The Blind Climb
This post has been written many times in my mind over the past few months. The “Blind Climb” is about my relentless pursuit of making it to the next level on the career ladder. This never-ending race felt like running on a treadmill with infinite speed settings. Feeling like I was going to fly (or jump) off, I decided to assess why on paper I was very “successful” but felt unfulfilled?
I wrote this post in part to help with my reflection process, but also hope it resonates with readers who may find themselves in a similar situation.
Fresh Out of College, Broke and Living with my Grandparents
This journey began as a new college graduate. I had just finished my internship at a health and fitness center and was hired on as a front desk worker and personal trainer. It was great to have a job right out of college, but after opening the center at 5 am (for several months) for near minimum wage and struggling to build a client base, I was looking for something different.
I should also mention that I was living with my grandparents at the time and was in about $75,000 worth of student loan, auto, and credit card debt. I’ll save that story for another time, but I mention that because not only did I need to find a job that would allow me to move out of my grandparent’s place, but also be able to begin to pay off that mountain of debt. If you are curious how I accomplished that check out my blog post on debt repayment.
Okay, now on with the story.
One weekend when I was super motivated, I went on a tear and applied to 30 or so different positions I was interested in. Many I didn’t hear back from, some kindly said no, and I managed to land interviews with four companies.
After going through interviews with a half dozen companies, I was offered a position at three of them. I narrowed my choices down to two and then had a really tough time deciding from there. Both opportunities excited me and sounded challenging, but would also require me to relocate.
In the end, I listened to my gut and chose a position managing a mid-sized fitness center.
Way Out of My Comfort Zone, Moving Across the State, Still Broke
And just like that, I moved across the state to a city I’ve never been to, living with people I didn’t know.
To explain, I had visited the city and toured apartments along with a Craigslist listing of a room for rent a few weeks before moving. To save money, I opted for the Craiglist option.
This decision thankfully worked out not only as a money-saver, but I also made a couple of great friends in the process!
Now about the new gig. Like I said, I was going to be managing a fitness center. This is something that I had never done before. I had worked a front desk job and was a personal trainer, but was never in charge of running the show.
I had also never had a “sales” job before. This was one of the primary aspects of the job – selling memberships to prospective members. This was way out of my comfort zone and made me feel nervous, yet excited.
I distinctly remember going into the office of the fitness center the weekend before I started and sitting in the manager chair, just felt right. It’s hard to describe and the best I can explain is it was one of those decisions that aligned with both head and heart.
I spent that weekend getting organized and acquainted with my new work environment. I then had a quick week and a half onboarding and was given the keys to the car along with a “go get ‘em, kid.”
A New and Unexpected Love, Hitting My Stride, Feeling on Purpose
My first few weeks on the job, and the first year were fantastic. I chose the fitness industry due to my passion for fitness and helping people but fell in love with sales and business.
I enjoyed the challenge of selling memberships and training and made the correlation early on that selling=helping. For me, it was paramount that I believed in the service I was selling. It was great to be able to sign up a new member and see how excited they were as they were reaching goals and accomplishing things they could only dream about before starting.
This felt like the perfect culmination of my passion for fitness and a newfound love of sales and business.
The fitness center and city I was living in started to feel like home. I had friends at work and friends to hang out with outside of work. I was getting to know the community and got into a nice routine.
It was hard to know at the time, but this was the most fulfilled I have ever been. I had a purpose in my work, had great friends around me, and was in a nice living environment. Life was good.
The Blind Climb Begins…
Work was going well, really well. I had built a great team and together we had taken a struggling fitness center and turned it into a thriving one. We had great member and community engagement and the center turned into one of the most profitable ones in the business owner’s portfolio.
That year I had won “Rookie of the Year” for our company. I was also appointed to train all new managers, which was a big deal for being as young as I was and being charged with that level of responsibility.
At this point, I was hooked. I tasted and was rewarded for my hard work and success and it felt good. This is when I began to set my sights on the next rung in the ladder. My next goal was to become a regional manager and oversee multiple fitness centers.
Over the next year, I continued to work long hours at the fitness center and work to earn an opportunity for the regional manager role. It was during this time where I started to become “off-balance”
What I mean by this is, I was hyper-focused on my career and started to let things like my social life, hobbies, health, and spirituality slide. While this was great for my career, it was harmful to my overall wellness and happiness. At the time, I had blinders on and was head down with a full head of steam on advancing my career path.
The Promotion, the Move, the Fast Pace
It’s happening! One week, my boss asked if I was free the upcoming weekend to attend a sporting event with him and his girlfriend. I was not only stoked to go and watch my favorite team play but also to get to spend time with my boss and maybe, just maybe get a promotion?
About midway through the game, as we were cheering the team on, talking shop, and having a good time, I was asked what my plans were. I answered candidly and honestly, that I wanted to continue to grow with the company and become a regional manager.
After some conversation, I was verbally offered the position that I had been wanting and working hard for!
Flash forward a few months and I was again with my boss and his girlfriend, but this time on a ferry going to Lake Placid, NY. We were heading to a conference and were talking about the company and plans. This time I was asked if I would consider moving to become the regional manager of our largest territory.
I was flattered and excited about this opportunity! Without hesitation, I said that I was gladly up for the challenge and adventure.
I’m leaving out a lot of details, but to move this story along the essence is I was experiencing a lot of “success” very quickly.
In less than three years I had gone from living with my grandparents and being a front desk worker to fitness center manager, to regional manager, to regional manager of the largest, most profitable region in the portfolio.
During this time, I had a singular focus – work my face off and get promoted as quickly as possible.
This came at the expense of my long-term girlfriend and I breaking up, leaving my friends and the fitness center I came to love, to name a few sacrifices. It’s interesting because, at the time, it didn’t feel like a sacrifice.
It Started to Hit Me, and Then I Did What?
It took a while, but eventually, things caught up with me. I was four years into my career, moved three times, was promoted twice. This was an amazing feat and I was very proud of myself. With that said, when things were “quiet” and I had a chance to reflect and think about life as a whole I was beginning to realize I wasn’t happy.
Some of the contributing factors were living alone, traveling 4-5 days a week for work, and just overall not having a good balance. This isn’t to say balance means equal time, it was more about not having some of the fundamental building blocks to my happiness in place.
So what did I do about it?
I applied for yet another advancement in my career in another state!
If my life was a movie, this would be the point where you would be standing up, yelling at the screen, “what are you doing, you idiot?!”
This decision-making was the equivalent of throwing more fuel on a fire to put it out. Instead of being real with myself and my happiness, I threw myself at the one thing I knew I was good at to help me “solve” my problem.
It’s obvious in hindsight that this was not the right decision… not even close.
Yet Another New Job, in a New Place, With a New Roommate
I will start by saying that it was one of my goals to work in a corporate setting and a large market and this was a great opportunity to do so. I will say in that regard I don’t regret this decision.
This position was also within the fitness industry working as a consultant, helping gym owners improve their business performance.
This move was similar to my original move in that I came to visit and tour apartments and also looked at a house that was renting out the lower level. I wound up choosing the house, as it was significantly less expensive than renting a one-bedroom apartment. I was very fortunate in this regard and I knew the homeowner through a family friend.
The first several months of the job were new and exciting. I was in a new place, had brand new co-workers, worked in a beautiful corporate office, and had another increase in my compensation.
After my first year, I again was fortunate enough to take home the “consultant rookie of the year” award so I was having success in the role.
It was only after the “shine” of the new job started to wear off when it began to feel like work again. It’s interesting as, the job itself was great, I worked with phenomenal people, and worked for a company with a fantastic mission and leadership.
There was just something about it that wasn’t filling my cup. I tried a handful of things to seek fulfillment – adding a more dynamic social life, getting back to my hobbies, I started dating again. I even tried to change the work by doing things like trying challenging assignments, talking to coworkers in different departments, and even interviewed for other positions within the company. While these all seemed to help, it was like treating a symptom vs. diagnosing the true cause of the condition.
There was still something missing. So what did I do about it this time?
You’re going to like this one… I took another step up on the career ladder by interviewing for and accepting a promotion at the company I was working for.
Now instead of yelling at the metaphoric movie screen, you are likely throwing objects at it… I know I sure would be!
The Next Step and Perhaps a Realization
So by now, you know the deal. New job, the newness wears off, and I’m still unfulfilled. Unfortunately for me, I am a slow learner and it’s taken me this many years to take action.
I would like to point out that a few critical milestones took place during this time. One, I became debt-free. Two, I built up about a year’s worth of living expenses in an emergency fund. Lastly, I had more time to reflect on my past decisions and gained more insight from my life experiences.
Having these critical milestones in my life, positioned me to be able to take a look at things from a different perspective. One that wasn’t has heavily influenced by finances and focused more on passion and purpose.
Wellness Definition Was Born
During this time of introspection and reflection, I started to take a look at lessons I learned from the past and account for the skills I have accumulated on my journey.
I asked questions like, what gives me energy, when have I felt “on purpose,” and what skills/gifts do I have to offer?
This shift in mindset helped me look at my situation from a position of hopefulness instead of helplessness. Instead of being overwhelmed, confused, and not taking action, I felt inspired, empowered, and ready to act.
I assessed the tools that I had in my metaphorical toolbox and found that I can sell, I understand the health and fitness industry, I can coach/consult, I have three training certifications, and I could lead small teams.
With those skills, what could I do?
Put a better way, what could I do that would leverage my skills, was personally fulfilling, and added value to other people?
I initially started to look at other jobs that fit this bill, but quickly concluded that the only way I could combine these three criteria would be to create my own business.
I narrowed my focus immediately to a service-based business as it’s more aligned with my skillset, personal fulfillment, and adding value to others vs. selling a good.
It took some time and there were certainly moments of self-doubt, but eventually, Wellness Definition was born!
It was the culmination of my passion, my strengths, and how I can bring value to other people.
Some Closing Notes
As Wellness Definition continues to grow, no matter where it goes, it will forever mark a point in time where I became “unstuck” and found my path.
I want to be clear and say, that I am just getting started on this path, but it feels good to be taking steps in the right direction.
My vision for Wellness Definition is to help other people find what personally fulfills them not only in their careers but in all dimensions of their lives.
One of the key things that I’ve learned so far on my journey is the importance of being intentional. Too often I found myself on a “default setting” that wasn’t aligned with my values or purpose. Always challenging myself and my status quo has been helpful with this. Asking things like, why am I doing this or how does this aligns with my values has been useful.
Another is to take action. I found that I tend to sit and “spin” on things. This caused me to feel powerless in my current situation. When I pivoted and committed to continuously take small steps, it helped me shift my focus from the thing I was stuck to finding out, what can I do? And then of course do that thing!
Lastly, even though I am just getting started I’m quickly realizing that life is too short to not be happy. This isn’t to say that life should be all sunshine and rainbows, rather it should be about finding something that makes you happy and brings value to your life and the world around you.
Thank you for reading my first blog post, I hope it brought you value.