The Martyrdom

“10:19 p.m. Leaving the gym. Missed my girls, but my 5-a.m. class will have clean floors. All about the hustle!”
“I don’t care if this gym ever pays me. I love the community and I’ll fight like hell to keep this box open!”
“A bunch of members quit when this new box opened down the road. They’ve got daddy’s money and all the toys. But I’m just going to keep coaching my clients even better even if it means my wife has to go back to work.”

Scroll through the Instagram and Facebook pages of gym owners for an hour today, and I guarantee you’ll find one of these. I know, because that’s where I found all three.

All came from excellent coaches who are changing their clients’ lives.

All came from coaches who had thousands of followers on social media.

All came from coaches who deserve better. All came from dads whose kids deserve to see them at bedtime. All came from husbands whose wives deserve to live without stressing over the grocery bill.

This has to stop.

Here are the myths that lead to martyrdom, and what to do about them:

1. No one can do it like I can. You *might* be the best coach in your gym, but I doubt you’re the best cleaner. Or the best Instagrammer, best programmer, best website builder, best writer or best bookkeeper. You’re definitely not the best at ALL of them, I promise. And there’s a way to pay them that doesn’t involve asking volunteer coaches to be volunteer cleaners.

2. There’s no money to pay myself. Yes there is. Your expenses will always expand to fill your revenues. If you pay yourself first, you’ll get paid. I opened Catalyst on Monday, and had to get paid on Friday. I emptied the business bank account to do so, because there wasn’t an option: make money, or don’t eat. Not everyone has the luxury of absolute necessity, so they delay paying themselves. And then they get into the habit of working for free, and never start. Your business is not successful until it can support you. That’s its purpose.

3. Leaders eat last. A humble statement repeated by those who can feed their flocks and still have a feast left over. The statement should really be, “Leaders Eat.” Let’s say you’re flying to Australia. It’s a 20-hour flight, and the catering crew forgot to load the plane. One of the stewards finds a single sandwich in the fridge. Who gets it? I’d give it to the pilot, because if he goes hungry, the rest of us go into the ocean. There is no glory, no sainthood, in depriving yourself while your coaches get paid.

4. I need to pay off all my debt before I take a paycheck. Also false. Cash flow is more important–especially at startup–than your annual balance sheet. When I had to buy my partners’ share of the debt in 2010, I called the bank and asked to consolidate my loans and spread them out over a longer time frame. I was ashamed and embarrassed and felt like a failure.

My loan officer said, “Oh, you’ve never taken a cash flow loan? Everybody does that.” My monthly payments went down, my stress level went way down, I stopped missing paychecks and I found some breathing room. Then I started building my business, and paid off the loan in 3 years instead of 10…but only when I had the money.

Sacrificing your pay to pay off a low-interest loan faster doesn’t hurt the bank. It just hurts you.

5. Everyone will forgive my exhaustion, bad temper and poverty because they’ll respect my hard work. This is the biggest lie I’ve ever told myself: that I’ll be respected, damn it, because I’m such a hard worker.

But my kids still missed me at bedtime. My wife would rather have had me home, and not exhausted. My clients would rather have hung around a successful person. The friends of martyrs, zealots and desperate people tend to get sucked into their bad luck.

Martyrs aren’t typically known for extravagant lifestyles. But nearly all of them share one luxury: their hardline actions don’t hurt anyone but themselves.

We’re all depending on you: your kids, your wife, your clients, other gyms.
We don’t care if you win the Games. But we want you to eat the damn sandwich.

You’re the skipper of this ship. No one remembers that the captain of the Titanic tried really hard, or knew how to fix the boiler, or swabbed his own decks. Everyone remembers him because he went down.


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.