Strength and Conditioning Programs: Trust vs. Self-Reliance

About the Author: Eric Cressey

Back in graduate school, an opportunity arose to invest in an up-and-coming company.  At the time, I was swamped with student loans and really didn’t have the $5,000 “buy-in” to spare.   However, I’d always had the “entrepreneurial spirit,” and the company was recommended by a more experienced colleague I trusted (who’d also bought in), so I decided to take the plunge and devote a hefty chunk of my bartending (grad school evening job) income to the cause.

Almost a decade later, it’s been a tax deduction for me every April, as the company has lost money year after year.  The lowlight came when the vice president walked off with $80,000 to waste on strippers and cocaine, as us unenthused investors were told.  Apparently, when it comes to venture capital, there are “angel investors” and “poor grad students who accidentally fund guys who like boobs.”  It didn’t take me long to figure out which category I was in (although I did take time to consider that $80K is a lot of $1 bills).

I’ve learned lessons from books, DVDs, seminars, training people from all walks of life, and lifting myself – but throwing $5K down the toilet when I really didn’t have it to spare actually ended up teaching me a valuable lesson: no matter who you trust, the only person you can really count on is yourself.

This can really be applied to just about any walk of life – from business (obviously) to personal development.  Every decision you make in life is really a balance between trust and complete self-reliance.

When you hire an employee, it’s because you trust that he or she will do a good job with clients and customers at the level you expect.  Otherwise, you’d have to extend hours and do everyone yourself…24/7/365.

When you go to church and put a few dollar bills in the collection plate, you trust that everyone who touches that money along the way will, in fact, ensure that it goes to the right place.  Otherwise, you’d have to hand deliver your donation each week.

When you go to the doctor, you trust that he or she has been educated properly and is thorough enough to give you a diagnosis that might save your life.  Otherwise, you have to get second opinions – or try to diagnose yourself.

Heck, even as you read this newsletter, you trust that I know my arse from my elbow (and in light of my stellar investment story from above, a lot of you are probably second-guessing yourselves already).

Catch my drift?  Your life is really a series of dependencies on others, as much as you might hate to admit it. This applies to your strength and conditioning program in a big way.

When you go to the gym, you trust that the ownership of that facility has properly maintained that equipment so that it’s not going to break while you’re using it.  Otherwise, you’d be checking out each piece of equipment meticulously between each set.

When you connect with a training partner, you trust that he or she is going to be as motivated as you and push you to be better.  Otherwise, you’re lifting by yourself.

When you purchase a fitness product, you trust that the author has the experience necessary to create a program that’ll deliver the results you want in a safe and timely manner.

How do you ensure that your strength and conditioning program (or any aspect of your life) doesn’t end up as a series of failed dependencies on others?

1. Review the résumé of anyone you’re considering. When it comes to selecting people to work at our facility, the résumé is something that gets you a foot in the door – much like an academic transcript or SAT score might impact college admissions.  At the end of the day, how you act during an interview and perform on the job is more important to me.  For you, though, if you’re looking to purchase a fitness product, check on the background of who created it.  Are they training people – or have they at least done so in the past?  Or, are these hypothetical programs?

2. Look for a track record of success. This might seem synonymous with checking on a résumé, but it’s actually different.  I’ve known people with tremendous on-paper accomplishments who couldn’t cut it in the real world because these achievements didn’t translate to a different realm, or because their previous success had made them complacent and apathetic.  Sadly, I’ve also met people who have forged résumés altogether.  Do your homework by seeking out testimonials and asking around – and that’s where #3 will come into play.

3.  Surround yourself with as many positive – and insightful – people as possible. Your first impression is usually the correct one, but it never hurts to have additional perspectives from those around you.  While there’s no way you can ever guarantee that all the advice you get is good, consistently reevaluating the relationships you keep can be really valuable – not only in terms of making sure that you have the best advice on hand, but also in determining if you need to get someone’s negativity out of your life.  Not every friendship is going to work out, not every business dealing will be a good fit, and not every book/DVD will appeal to you.  The more you can “hone in” your social circle, the better the decisions you’ll make – whether it’s in avoiding the extra slice of chocolate cake, deciding to go for the PR bench press on a day when you could have slacked off, or buying book “X” instead of DVD “Y.”

4. Look for a way out; there should always be a fall-back option. You can test-drive the care before you buy it.  You can find a new training partner if things aren’t working out.  You can always fire an employee if they aren’t the right fit.  Many products have money-back guarantees.

5. Only delegate within your comfort zone. Learning to delegate was the absolute hardest thing for me when we opened Cressey Performance and I had co-owners and employees for the first time in my life.  It took some time, but now I have people doing everything – billing, scheduling, taxes, maintenance, answering the phone – that doesn’t allow me to effectively leverage my strengths: assessments, program design, and coaching.  Comfort in this regard doesn’t magically happen; it’s something that develops over time.

To bring this lesson to a close, look back at my botched investment and apply these five principles to it. I didn’t even know the president or vice president of the company, and therefore never checked their résumés (#1).  They’d never run a business before and had no track record of success (#2).  Rather than running my idea by multiple people, I went on the basis of one colleague – who was more of an acquaintance, anyway (#3).  There was no fall-back option, so with this being my first investment opportunity, I would have been smarter to go with something more low-risk, such as investing in stocks/bonds rather than a brand new company (#4). I instantly delegated everything, and to people I didn’t even know!  There was no easing into it (#5).

I deserved to lose my money; I was an idiot.

To take the guesswork out of your programming, check out my new program, Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel , and Move Better.  I promise, you can trust me – and there’s a money-back guarantee.

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