What I Learned After Spending $15,000 on Fitness Coaches & Mentors
Here’s the short version: your coach is NOT smarter than you.
Let me summarize my experience working with a few coaches who came with hefty price tags:
- They don’t know what’s best for you
- They make mistakes as often as you
- They all have their shortcomings.
- Some are terrible human beings.
- A few are outright frauds
Note that I’ve done it all: cookie-cutter programs, in-person and online consultations, workshops, boot camps, extended immersions, ongoing monthly programs, etc. Prices ranging from $27.99 up to $4,000.
Over the past few years, I’ve been working with at least one coach at any given point. But unless you’re an accountant, I’ll save you the rest of the details. Now let’s get to the point!
Disclaimer: For the sake of simplicity I’m using the terms coach, trainer, and mentor interchangeably.
Who Knows What’s Best for You?
Maybe your coach? Nope! He probably doesn’t even care. His job is to deliver what you paid for. Sometimes the problem is in your choice of service. Not the service itself.
I’ve often been disappointed with the results I got from coaching. But it was usually because I had the wrong expectations. There was a mismatch between what I really wanted and what I signed up for.
That's why you see a lot of people who
- seek happiness and sign up for business coaching
- just to realize more money doesn't make them happy
- seek love and connection and sign up for fitness coaching
- just to realize having abs doesn't have an impact on their love life
- seek to improve their life mental health by signing for a meditation retreat
- just to realize they lost touch with those they really care about
These are just examples. Real life is far more complex. I'm not saying money can't improve your well being, or looks don't matter.
The point is you should have a clear idea of what you're really after. Don't expect your coach to read minds.
On a similar note, remember there's more than one way to skin a cat. Some people prefer an approach that won’t work for you. This doesn’t make them bad coaches. But maybe they're not the right fit for you.
What You Want vs What's Good For You
This is a very important thing to understand. Your coach will provide the results you ASK for. Not what may be BEST for you at the moment. A good coach may try to warn you when you're about to do something stupid. But the final decision is yours to make.
Professional athletes are a great example. An athlete may be facing a serious injury risk. Yet ask their coach to help them push through the season.
That can have dire consequences in the future. Taking time off and coming back next year may be the wiser choice.
“The client is always right”. But don't be surprised if you later regret the help you received. Or, if the other person decides to quit and not be part of your stupidity.
Then again, some risks are worth taking. Some prices are worth paying. No matter how high. Remember that your coach is just one variable in life's grand equation. Not the solution.
Your Mentor Is Right As Often As He's Wrong
So many times I’ve asked for advice just to find out it didn't work. It could be pretty frustrating. You’re paying someone a lot of money and they are wrong 50% of the time.
It sucks! After years of trial and error, I realized no one has all the answers. Your mentor often times simply rows the dice. Just like you would.
The Real Value of Coaching
Most things in life are not simple. There are too many variables you can’t account for. The best thing you can do is to take action, any action.
Often times you’re not progressing because you fail to take action. Here’s where your coach can save you. He’ll push you into the deep end and make sure you start.
Indecision is much more damaging than making the wrong choice. Even a string of bad choices will yield occasional wins and you’ll keep progressing. Provided you learn from the experience of course.
Which leads us to the second reason why mentors are so valuable.
Sometimes their actions may be random. Sometimes they think hard before making an informed decision. But where good coaches shine is how they react to unfolding events.
It doesn't matter if the initial attack on your goal was successful. There's always something to be learned. The more you progress the more your mentor is able to fine tune the strategy.
In the beginning, there’s no data to work with. It’s anyone’s guess. But vast experience and superior analytical skills shouldn't be underestimated. Over time their value grows exponentially.
This Is Why Your Mentor Shouldn’t Be Your Role Model
I keep seeing this mistake every day. It’s called the “halo effect”.
Because someone is crushing it in one field, it’s often assumed they have expertise in other fields as well. That logic may be very damaging if you start applying everything you hear from your coach.
Here are real-life examples of several very successful coaches I’ve met:
- Some had problems with alcohol and/or drugs
- Some had anger management issues
- Some were chronically depressed
- Some were out of shape
- Some were broke
- Some were straight up weird
Very few people excel in more than 1-2 fields. It takes many years of focused and sustained effort to master a skill. Who you trust is pretty important. But don't assume a single person has all the right answers.
If your personal trainer knows how to get you in shape – awesome! But don’t assume he knows much about business, relationships, or happiness. Chances are he doesn't.
Does Your Mentor Respect You & Should You Respect Them?
Many people don’t realize you can learn a lot from people you don't like. You don’t need to share their beliefs or be friends with them
Let me ask you a trick question: Do you think Hitler accomplished a lot during his life?
He did manage to conquer half of Europe and become one of the most famous people in recent history. If we ignore the moral side of things, we could say he did accomplish quite a lot. There are countless others who tried to achieve the same thing and failed.
Does this mean you have to agree with Hitler's beliefs or like him? Nope! But you can probably learn a lot from him and apply it to something less, erm, “crazy”. In fact, the people who defeated Hitler shared a lot of his skills. But they used them to support a different cause.
How to Challange Your Thinking
The example above is a bit too extreme. But it serves to illustrate a point. You can learn from a multitude of people.
You just need to filter out the things you don’t like or agree with. Then extract the core principles that can be applied to your specific goals.
Once I worked with a very intimidating coach. I found it challenging to be in the same room with him. We didn't click at all because we were too different. Yet one of the most important life lessons I’ve learned came from that guy.
- Your personal life can be a total wreck, but you can still kill it professionally.
A few years later I learned another important lesson from the same dude:
- Even if you’re in a deep rut, you can fix your situation in just over a year.
Bottom line: if you’re not too judgmental, you can expose yourself to ideas you’d otherwise hardly ever hear.
Frauds: How Often Will You Encounter Them?
Not going to lie. Some people are out there to scam and steal your money. The good news is finding good mentors is a skill. You can learn to recognize people's true motives.
You can also do a background check on your future coach. A bit of research goes a long way. It will save you a lot of time and money. Especially if you're gullible or tend to run into people who take advantage of you.
A few things you may want to pay extra attention to:
- Testimonials or (if possible) speak to past clients
- Social media profiles (read comments and reviews)
- Connections and relationships with other people you already trust
- Contact info, responsibility transparency, and fine print
You can never be 100% sure you made the right choice until you commit. But at least you can minimize the risk.
Is Paying for Coaching Worth It?
Some courses and coaching sessions are overpriced, dry, overly technical, needlessly long, or too theoretical. Sometimes you pick the wrong person for the job. Inevitably you'll make bad choices. That's 100% certain.
But how much you'll get out a service comes down to 2 main things:
- the combined expertise and attitude of the coach
- your own ability to apply the lessons learned
Obviously, the first thing you can't control. Though you'll eventually learn to get better at avoiding coaches that are not the right fit for you. However, the second point is key. You have total control over this.
I've seen people sign up for a premium service. Top coaches putting their heart and soul, not mention rare skills, into their work. Yet, the clients remain too distracted or uncaring to benefit from the coaching.
Then you have those who complete an overpriced course that delivered very little. But the clients manage to put that little knowledge gained into great use. A single idea that changes their lives forever.
It's very hard to put a price tag on something like coaching. But remember that money comes and goes. Material things decay and fade away.
However, investing in yourself can produce lasting results. Worst case scenario, you have an expensive lesson in what doesn't work. Still a net positive, as it gets you closer to what really works.
With all this in mind, it's time for a shameless plug:
Until next time!
~Niki, Fitness Mastery Coach