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My father told me once, “Everyone rises to the level of their incompetency. Whether you progress beyond that depends on whether or not you realize it. Because it's your ego that’s going to hold you back from that point.”

In other words, you don’t start getting good until you stop trying to show how good you think you are.

Everyone is incompetent when they first start learning a craft or trade. Logically, you can't be good at something that you’ve never done, so you start doing it. Per one of my past articles, you accrue experience, you learn from that experience and you improve. How good you get though...that’s an interesting question.


a person's sense of self-esteem or self-importance.

"a boost to my ego"

Had you asked me a few years back how to get “good” at something, I would have given a basic answer: “Practice until you get good, and the more practice the better.” Makes sense, doesn’t it? More experience is always a good thing. However, I realized that this point wasn’t so obvious, and it wasn’t what discouraged people from improving. Telling people that things take time is a “no brainer” and no one really disagrees with it. That wasn’t what defeated them and led them to give up though. Not truly. It wasn’t the time factor. It was their ego that they quit over.

You're Getting in Your Own Way

I've seen many, many, many trainers quit, and that’s just in the commercial gyms I've worked in. The industry statistic of the “drop out” rate suggests that about four in five trainers who start working will quit within six months to a year. And beyond that, only about 10 percent of people work in the industry beyond five years.

In the online world, every year new people get trendy, get popular or become “known.” It’s a constant cycle of new faces who make a splash and generate online publicity from the fitness community. Three to four years later, very few of them are still around if at all.

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So why do so many people leave? You could say that they weren’t dedicated or that they got bored or didn’t make enough money. And that’s probably part of it. But the deeper “why” goes beyond that.

People quit, leave and give up because they don’t want to improve. And this isn’t necessarily because they think that they “know” everything. They have the harsh realization that what they don't know will always be infinitely greater than what they do know. And for a very large percentage of people, that’s a completely sobering and outright depressing thought.

This realization is a massive collapse upon their ego. However good they thought they were, they aren't. They can't handle it and they leave. They quit to do something easier that won't bother them with how much work it entails.

I've witnessed this many times over. Trainers realize that this industry requires business acumen. They realize that their communication skills need vast improvement. They realize that it will take more time learning than they anticipated. They realize that they are four to five years and many thousands of hours from their “goal” job. And, in most cases, I would say that all these people had the capability to improve. They weren't worthless people or stupid or not “good enough” to reach their desired place or lifestyle. Their defeat came from having their self-worth and perceived value crippled by realizing all the things that they weren't.

They weren’t experienced or educated, and they didn’t have a learner's mentality. They didn’t want to be a student essentially. They wanted the mastery and success that came with it but none of the work or struggle that it entailed. They see what is required and how far from it they are and there is absolutely no appeal to this.

Kill the Ego, Teach the Soul

Your ego is what you feel good about knowing. Your soul is how willing you are to learn and not know. The latter has infinite potential for growth. The former doesn’t. By its very nature, it wants there to be a limit.

You can have two people within the same situation. The first person's thinking is as follows: “I've got so much to learn and it will take years and I’ll be challenged constantly. This sucks.”

The second person thinks: “I've got so much to learn and it will take years and I’ll be challenged constantly. This is awesome. ”

Overly simplistic? Perhaps, but there's a reason why so few people ever truly master anything or think of themselves in that way. More often than not, people learn because they are forced to, not because they want to.

The ones who embrace the learning process, who look forward to it, who find it appealing that there is always more to learn, those are the ones who excel. Which one a person decides to be, I can't truly say. I've seen people make enormous mental shifts and, in the same breath, I can say that it's most often an inherent quality in people.

Ultimately, it's a choice of free will. You have all the power to decide what kind of person you are and how far you go or don’t go is a yes/no question of when you decide to stop. Hopefully, the answer is never.