A couple months ago, I was talking to a gym owner in the UK, and when I asked him what the one thing was that gym owners struggle with most, he said: the inability to envision a better reality.
I agree, and I think this is a challenge facing not just gym owners but people in general.
When Lee and I took over the gym a few years ago, it was struggling financially. Struggling, as in, it was a miracle to see the rent check go through every month.
The thought of the gym making any sort of real profit was simply unimaginable.
In fact, we were so stuck in this survival mindset, that any profit the gym made we referred to as “monopoly money.” It never felt real, and it surely didn’t feel like anything we could take home.
Reality finally hit when we had a talk with our CPA and learned that we would be taxed on the gym’s profit, regardless of whether or not we would take it home.
“So, there’s zero benefit to leaving profit in the bank account? … Wow.”
It was at that point that we reluctantly agreed to start taking money for ourselves.
Even though those monthly checks were modest, it still pained us to write them out.
It didn’t feel right. We were so stuck in viewing the gym as a crippled business that it seemed criminal to take any money from it.
So what happened?
Well, the gym continued to be profitable, it continued to grow, and we continued to take home a monthly paycheck.
So all our suspicions and doubts were completely inaccurate?
The success our gym has seen is very humble compared to what you’ve probably seen and heard on social media. Even still, I could tell you a number of stories just like this one from over the past few years that all follow this formula to the T:
1. We doubt the possibility of a better reality.
2. Possibility of a better reality becomes an actual reality.
3. We’re proven wrong. Again.
Whether it’s taking home money, having days off, taking an extended vacation, or hiring staff to help, these are the crazy, far-fetched visions we have as gym owners.
Lee and I have been fortunate to do all the above. At this point, we’ve gotten used to just believing the possibility of a better reality, instead of continuing to doubt it, even though we can’t entirely envision it.
We do this, because if the impossible is an inevitability, as experience has shown, then believing it may just help our chances in making it happen.
We’ve gone from “How are we going to do that?” to “We’ll find a way to make it happen.”
Part of adopting this attitude is what Lee and I call the “intolerance quotient.”
The intolerance quotient is one’s inability to remain dissatisfied with the current circumstances.
Now, I didn’t say inability to remain satisfied, I said remain dissatisfied.
The former implies a cabin fever and an inability to sit still, whereas the inability to remain dissatisfied means you see the pain point, you acknowledge it, and you quickly work to eradicate it.
Uh, Yeah, I’m Dissatisfied… So What?
Sounds simple, right? As human beings, we love daydreaming of other lives, and we spend happy hours complaining about the one we’re currently in. Of course we understand dissatisfaction.
But what do we do about it?
Generally speaking, not a whole lot.
Why is this? Here’s a better question: Do you actually believe a reality without persistent dissatisfaction is even possible?
Most people don’t. Particularly in our work hard, play occasionally-and-only-for-Instagram society, we just assume a base level of malaise is required in life.
Isn’t that what being an adult is all about? Settling and wistfully longing for the days long gone, for the simpler times?
Happiness is for youth or for people who should be locked up in a mental institution.
It’s silly to think we could be completely happy with where we’re at in life. We know better than that!
If anything, vague discontent is a sign of growth and maturity.
Or so many people believe.
Another Reason Why This Transition is So Hard
If being an adult isn’t riddled with enough unspoken assumptions that we will remain unhappy, the journey in becoming an entrepreneur doesn’t help.
One of biggest differences you experience between the 9-5 life and being an entrepreneur, is that as an entrepreneur, you have wild amounts of freedom to create a life of your own choosing.
Sure, a lot of this depends on hitting financial success to be able to afford that freedom, but once you’ve figured out the formulas for running a successful business, it’s pretty astonishing how creative you can be with your own lifestyle.
Even still, we’re routinely stuck in our old ways.
It’s not just in relationships that we make the mistake of hanging around because “s/he’s the devil I know.” This applies to how you view life, too.
When you’ve been constrained as a weekend warrior, your mind can’t compute taking a three-day trip in the middle of the week.
When you’ve been trained to trade time for money, your mind can’t comprehend where money is coming from if you’re not physically toiling away at the gym.
Taking notice of your dissatisfaction and braving a step forward by wondering, “What can I do to change this?” only seems like a sure-fire way to get disappointed.
… You get your hopes up, only to be let down.
… The other shoe finally drops.
And all the other cliches that sum up the inevitable pain we think we will experience if we let ourselves get truly excited for a reality different than the one we experience today.
It’s Not What You Think
I can’t speak to the reality anyone else is experiencing right now, but I can almost guarantee you that you can do something about it.
Maybe it’s the only child in me, who had heard a few too many times that the world was my oyster, but I have always been bound and determined to find a life where that was actually the case.
For years, I bounced from one endeavor to the next, chasing a big, fat “what if?”
Fortunately, it wasn’t just a pipe dream. This business has been the vehicle for the freedom I always sought.
How Does This Apply to Me?
Here are three steps you can take to increase your intolerance quotient and start to create a life that you’re thrilled about:
1. Figure out what frustrates you the most
What do you dread when you think about the gym?
When do you dread these things the most?
If you wake up with dread because you have six classes to coach that day, take note of it.
Don’t spend too much time wallowing in your frustration. Move on to the next step.
2. Figure out if you can do something about it
Can you do something about it?
There’s a chance you might not be able to do much to change it. For example, if you can’t stand making sure your coaches get paid every month, tough luck. You can outsource your roles (i.e. a bookkeeper or CPA), but you can’t alleviate your responsibility in making sure it gets done.
If you can do something about it, move on to the next step.
3. Figure out what you can do and when
When one of us is unhappy about how something is run at the gym, the other person immediately goes, “What can we do about it?”
You can usually solve an issue by answering one of these questions:
- Who do I need to talk to, and what do I need to communicate?
- Who can we hire?
- What system can we implement?
- Where can we make more money to afford that?
If All Else Fails…
If these steps seem light-years ahead of where you’re at today, the first step is to simply acknowledge that you’re not entirely happy with what’s going on.
I’m not suggesting you find things to be upset with because you have nothing better to do. I’m suggesting you stop buying into the narrative that being a mature and responsible adult is about “sucking it up.”
It’s not, and the first step in thawing from years of this type of programming is by noticing the things in your life you want to change.
Only then can you start to imagine what your reality could be once it does.
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