This past weekend I traveled to Northern Virginia to teach I Am Not Afraid To Lift and Keep It Simple Nutrition and Conditioning at Beyond Strength Performance NOVA owned by Chris Merritt.

This was the first time that I had been back to Northern Virginia since I moved from there back to my hometown of Boston six years ago.


My friend Jeremy Brown (with me in the picture above) attended the Lift workshop on Saturday.

I met Jeremy 10 years ago in 2005 at my former kung fu school, The Chinese Martial Arts Institute, after I moved back to Arlington, VA from a two-year stint in NYC.

He knew me at a time that I was working full-time as an IT Consultant and working part-time as a group fitness instructor.

As a close friend and kung fu colleague he also witnessed first hand the year, 2008, that I made the career transition from IT Consultant to full-time coach/personal trainer/group fitness instructor in the fitness industry. I was 32 years old at the time.

When I made this transition I left a very well paying consulting job to work in the fitness industry full-time for essentially nothing. I made sure I had my personal trainer and kettlebell instructor certifications, cashed in a hefty 401k to add to my savings and pay off any debt I had and have a little cash in the bank to live off of while I built my business.

I knew what I was getting into. I knew I was going to have to hustle if I wanted to build up my business quickly.

This past Friday night when we were out at dinner he reminded me about,

  1. How stressed I was trying to pay my bills and to build my business just starting out in the fitness industry at commercial gyms and times that I would come to kung fu and I would be getting sick but express that I couldn’t take a day off to get better because if I took a day off then I wouldn’t get paid; and
  2. How hard I worked to hustle to build my business in the fitness industry and simultaneously work towards my goal of completing my black belt in kung fu.

He reminded me how a typical work day for me during my regular 6 day work week, was that I would train a 6 a.m. client at the Clarendon Washington Sports Club (WSC) in Arlington, VA, then drive to kung fu for 7:30 a.m. training for my black belt in Fairfax/Merrifield, VA, then drive back to the WSC to train clients from 9:30/10-2 p.m., then drive to Equinox in Tysons Corner, VA to teach a 5:45 p.m. spin class, and then after spin class go back to kung fu in Merrifield, VA for sparring class in the evening and that somehow I was also fitting in private clients in between all this and even commuting to downtown DC to teach spin classes for other WSC locations. Sometimes I would even forgo sparring class on Friday nights to take an evening client at 7:30 p.m. at WSC on Friday nights.

I remember this hustle; I remember it well.

This type of hustle went on from 2008 until 2011, even after I moved back to Boston I did the same thing, personal training and group fitness at two Boston Sports Club locations West Newton and Watertown to Equinox in Back Bay Boston, to private clients and classes all over from Cambridge to Waltham.

I was stressed. I was physically and mentally tired. I didn’t know if things would ever get “easier” but I wanted to succeed and the thought of going back to an office job made me sick to my stomach. I did not want to feel that dread again, I did not want to feel that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach and hate what I did for a living every day, so I kept hustling. I kept working hard at building my business.

For three years I did my time. I’m STILL doing my time, but in a different way.

I have stress now, but it’s a different type of stress. It’s the stress of being a business owner, of paying a business lease, it’s the stress of balancing managing business operations and coaching at my studio gym, distance coaching clients, marketing and teaching for my Lift workshops, speaking events, travel, squeezing in time for myself to read and learn to become a better coach, trying to find enough hours in the day to get all the tasks done that I need to get done and train, shower, eat, and sleep.

It’s the stress of working hard and working many hours, of blood, sweat, and tears to make sure the business that I have built over the past 7 going on 8 years now does not fail and continues to grow.

It’s pressure I put on myself to be a successful business owner and role model in the fitness industry because I want to continue to help people, make a difference in people’s lives, and be excited about what I do for a living and never have to go back to an office working for someone else.

I am tired, but I am not drained, I do not wake up in the morning and dread what I am going to do that day for work. I want to put in the time, I want to put in the work and if I am sick, now I take a sick day to get rest and get better.

Everything that I have today is a result of hard work and sacrifice that I have put in to building my business over the past 7 (going on 8) years, 12 (going on 13) years if you count my time working part time in the fitness industry before I started working full time.

I’ve put in the time, I’ve made many sacrifices, financially and otherwise to make sure that I succeed at building my business and that it does not fail and continues to build.

At the Lift workshop on Saturday I shared the conversation that Jeremy and I had on Friday night about “the hustle” to the group. Afterwards one of the participants, Pam, (an incredibly strong and badass 64 years young woman who dead-lifted double beast kettlebells (212lbs) for reps at the workshop and looked up with a look on her face that said, “Got anything heavier?”), came up to me after the workshop and referred to “the hustle” and said (not verbatim, but close),

“Not a lot of young coaches coming into this industry understand this hustle. They are not willing to go here and there and everywhere to work hard to build their business even if it means not getting paid for it or getting paid very little for it as you put in the time until you earn that pay for it.”

TRUTH. I see it all the time. Young coaches who come into this industry and just want a paycheck or a successful business handed to them without putting in the time, or paying their dues.

Many young coaches I have encountered don’t understand that you have to prove that you want it; and I mean really prove that you want it so badly that in order to be successful that you will put in your time and work for pennies or nothing to learn from the best in the business who have already done their time and in a sense are making your path a little less rough because they will help you to not make the same mistakes that they made as they did THEIR time; as they did their hustle.

That fact in itself is priceless, but many young coaches are naïve and blind to the value of this and instead operate with a sense of entitlement.

This is something that in the words of Eric, really chaps my ass, because I know how hard I hustled and worked to be where I am today and to have what I have today, and frankly, I am STILL hustling.

These young, entitled coaches need to learn the value of the hustle.

They need to put in their time, pay their dues, and really EARN IT.

At the end of the workshop on Saturday Jeremy came up to me and said,

“Art,” (yes, he and everyone from my kung fu school calls me “Art”) “as you were telling your story in the beginning I just wanted to get up and hug you because I remember how hard you worked when you left your office job. I remember those days. I remember the stress you had. I am so proud of you. I am so proud of all that you have accomplished since setting out on the road of becoming a trainer. Instead of focusing only on the people that come inside your studio you have made it your mission to help not only people outside of your gym but also those who work to improve the lives of other people as well.”

I don’t know how I didn’t burst into tears right then and there but I did cry later. It meant so much to me for him to say that because I know that I worked hard to be where I am today but to have someone close to me say this after watching from the outside all of these years really hit home.

Taking the (calculated) risk to go after your passion, to go after the one thing that, after you wake up in the morning, makes you excited to go and do that day is worth it if you have the work ethic, the humility, and the mental and physical toughness to hustle to work hard in order to be successful.

Do you have what it takes to hustle?


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