The Task is the Point

by Charles Williams | May 10, 2023

a lifter getting in position to start a pull

“I don’t intend to build in order to have clients. I intend to have clients in order to build.”  The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand  

There is a growing sentiment to not work anymore. “Quiet quitting,” a term on TikTok used by Generation Z, is a reaction to the growing frustration of student debt, expensive goods, waking up early, working for the “man,” responsibility, growing up, and any other task that is not related to video games, recreation, and social media. “My work doesn't define me” and “There is more to life than my job” is the reasoning behind all these sentiments. I call it a bad attitude.

Since I spend a third of my life working, it makes sense that my job does define me; in fact, it is precisely one of the things I live for. I have been a personal trainer for 23 years, and I've always enjoyed what I do. Fitness has always been part of my life, and having a job where I can influence others, where I am a professional, is why I get up so early. I have the best job; I am good at what I do, the money is great, and I even have high-profile clients. But there always seemed to be something missing.

Why I Do Starting Strength

When I started Starting Strength back in 2018, the first thing I learned after almost two decades of personal training was that I didn’t know anything about anything, and I was weak. After sticking with the program for a little while, I began to see this was more than just a strength program; it was a process. I could start with a simple task, commit myself to it, and add 5 pounds every time. But Starting Strength has given me far more than just a 500-pound deadlift. I quickly realized that I could apply this method to any task I was presented with in any aspect of life. The strength I gained was merely the benefit of doing the task.

When I demanded of myself to take the fifth rep of the last set of heavy squats that I was not sure I could complete, the small margin of strength garnered was less critical than mustering up the courage to take that rep. The victory was the courage I gained, and the adaptation was the ability to take on hard things I did not know I could do. The task was the point; strength was merely the cherry on top.

But I needed help. I had been gaining so much from Starting Strength, but I was still training my clients the way the Fitness Industry favored with functional training, dumbbell stuff, HIIT work, and plyometrics. It did not sit right with me, and I knew my clients were not getting strong, but I was wondering if my clients would want to squat, deadlift, press, and bench every time. In other words, I feared taking a hit in my revenue. I was working for money, and it was not satisfying.

If the squat has taught me anything, it was that “easy doesn’t work,” and any task I applied myself to had to be worthwhile and productive. Ineffectively training my clients for a paycheck wasn’t going to work, and I would rather do honest work with a pay cut than be a wealthy liar. So, I began to train each one according to the Starting Strength method I was learning and helped them achieve the same things I was achieving, and very soon, amazing things happened. Not only did my clients see the benefits of strength and appreciate the quantifiable data their training produced, but my schedule became busier; soon, there would be a waiting list even though I worked 7 days a week. I also learned that being a coach differed from being a personal trainer.

Why I Want to Be a Starting Strength Coach

I have been a personal trainer in the fitness industry for over 20 years, and I can tell you there is no other certification that offers the level of coaching that the Starting Strength certification does – none. I have never met or seen at a Personal Training Conference anyone who holds the level of expertise that I have met and seen at a Seminar or camp from Starting Strength. Having the level of qualification that Starting Strength offers is undoubtedly a primary reason for my wanting to become a coach.

But being a coach means a lot more than just earning a certification. Just as I can always be stronger, I can always be a better coach, whether I have the certificate or not. Being a Starting Strength coach is more of a craft than a title. There are always ways to improve my coaching eye and teach the movements more clearly. Experience in this is key. Honing my skills on one thing – in this case, the barbell lifts – is much more practical than becoming familiar with a lot of different trends (which is something that the nationally accredited certifications endorse). Perfecting my skills as a coach is perfecting my skills at a craft, and it is precisely the craft that is the point.

Money, fame, lots of clients, and a string of acronyms at the end of your name is the pursuit of the bulk of the fitness industry. Working for money is a depressing job. The client isn't even the point. I don’t intend to do Starting Strength to get clients. I plan on having my clients do Starting Strength. The client is merely the paintbrush, and the Starting Strength Gym is the canvas; both serve to perfect and hone the craft, which has honed me. This cannot be achieved in a regular Boutique Fitness USA gym and certainly cannot be achieved with a standard nationally recognized certification. Only in a Starting Strength Gym do you have apprentices who learn a craft, and the craft is the point.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my clients, and I cherish their strength gains. But relationships forged, strength gained successfully, and money in the account are the by-products of a job well done. It is the job I want, and I want to do it well. Of course, the client benefits from my goal as well; they get stronger. The co-beneficial relationship rooted in free-market capitalism cannot be overstated.

One of the most important aspects of the Coaching Development Course is the specific way the course develops the coach. The refinement of the coaching eye, the perfection of the teaching method, knowledge of anatomy and physiology and the ability to solve problems are what develop the coach as an individual. This is why the coach can deal with hard cases. The whole point of my being a coach is to improve and develop myself.

Social Justice Warriors take note: If you want to improve your environment, then you must improve yourself. But the improvement of my environment is not even the goal; self-improvement is the goal, and the improvement of my environment is what follows logically. I do hard tasks for the sake of doing the hard tasks. I remember when I was in Dallas, spending time with a Starting Strength Coach, and he told me he just loves coaching – that there is nothing else he would rather do than coach.

Yeah, man, I get it. It was like hearing a pianist talking about how he gets lost in a passage from Debussy. Playing the piece as it was meant to be played is the whole point! The beautiful music and the listeners are what follow. The coach (who is nothing more than a virtuoso in his craft) coaches for the sake of coaching; the lifters and strength gains are what follow. This is what makes Starting Strength so powerful. This is what separates the coach from the personal trainer. The SSC coaches for the sake of coaching, and the personal trainer just works for the money.

My Work Does Define Me

As for the “Quiet Quitters,” the notion that there is more to life than work is true, at least partially. Family, friends, hobbies, kids, free time, and learning skills may supersede work, but my work is certainly part of my life. Being a coach does define me, and just as my strength translates to everything outside the gym, so does the quality and love of my labor. Perfecting my coaching skills has improved everything from my communication skills to helping my daughter with her homework, just as acquiring the mental grit to get my squat up to 405 has helped me with...well, everything.

Of course, this does not apply to just coaching; it applies to any job or task. It would be a lot easier to “work for the man” if going to work was for the sake of doing it. Whether it is coaching, running a company, a desk job, or mopping the floor, an approach to doing the job and doing it well could make that one-third of life more meaningful. And of course, if the environment of the job, or the work itself, does not cut it, then there is only one person at fault in that situation. For that very reason it is time for me to leave Boutique Fitness USA and move to a Starting Strength gym.

Moving On

So, from here, I am going to Miami, Florida, where a new Starting Strength Gym is opening. I will be moving my family from the not-so-great state of New York to Florida, and after 23 years of personal training I will start my career as an apprentice. It is as if I am starting my linear progression again, with a measly 155-pound squat and determined to get to 405. But success will come if I follow the program and add 5 pounds every time. The Coaching Development Course is the program, and experience is the 5 pounds. I may be a bit nervous, but it is no different than taking the fifth rep of a last set of heavy squats.

Courage is everything, and easy doesn’t work. It is not where I will be in 5 years but who I will be. As Rip says, a stronger person is generally better and more useful. The same goes for being a coach. So here I go: big breath, bend over, squat down, and drive the hips hard; let the chips fall where they may. Here goes nothing.

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