OutsideSubmission-3 columnist

Throughout my career, I’ve had my fair share of haters. Always happy to offer plenty of negative feedback, they showed up on every corner with their dislikes and reasons to disagree. It’s not always enjoyable, and anyone who does anything of value will have them. They’re often wrong, but the toughest pill to swallow? Sometimes, the haters are right.

What’s the one thing we tell our clients about long-term success? The problem isn’t usually a lack of progress. It’s that they try something that lets them easily slip backward, so they get discouraged and give up in the face of a setback. Real growth happens when they can take that small defeat, learn from it, and keep going.

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It’s time we trainers listen to our own advice.

When trying to expand your business, you might put yourself out there, only to be met with deafening silence. Even worse: You might be showered with objection. There’s no denying it — if that happens, it sucks. But how else are you going to grow?

Take this article for example. Who am I to give advice? No one. But at the same time, I’m the only one who can share my story. I’m just someone with some experience and mistakes to share, writing it because there is someone who will read this. And to be honest, I’m actually afraid to — because it’s easy to not think your story is enough.

To get better, you have to be authentic.

I see a bunch of the same trainers out there right now sharing the same exercise videos, the same tips, and the same content. If they would learn to put their own personal spin on it, it would take off. But you can’t get to that point without writing, sharing, and getting feedback. This is a process we all have to go through.

The further you get from the original source, the more watered down copies get. It happens with everything. A great chef can try to replicate an iconic meal, but it won’t be the same. The recipe gets a bit lost, and the customers might not even want it on the menu. However, if they took the same idea and put their personal spin on it — something that represents the ethos of their restaurant and their patrons — they might get a top-selling meal. Five-star restaurants are born out of combining ingredients, recipes, and ideas, and taking them to a different level.

 Sergey Nivens © 123RF.com

 Sergey Nivens © 123RF.com

Avoid being a carbon copy. Put your true self out there to give and receive feedback. It’s the only way we can all get better. Share all of your processes. The good, the bad, and the ugly. You’re definitely doing some great things, and there are probably ways you can improve. Growth comes from learning, but growth also comes from teaching. Through sharing your authentic process, you get organic interactions with people who can offer both.

But first, do no harm.

It should go without saying, but share your process with the goal of helping, not hurting. We can disagree without being disagreeable.

If you’re a passionate person, this can be harder than it sounds. You vehemently disagree with what they’re saying, and you must stop it!

Take a step back first and watch how you say things. If you turn off the person you’re trying to reach, they won’t hear you. I had to learn this from experience myself. Everything involves others, and you catch more flies with honey.

Unfortunately, not everyone understands this aspect of emotional intelligence. And some will just flat out disagree with you.

Regardless of your process, the only guarantee is this: Haters gonna hate.

When you get to be a leader in any industry, you’re going to gather some haters. Especially now, when visibility attracts trolls from all corners of the Internet, someone will disagree with you. At the start, this can be discouraging. Putting our authentic selves out there requires vulnerability. One negative comment from your haters carries the sharp sting of rejection. In that case, it can be tempting to question your process.

READ: Outlast the Fitness Industry Copycat, Critic, and Cutter

But don’t let it get to you. Use those haters as motivation. In fact, wear them as a badge of honor. Cowering in the corner might shield you from criticism, but it will also shield you from success. You gotta go out and earn haters — it means you’ve accomplished something.

Go out and make mistakes faster than the next person. Your haters can stay on the couch as they watch you grow.

You won’t be an expert on Day 1. But the good news? It doesn’t matter.

There are no gurus in this industry. Success is a process of learning, achieving, evaluating, and doing it all over again. Beware of those who call themselves experts because if they think they’ve reached their peak, there’s only one way to go.

It takes so much time to get towards the top in your field. In some cases, you don't even have to be. Do what you’re good at and surround yourself with others who excel in other areas. You don’t have to present a coveted, perfect social media face in every single area of life.

In fact, if you look at the true leaders of our industry, they’re always sharing personal stories: their hobbies, their hardships, and, of course, their successes. Constantly portraying expertise might not connect with the people you can truly help. By being authentic, you can really reach people.

But before you start blabbing on the Internet, think about your followers: Who are they?

Will your content help them? Really think about if the content stands out. Good content comes from investing in yourself and your education, but it also helps to understand who you’re reaching. This only comes from putting yourself out there and getting rejected over and over again. If you want to talk about ankle dorsiflexion, but they want to talk about getting fat off the back of their arms, then you might have to adjust.

Regardless, you have something of value to say, so say it! There are so many people to help. Someone will connect with your story. You’ll start to collect more and more followers to build your team. Haters will pop their little heads around the corner, but your story isn’t for them. They can get off the bus, and you and your network will keep driving forward.

Be being you, you help others on the come-up. But watch out for certain followers.

Getting the most out of your fitness peers makes our industry a better place for all, even the ones you disagree with. You can help others on the come-up who are looking for that little push. There are levels to this. Sharing your process inspires and educates those a bit behind you, but it also provides a platform for those above you to provide feedback.

 Sergey Nivens © 123RF.com

 Sergey Nivens © 123RF.com

So who are these people in your corner?

Your friends and family

Your grandmother may still think you post to “that blog of yours.” Your friends love the free workout tips but are otherwise busy with their own careers. And your son would idolize you, no matter what you did (that is until he becomes a teenager).

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Whoever your friends and family are, hopefully, they’ll support you regardless. They sat through your soccer games as a kid, sent you cards on your birthday, and have seen you at your worst. Friends and family make up the core of any solid network. Of course, their advice matters. But they’re probably a bit biased. Which brings us to our next group...

The yes-man (-woman, -person, etc.)

At first glance, this person seems ideal. They agree with you wholeheartedly. They’re on board with your ideas and always comment, “Great post!” under every headline. And sure, some of your posts may, in fact, be great and deserving of that accolade. But after the 25th “Great!”, it kind of loses the intended effect. That’s the problem with the yes man.

Ask yourself, is this follower really making me better or are they simply feeding my ego? In the long run, surface-level compliments aren’t doing much for your career. That doesn’t mean you need to toss them aside. On the contrary, these people are the most likely to share your stuff, and that’s free marketing. They’re your gateway to expanding your reach. Just don’t hang your hat on their opinion.

Completely neutral followers

To be honest, these people probably make up most of your followers. The large majority of people we interact with every day have no opinion. They’ll see your post, skim your video, or look at your program and pass on by. They seem ignorant, and yet, they’re still following you. As there’s some sort of initial investment from these people, this is the group you’re most likely to influence. Keep being yourself, keep spreading your brand, and the scales will tip one way or another.

One day, they might start to engage. The next, they might connect with your story. Maybe they already do, but they’re afraid to share or comment out of their own fear of vulnerability. No bother. Continue to improve yourself, and odds are you’ll inspire these followers, one way or another.

The followers you pay

Try not to be the smartest person in the room. Hire a mentor who knows more than you and have them call you out. I did this a few months ago, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Every elite athlete has a coach. Every great weight loss program comes with a personal trainer and/or nutrition coach. It pays to have someone in your circle who can both support you and push you to improve

Sure, it can be hard to get negative feedback. But as we know, good coaches know how to strike that balance between encouragement, support, and criticism. Get one of those. It might require a small investment at the beginning, but a good mentor makes a lifelong impact.

The take-home message

Dr. Seuss said it first: “No one is you-er than you.”

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Success is not linear. If you ask me, it’s not something at which you ever really arrive. Rather, it’s a process to be shared with others. Something to constantly develop, perfect, revisit, and create. So here’s a quick, step-by-step breakdown for you to take home and try out:

  1. Be yourself. You cannot — and I repeat, cannot — connect with others without authenticity and vulnerability.
  2. Share your story with others.
  3. Sit back and let the haters hate.
  4. Evaluate your feedback. Who are your followers and haters? Are you helping them, or are they helping you?
  5. Learn the lessons both groups have to offer.
  6. Rinse and repeat.

We’re in an industry of connection. Our clients make huge lifestyle changes along their journeys, and so have many of you. So, tell me, what’s your story?

Header image credit: Oleksandr Malysh © 123rf.com

Detric Smith (CSCS, ACSM EP-C, PN-1) is the owner of Results Performance Training in Williamsburg, Virginia. He has over 18 years of experience as a personal trainer.  You can read more about his work at detricsmith.com and reach out to him with questions at facebook.com/detric.smith.

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