Failure and Adaptability
Updated: Feb 12
Personal growth demands we take risks, participate in new activities, and make choices that risk failure. Exposing ourselves to discomfort, embarrassment, or even professional catastrophe is downright scary! In this article, I tell a recent story of risk taking in my career, to reflect on lessons learned and offer my personal insight on how I plan to be adaptable and use my experiences to move forward.
In August of 2018, I chose to move from Charlotte, NC to a suburb of Indianapolis, IN. I had earned a general manager position at a brand new, state of the art, strength and conditioning facility. I’d earned my master’s degree during the spring that year and had reached out to over 200 private gym owners across the United States, looking for the right gym management position. As the strength world was so important to me, both personally and career-wise, I was determined to find a community I could support as a manager and coach. I had never been to Indiana and didn’t know anyone there, but I was going to sell my house in North Carolina and move my life to a new place to see if I could succeed at a challenging next step in my career path.
What seemed like a dream opportunity slipped away by the end of the year. The owner, who was balancing the gym’s first location with attempts to grow our beautiful (and very expensive) new facility, quickly ended up unable to financially sustain the new operation. Membership growth was not building fast enough. He decided to leave the new gym in December, leaving myself jobless in a new state.
Luckily, the building owners chose to take over the facility, rebrand, and keep it open. Thankfully they offered myself and our other coaches jobs, though the general manager position was dissolved and I took on the roles of personal trainer and weightlifting coach. This re-imagined venture seemed to hold promise for a few months. However, it also experienced stalled membership growth over the beginning months of 2019.
During spring of 2019, the facility owners decided to take the gym a third direction, leasing the space to a successful local CrossFit gym. Due to disagreement over adequate pay and divergent methods of fitness coaching and programming, this unexpected deal resulted in my leaving the gym. I was left looking for a new gym to train my clients and train myself, losing all my supplemental weightlifting coaching hours (and pay) in the process.
While I could look at these events as two major career failures, I can also choose to see the lessons I learned. I can examine how the experiences made me a better coach and businesswoman. Managing taught me the behind the scenes skills necessary to run a gym. I became better at performing multiple roles, monitoring a macro business perspective, and proved to myself that I worked hard because I cared immensely about members’ experiences. I practiced completely foreign new tasks and figured out solutions to new problems, becoming a better creative thinker and problem solver.
The failure of the first gym taught me that I needed to create multiple revenue sources for myself—and figure out a way to earn revenue without depending on someone else. During the time the building owners tried to run the gym, I made the decision to form my own LLC, Chase Strength. My new business created a means to offer my personal training and programming services to more people online. Further, I realized I wanted to move forward with longstanding dreams of business ownership because I had acquired enough knowledge to take the risk. I also knew I trusted myself to be successful more than I trusted other business owners to succeed.
The recent failure of the second gym is opening space and time in my life for me to focus on building my newly established business, continue further education, prioritize my own training, and create a plan for my next career steps. I found a couple privately owned gyms who agreed to allow me to train my in-person clients in their spaces. Some of my clients got permission for me to train them out of their workplace gym.
I have more time to research and practice online marketing for my business, something I’m new to and which needs much attention to stimulate growth. I’ve created a learning schedule for myself, to ensure I continue to sharpen my skills as a trainer/coach. I plan to seek out mentorship by other more experienced coaches, to learn more and continue to improve. Finally, having extra time allows me to look at which cities will best allow my new business to flourish. I have the opportunity to transplant myself to a new place which will best support my next career choices.
Reflecting on these times in my life, I am proud to have implemented adaptability. These experiences have taught me many lessons. I discovered that taking a risk sometimes leads to “failure”. But I can use failed circumstances to inspire new ideas and improve in other aspects of my life. Carrying rigid expectations for how things are “supposed to” turn out may lead to disappointments. Allowing the possibility of unexpected outcomes, which may actually turn out to be better options, keeps me more optimistic and hopeful for the future.
Life will continue to hand out surprising events and circumstances. A “failure” can only be defined as so if you choose to let it keep you down. Take whatever lessons you learn and make your next choices with new, higher, levels of knowledge and experience.
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