your primary driving force.
One way you can find that certainty is by creating systems in your own business that make income recurring and reliable.
However, if left unchecked, you might feel like the venture of being a gym owner provides so little certainty that you’re ready to close your gym entirely. You’re burned out from the uncertainty.
Although that’s a relatable sentiment, the thing that you may risk here, in trying to quickly fulfill your need for certainty, is a sudden loss of significance, connection, growth, and contribution–four of the other core human needs.
Without having the self-awareness and patience to recognize the importance of all these needs to us individually, we may inadvertently throw the baby out with the bathwater when making decisions.
Life changes and evolves everyday.
Our vision, our desires, our path–one of the only guarantees in life is that nothing remains the same.
Similarly, the reason you became a gym owner is almost positively not why you are here today.
Because as much as the #hustle movement shows otherwise, building a successful business and a fulfilled life is a long-game–these aren’t feats we will complete overnight.
The initial excitement and the desire to “coach more people!” quickly falls flat when we realize we are now business owners before anything else. (If you don’t believe me, the electricity bill is a good monthly reminder of that.)
So I’m not asking you whether or not you love what you do, because I know you do. I know for a fact it wasn’t the prestige or money that brought you here.
But I am going to ask you: why will you to continue to love what you do?
How can you run a gym that will fulfill not just other people’s needs but your own, as well?
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