Home Baseball Content Preparing for the Opportunity of Your Lifetime: Part 1

Preparing for the Opportunity of Your Lifetime: Part 1

Written on September 18, 2014 at 3:02 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from former Cressey Sports Performance intern, Brooks Braga. Brooks did a tremendous job during his time with us - and his preparation before and during the internship was a big reason why. Remember, success isn't accidental. Enjoy! -EC

In late summer of 2013, I began the process of looking for an internship that would complete my undergraduate Exercise and Sport Science Major. I stumbled upon the NSCA job board and found a position at a well-known university in which I was extremely interested. After I clicked on the link, I was expecting to see a job description and long list of duties and responsibilities. Instead, what I saw made my jaw drop.

The entire listing was just a few sentences long. The bulk of it said something along the lines of: “If you’re interested in the position, please read the book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and submit a one-page essay on how it has affected you.”

Um…what?

Then it hit me – I had seen this book referenced somewhere. I looked at the forum of Mike Boyle’s website, and it was mentioned everywhere. Checked Eric Cressey’s Resources page. Yep. Headed over to the “Amazon Best Sellers” lists:

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And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. “How much was this thing going to run me?,” I thought. Well, about half as much as a Chipotle burrito. I thought I could do without the $4 it costs on Amazon to get my hands on a book so many successful people highly recommend, so I made the purchase and read it cover to cover.

As I worked my way through this fascinating book, I started to realize something: being a good trainer, at least in the eyes of your clients, is probably a heck of a lot more about how you understand and relate to them than it is about whether or not you have the fanciest equipment or use post-activation potentiation methods in their programming.

Although the scope of this blog post is aimed towards those in the fitness industry, it’s my personal opinion that the techniques discussed in Dale Carnegie’s book go far beyond new trainers and interns. You should be able to apply at least 10 principles from How to Win Friends and Influence People immediately, regardless of your business or fitness situation.

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In this two-part article on “Preparing for the Opportunity of Your Lifetime,” I’ll share with you how I utilized a few of the strategies from Mr. Carnegie, other resources, and personal experiences to make sure I made the most of the biggest opportunity of my life – interning at Cressey Sports Performance. Part 1 looks at techniques for building a good relationship with co-workers and clients, while part 2 will focus more on training knowledge preparation. Both include strategies to think about before and after you arrive to ensure a seamless transition into your new role.

There are too many wildly successful trainers with subpar knowledge bases running around to count. How does this happen? Well, if you had to choose to spend multiple hours per week with someone who makes an effort to understand you versus someone who doesn’t, which one would it be, regardless of his or her training knowledge? This isn’t to say you shouldn’t focus lots of time on developing your training knowledge, but you get the idea.

Here are a few relationship-boosting strategies to employ with co-workers and clients, with quotes from How to Win Friends and Influence People below.

1. Find common ground.

“If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.”

Do your homework on the staff. Read their blogs. Read their recommended reading. Watch their interviews. Read their bios on the company website. What makes them tick? Do you share any mutual interests? Think about ways to bring up common ground in your initial conversations with the staff (without forcing it or being creepy) when you arrive and you’ll find yourself having a smooth transition into being around a LOT of new people all at once.

As for clients: ask, listen, engage. Ask where they’re from, how their weekend was, etc. Jump on the first opportunity you find of common ground and you’ll find the conversation is a lot easier. CSP is home to hundreds of professional, collegiate, and high school baseball players each winter. Having played baseball in college, and then signing a professional contract myself, I made sure to find a way to bring this up humbly to create an instant connection and credibility.

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I was pretty fortunate to have this level of common ground with the client base, but the point remains the same: find mutual interests, experiences, friends, or anything else that comes to mind.

2. Write down and remember the names of people you meet.

“A person’s name is to them the sweetest sound in any language.”

I showed up on the CSP doorstep on the morning of January 2nd. Just a few hours later after intern orientation, I was tossed right into the fire during the busiest time of the year. Dozens upon dozens of professional, college, and high school baseball players and general population clients were walking around. How was I supposed to remember so many names?

I thought back to when I had read Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. Keith talked about how when Bill Clinton was in college at Georgetown University, he would bring an address book to parties and write down the names and information of people he would meet. Clinton would then study it and remember the individual and their story at conferences or chance encounters in the future!

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The benefits of writing down names of people you meet in public go beyond being the coolest person at the party – it gives you the chance to look over the list later on to help you remember the client’s name for the next time you see them. Believe me, using a client’s name the second time you see them can make a HUGE impression.

Keep a notebook off in the corner of the gym somewhere out of the way so that when you go on break or things get slow, you can quickly jot down the name and a few trigger words to help you remember it for the next time you see them. No more “I’m horrible with names” excuses. If you’re the type of person who remembers every name of every person you meet without trying, I envy you.

3. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.

“…the royal road to a person’s heart is to talk about the things he or she treasures most.”

People love to talk about what their passions. Pete Dupuis, the business director at CSP, routinely talks about how general population clients are some of the most amazing people to talk with in a gym that’s known as “the home to over 100 professional baseball players.” Many live interesting lives and have amazing stories to tell, from jumping out of planes wearing a Santa Claus suit to working in product development for one of the world’s leaders in headphones.

Ask them about their lives, interests, work, children, or anything you can think of that might be important to them. Get in the habit of referring back to their interests when you see them again. You’ll be pleasantly surprised about what you hear and the relationship that ensues.

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4. Be sincerely excited for someone when they tell you about an accomplishment or cool experience.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Think about a time when you were telling someone about an accomplishment or great experience of some sort and they seemed genuinely excited for you. Isn’t it the coolest thing ever when someone is seriously happy for something that happened to you, even though it doesn’t benefit him or her at all? If you’re not the type of person who gets excited for another’s successes, at least try to appear like you do. It will go a long way in making them feel special.

Moving into “training” techniques to use while you’re working with clients…

5. Begin with praise if bringing up a fault.

“It is always easier to listen to unpleasant things after we have heard some praise of our good points.”

Usually, if there are 10 things you have to get right on a certain exercise, the client is doing 8 or 9 of them correctly and 1 or 2 poorly. When you ask a client to fix a certain aspect of their form, be sure to emphasize what they’re doing right beforehand.

For example, on a single-arm cable row, you’ll often see a client moving too much through the glenohumeral joint and not enough at the scapulothoracic joint. Search for something they’re doing well before addressing the fault. In this example, consider saying something along of the lines of “Great job keeping a neutral lower back. You’re 95% of the way there. Now let’s work on what your shoulder blade is doing…”

6. Talk about your own mistakes first before criticizing someone else.

“It isn’t nearly so difficult to listen to a recital of your faults if the person criticizing begins by humbly admitting that he, too, is far from impeccable.”

Personally, I stunk at half-kneeling anti-rotation core exercises on the functional trainer when I first experimented with them. The movements feel awkward for many during their first few sets. When I’m taking a new client through the exercise and they’re having a tough time with form, I make sure to point out that I could have written a short novel about my inability to do them when I started, and that they’ll get the hang of it in no time. Show empathy and the client will keep trying until they get it right.

7. Praise slight improvements and every improvement.

“When criticism is minimized and praise emphasized, the good things people do will be reinforced and the poorer things will atrophy for lack of attention.”

If you spend all of your time dwelling on what your client is doing wrong and fail to emphasize what they’re doing right, you can be sure they are going to feel inadequate and won’t come back to work with you. Sincerely acknowledging what they are doing right will give them the extra motivation to get better.

In Summary:

• Find common ground as soon as possible
• Encourage clients and co-workers to talk about their interests
• Keep a running list of the names of people you meet, and study it
• Be genuinely excited for others’ accomplishments
• Begin with praise if bringing up a fault
• Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing someone else
• Praise slight improvements and every improvement

That’s it for part 1! Check back in soon for part 2 of the series, which will focus more on training knowledge preparation and ensuring a smooth transition into your role. In the meantime, I highly suggest you take a look at Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People and Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone. Feel free to comment with your thoughts or strategies you’ve used that I didn’t cover.

About the Author

Brooks Braga (@BrooksBraga) is the Head Trainer of Athlete Performance Oconomowoc, a sports performance facility in the Greater Milwaukee area, where he works with everyone from professional and youth athletes to general population clients. Between playing college baseball and a brief stint in professional baseball, he completed an internship at Cressey Sports Performance. He operates BrooksBraga.com, where you can subscribe to his free newsletter and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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  • Brooks,
    Well done! You’ve hit the nail on the head. If you were selling something, I’d be buying because I kept nodding my head and saying yes, yup, you got that right.

    I’m from a large family, that gave me a lot of love as a kid and it was very important to me to learn everyone’s names so I could learn about them and make them feel good too, so I developed this habit early on of memorizing people’s names, writing them down, filling address books, sending cards, taking mental photos of them to remember names and later selfies to send with cards later. EC is amazing at this. He’s very genuine, caring, competent and engaging. He’d be a formidable memory game competitor.

    I do primarily group personal training in a boot camp format now, but I draw heavily on the lessons you mentioned to learn about each individual client through my registration, emails, phone calls, assessments, workouts and events. I prepare for calls by writing a summary of everything I’ve learned about the person so far through emails, registration and an initial call if there was one and then I build in talking points to learn about their interests, work/home/life and what makes them tick. It helps me when I see greet them at workouts, when I need to push their buttons or be empathetic and I think my clients would say that’s one of their favorite parts of their experience.

    I’m actually finishing the book now and am kicking myself for not reading it sooner b/c it’s brilliant, useful and effective. Plus it’s like a cheat sheet for all the things I’ve been doing wrong my whole life and want to be better at.

    Brooks, you write very well, your thoughtful, you’ve gotta great resume and you seem to care about people. You’ll be very successful in this field. I look forward to part 2.

    Kind regards,

    Mike Alves

  • Great Article, Brooks! See, I learned something, I praised you first. Not that I’m going to be critical, though. I just wanted to add something. Many people who work in close contact with the general public (trainers, salespeople, coaches, etc.) often forget that there are people who are introverts who do not like loud, boisterous, highly praising, contact with others. I myself am what could be considered an introvert who likes people. I love working with my clients, but I find it very draining, especially when I’m working with extroverts and I have to tailor my training to their mindset: loud, boisterous, and high-energy.

    Another thing about introverts, to my experience, is that they do not necessarily like to hear their name all the time. Personally, it makes me feel uncomfortable and narcissistic. And in a professional setting, with a salesperson or trainer, I find it manipulative. I feel like they’re trying to imply a relationship that may not exist yet or possibly never exist.

    Just my two cents from the introvert corner. We’re often overlooked because, well, we’re introverts and don’t speak up. Cheers!

  • Ren Collier

    Great article! I know of a few trainers that have a lot of knowledge in fitness and nutrition, but fail to make a connection with their clients on a personal level. Watching there sessions can be brutal because there’s no excitment which is key to keeping clients on the right path. Looking forward to part 2!

  • Brooks Braga

    Mike-

    Thank you for the kind words! I really appreciate it. Great ideas, too. I’m looking into offering a boot camp and your advice will really help.

    I’m extremely glad I read the book when I did…it’s stuff that makes you say “well duh!” But then you realize, “Well I don’t really do a good enough job of actually doing it!”

    Thanks again,
    Brooks

  • Brooks Braga

    Roy-

    Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment – it made me think. I think there are a few universal truths (remembering someone’s name, being sincere, etc), but I can definitely see where you can cross the line with being obnoxious.

    I consider myself a blend of the two – I enjoy being around others but need my “alone time” more than most. I really became aware of this while going through college.

    Have you read the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain? I have it in my Amazon “save for later” cart and will give it a read sooner rather than later if you recommend it. If 1/3 of people really are introverts, it would seem like a great investment to make.

    Thanks again,
    Brooks

  • Brooks Braga

    Ren-

    Thank you! I know exactly what you mean. I’d even argue that it’s key to keeping clients period!!

    Brooks

  • This is one of your message that struck me the most.
    “When criticism is minimized and praise emphasized, the good things people do will be reinforced and the poorer things will atrophy for lack of attention.” I also believe on this, that we should emphasize even the simple details because sometime the smaller details means a lot to other. Over all your post is very inspiring. Keep it UP!

  • Joel

    I loved the article, it makes sense. I will take a lot away from this article and I can’t wait for part two and in the mean time I am going to purchase the book “How to win friends and Influence People” and see what I can take away from it.

    I really like these articles that you put out they help me with my training and training my clients….Keep it coming!!

  • Brooks Braga

    Sherrah-

    That’s one of my favorites too! It’s one of those messages that you can apply immediately on the training floor.

    Thanks for the kind words and your response,
    Brooks

  • Brooks Braga

    Joel,

    Glad to hear you enjoyed the article! I hope you liked Part 2 just as much and enjoy Carnegie’s book!

    Brooks


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