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The Hero's Journey: Path to Fitness Success

The path to success in the fitness industry, and life can lead to many places and is likely to be ridden with challenges along the way. Over the past 8 years, I have been continually asking myself what that path is supposed to look like. I am by no means a genius, but I am pretty damn good at figuring things out...

So I have been actively seeking out that answer for quite some time now. Going to multiple fitness conferences every year, getting certified through every major organization, networking with the best fitness pros I know, and doing my best to surround myself with them as often as I can. I have paid thousands of dollars for personal mentoring on many levels and I am constantly on the hunt reading for great knowledge and information.

I have come to the conclusion that success in the fitness industry (and probably most industries) is in many ways like a Hero's Journey.

Also known as the monomyth, the Hero's Journey is a pattern of narrative identified by the American scholar Joseph Campbell that is alluded to in the stories of Greek mythology, religion, psychology, and most importantly........heroic movies like Star Wars and Batman.

Am I comparing Personal Trainers to Odysseus and Batman? Not exactly, but then again maybe I am.

The Hero's Journey describes the typical adventure of the story's "hero", the person who goes out and achieves great deeds on behalf of the group, tribe, or civilization. If you're reading this then it's likely that you see a career in personal training as a noble cause. Hell, hopefully you believe empowering others through health & fitness can not only change their life but on a larger scale, change the world.

That is what it's all about, and as far as I can tell, falls within the constructs of the tale of a hero. A journey that is driven by the desire to make a positive impact, paired with the willingness to make sacrifices along the way is what sets the stage for following the journey to success. Sure sounds like a hero to me.

However, exactly what exactly that success as a personal trainer looks like is up to the path you choose. An industry that started from simply training sessions with clients, has expanded to online programs, working with groups, speaking at conferences, educating trainers, writing books, online video blogs, and more. It can be easy to get distracted and confused, but the great thing is that THE ACT OF FOLLOWING THE PATH ITSELF will help you uncover the best direction.

Your Path to Fitness Heroics

As John Romaniello wrote in Engineering the Alpha, it all begins with recognizing that "you are the hero and your life should be a tale worth telling."

Without breaking down all 12 stages, let's take a look at how the first 5 are pivotal in initiating the Hero's Journey and relate to your success in the fitness industry.

1. Ordinary World: In stories, this is where we learn to understand the hero's background and what he's all about. This part of the story is the safe place where you may still be unaware of the opportunities and adventures that are out there, but clearly something in the hero's life is amiss and causing stress.

For trainers this when you are in your comfort zone working with clients and getting busy. This is also when you might start questioning where this is all headed. You begin to ask yourself, "Is this path sustainable and how am I going to help even more people?" If you never ask these questions and strive to find the answers, then sadly you are destined for life in the "ordinary world." You will never hear the call to adventure and become aware of what else is possible. Take away: Ask questions and don't get too comfortable. Heroes are made outside of the comfort zone.

2. Call to Adventure: Remember when two mysterious droids arrived at Luke Skywalkers farm with a message from the Princess? This was his call to adventure that led him to Obi-Wan and his discovery of a whole new world. His comfort with the ordinary world no longer existed and an entirely new quest unfolded in front of him.

As cool as it would be for talking robots to seek you out from across the galaxy, your call may by slightly more subtle. Maybe you attend a fitness conference and are exposed to paths and levels of success you didn't even know existed. Maybe you've read a book or a blog that opened your eyes to new ways to have an even greater impact in peoples' lives. Either way, something happened that no longer allows you to be satisfied with what you have been doing up until this point.

Take away: The call to adventure for many of us will not be a gun shot or life altering event. You are much more likely to recognize it if you are seeking out new information and ways. Embrace this feeling and don't stifle your feelings of discontent. This means that you NEED to progress. It's alright at this point not to know what that is going to look like, but you will need to get past the next stage to find out.

3. Refusal of the Call: This is where most fail on the path to success. They listen too much to their own fears or the doubts of their loved ones and never take action. For our hero the problems they face may seem to daunting and the comfort of the ordinary world beckons them to stay where they are.

You can probably think of a time when you were initially excited about a new idea or opportunity and you talked yourself out of. Many Fitness Pros think about going out on their own, but hear about how hard it is to open a facility or find clients. Maybe you have thought about starting a fitness blog or getting into speaking, but let your doubts creep in and kill your ability to take action.

Take away: Don't fear failure as it is bound to happen along the way. Alfred understood that getting knocked down is part of the process when he said, "Why do we fall Bruce? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up." If it's a good enough lesson for Batman maybe we should pay attention.

Fear is natural and you won't take action on everything, but don't beat yourself up over it. Knowing that this is part of the path can help you recognize the situations where you might be tempted to refuse the call, but just like in movies this refusal may bring you pain and suffering. The question becomes, what will bring you more pain.....taking action and dealing with the challenges of the "special world" or the regret of doing nothing at all and remaining in the ordinary world.

4. Meeting the Mentor: This is where the magic happens! This is where you meet your Yoda. The hero meets a "seasoned traveler" at just the right time to instill the courage and wisdom needed to traverse the world ahead. This pivotal step in your journey towards fitness domination cannot be overstated or undervalued. This may not come in the grandiose fashion that Luke experienced in The Empire Strikes Back but is the key to success and entry into the "Special World."

Take away: Mentors should be sought out on a regular basis. To achieve greatness, we must stand upon the backs of those who have walked the path before us. This means seeking out those who you relate to and you feel can get you to the next level. This may sometimes be in the way of strategies and skills, but most importantly will aid in developing the mindset to deal with the fears and doubts that will challenge you on the journey.

5. Crossing the Threshold: This is the point in the story when our hero fully commits to leaving behind a life of ordinary comfort and takes action to pursue the adventures ahead. For Luke this meant leaving home to pursue the life of a Jedi and face the empire.

Take away: For some Fitness Pros it could mean going off on your own and others it could mean putting pen to paper and working on becoming a writing authority. Maybe it just means stepping up and delivering on an entirely new level for your clients. The important thing is that this stage is entirely about commitment and action. As you can see from the image above and stages to come there will be plenty of trials and tribulations, but without risk there is no reward.

What it All Means

The Hero's Journey involves many steps and experiences between self-awareness, the need for something greater, and reaching true mastery.

There are many decisions to be made along the way and the road may not always be clear, but the trick is to keep taking action and don't get too comfortable.

Heroes like Luke and Bruce Wayne never truly knew their path and destination in the beginning, they just had a feeling that they were meant for something more.

They took that desire to do something bigger than themselves and put it into action by conquering their fears and finding mentors to help them along the way. Batman was literally an embodiment of Bruce Wayne's fear.

The pain and fear of not making a change and taking on the journey became greater than their fear of failure and ridicule. This is what separates your ordinary career in the Fitness Industry and the Superhero status you may seek.

Make no mistake, the journey is one of inner growth and even if you make past the first 5 stages, only more challenges lie ahead. But at this point....the ordinary world will never be enough for you again.

Good luck.......and may the force be with you.

- Joe -

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