*Military and Veterans, nothing in this article applies to you.
Without getting into the psycho babble, I am a provider and protector at my core. Society teaches us that giving is the best thing we can do; that helping others is never a bad thing. The reality is, that is not necessarily true and it is actually very easy to give too much. I realize now, finally, that I have the tendency to help others to the point of putting myself in a bad spot. Many docs and counselor types would suggest I am overcompensating to make up for bad stuff I have done. I can see that, but either way, we are taught from a very young age to help others. Be kind to your neighborssounds familiar, right? To further exacerbate my situation, my time on teams instilled an ideal of selfless service that continually bites me in the ass in the civilian world. I really take pride in supporting others and helping them accomplish their goals. More often than not I put more effort into others endeavors than I do my own. I give hundreds of hours of free direction and mentorship each year from questions on FaceBook PM, to emails, to the quick question I get in passing. If I charged one dollar for each question I field on PM, I would likely be able to take a couple of months off. Quick questions are never quick. I rarely have a short answer for anything since I see things as such intertwined complexities requiring strategies based on PACE plans and other fail safes. When I do charge for my services, I find myself searching for a reason, any reason, no matter how far a stretch it may be, to give a discount.
Some of my closest friends have suggested this is one my biggest weaknesses. Not that I help people. Obviously, helping others is one of the greatest things you can do in this life. It is more that I will help others and disregard my own needs and well being. I feel compelled to help everyone who asks and even those who do not. If I see someone with a need, I want to address it. If you are like me, you will give to the point you have negatively impacted your own interests. I invest a lot of time in people who have no intent on returning the investment. So it is not their fault rather, the fault is all mine. It is my fault I allow others to take up my time. I am to blame for the lack of boundaries I have for others. I know that each of us are the most important person in our lives. But it still frustrates me that people can be so self-centered, so unable to see how much they can disrupt by asking for a meeting to pick my brain or see what I think about whatever. I am flattered so many think I have the knowledge and value my opinion, but when I am up past midnight that night trying to get caught up on work that actually pays money, I find myself frustrated that the person I met for coffee and my input, did not even offer to buy my brew.
Below are my newly established rules for helping people. They will help me provide a more professional service, separate friends from clients, and most of all, help insure I protect myself from my own tendency to overextend.
- Differentiate Between Friendly and Friendships
- Offer Nothing Professional for Free
- Don’t Forget #2
- Find Charities / Volunteer Outside Your Profession
- Take Care of Your Responsibilities First
Rule #1. Differentiate Between Friendly and Friendships
This might be the most important of these rules. It will help me keep the professional relationships and my friends separate. We must be friendly with our clients, but not allow the lines to be blurred. As a coach and trainer, some of the most talented athletes I have worked with, CF Games Athletes and a few other top of their discipline types, have turned out to be some of the largest wastes of my time and horrible returns on the investments I made in them. In the past, I would set up an “exchange” with my top athletes. They would represent my gym and company at events, make posts on social about our gym and use certain hashtags, wear the shirts I gave them at competitions, etc. and I would provide the coaching, training, and direction needed to get them to whatever event they were training for. More often than not, I found myself nearly begging athletes to meet their end of the deal. All the while, I was going above and beyond on my end. When you work very closely with people, you begin to develop what feels more like friendship than a professional relationship. The bottom line is, if I am providing coaching, training, and/or nutrition to a person, they are a client. I must keep them in the client category in my head so I do not give to them an inordinate amount of work compared to the level of compensation we have agreed upon. It will also disallow for any sort of “hurt feelings” if or when the client decides they no longer require my services. It works the other way as well. If my clients know the difference, they will not confuse business with personal and not get their feelings hurt when I am more pro than bro with them. In this day and age of social media, we interact with people more easily. I encourage my clients to interact with me on my socials and I interact with them. The fitness industry relies on social as much as any other industry, maybe more than any other. The interaction we have with each other is important to the relationship. It does mean access to more personal info than say a banker or realtor would have with their clients, so the potential to blurring the lines between client and friend is higher than most professions. I have a very clear set of directions I give my clients at our initial consult. Â They set up the foundation for our professional relationship and interaction. I suggest other coaches do the same. My clients appreciate it. Friends, true friends, do not ask much and would never make me feel guilty for addressing my responsibilities and obligations.
#2. Offer Nothing Professional For Free
A SEAL once told me to “realize your resume”. He was reminding me that very few people have my experience and knowledge and even fewer can turn that sort of experience and knowledge into productive teaching points and coaching for others. I earned some of my experience and knowledge through some very challenging means. I paid for it, one way or the other. In many ways, I am just now realizing how valuable some of my experience really is. I have chosen to make a living providing training and nutrition solutions, so why I give it so freely sometimes does not really make any sense. For the first time I am making it a solid rule to not provide training, fitness or nutrition for free. When I am asked to answer one of the “quick question”, I have decided I will answer with something along the lines of “I really want to help you. Â Let’s make an appointment to sit down and discuss your question in depth”. At that point I will let them know my hourly rate is $100. If the question comes via PM or email, I will reply similarly and with a link to a payment option for consultation. This will do two things, attach value to my advice and consult and weed out those who do not actually value my services. This may seem a bit harsh, but I cannot ask my doctor or my attorney for an appointment without expecting a fee for their services and the time they devote to me. I have an option for those who do have a no shit, quick question that is easily answered, to donate a lesser amount to one of the charities I support. I like this idea a lot and think it will add value to my consult and help others. I think this will make all parties involved happy.
#3. Don’t Forget Rule #2
It is important to remind myself and others how important their knowledge is and to set the clear boundaries or what is a billable consult.
#4. Find Charities and Volunteer Outside Your Profession
This is going to be a life saver for me. I have volunteered a lot of time and effort with others in the fitness world. It is the easiest way for me to give since it is what I know so well. But I have decided it will do me a world of good to get involved in something that does not have anything to do with training and fitness. It will have a clear separation from my work and I will not be able to confuse the two. Any expectations of a return for my business will be vanquished from my thoughts and I can fulfill my need to help others. I really look forward to implementing this.
#5. Â Take Care of Your Responsibilities First
This rule is organizational. We all have payments we have to make and bills to pay, people we have to make happy and relationships that need a certain amount of attention. The resentment or other bad feelings I get comes when I have put off my responsibilities and am struggling to get to my obligations. Many times I have found myself working late to make up for time spent helping others. It bleeds over into my personal life and makes those I am close to feel neglected. It is not fair to them, or to me, when I allow people who have no vested interest in my life to take away from time I literally owe to those most important to me. I intend on outlining my priorities and scheduling time for them. Setting up this priority outline and schedule is going to assist me in addressing all the things I need to get done each week or month and clearly allows me time to nurture important relationships and volunteer.
It has taken years for me to come to this conclusion and actually do something about it. It won’t be easy. I like helping people. It was through trial and error and bad experiences that I reached the point I began researching how to solve my overly ambitious helping. I have some close friends who have been instrumental in helping me see that I need to make these changes. I appreciate their input and thank them tremendously. If you are like me, and too often put others ahead of your own well being, I hope my efforts will assist you.