Before the recession hit I had it made. Working at a gym in a wealthier suburb of Toronto had allowed me to build up a fantastic clientele and, at 23 years old, I was living the life:
- I was managing a team of trainers most of whom were many years my superior.
- Out of all of my friends I was in one of the most financially secure positions. Many of them were still in school. The others were in entry level positions.
- I had freedom to make my own schedule and travelled a lot. (New Zealand still takes the cake as my favorite. Milford Sound is mind-blowing.)
- My job allowed me to stay active and forced me to live the healthy lifestyle I wanted.
Then the financial world imploded on itself worse than every major Toronto sports team every single year.
All of a sudden my clients were having trouble paying for their sessions. Three times a week became two and twice a week became one. Personal training is a luxury expense, I thought, and would be the first thing to go. What followed was a period of introspection. It was here that I realized how much I loved education and decided to apply back to school.
At the time being in school waiting out the recession seemed like a damn good idea.
The quiescent state of the satellite cell pool has always fascinated me. What’s particularly interesting is the research still on-going that pertains to the signaling system.
For those not familiar muscle damage causes the release of a number of metabolites which start a cascade of events. The satellite cells sit in a resting state become excited by this signaling system. When that happens they travel to the site of damage and insert a nuclei before traveling back to their quiescent state.
The ongoing research in this area is exciting because if the signaling system can be identified and isolated it’s possible to alter it and create more stimulus to muscle growth. An example of this is the cases of myostatin deficiency. Myostatin is the “stopper” and if it’s missing muscle growth is tremendous (the photo below is not altered). It’s a wild mutation.
I wrote a research review paper on the subject, found the leading researches, and made contact. Most of them responded with a request for a phone call with the intent of me completing my masters and PhD degrees in their labs.
“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear” – Buddhist Proverb
The above is one of the most profound and true statements I’ve come across. From it I’ve learned to open my eyes and find mentors at every turning point in my life. In this case it came in the form of one of my clients.
He was a previous dean of medicine at a major University in Toronto. We spoke of my plan to discontinue my successful personal training career and pursue higher level education. He asked me one short question which changed my life.
“Ummmm… uhhhh….. Because I want people to call me doctor” I said in a half joking tone (not really joking, I’d make all of ya’ll call me doctor and wouldn’t respond to anything else).
Not a good enough answer to change careers.
“ummmm… uhhh…. Because I want to write a book.”
A couple things were funny when I nervously muttered this statement. The first was that I’d never thought about writing a book up until this point. The second was that he rightly responded with, “what the hell do you need a PhD to write a book for?”
Well That Changed Things
I hated everything formal about education but loved learning. After this conversation I remembered my frustrations with University and how unconducive to learning I found it. I suck at multiple choice. I always did and I always will. Everything about learning was an absolute pleasure outside of University. Here are the questions I pose about my University experience:
- Why in complex processes was I tested on the most obscure points?
- Why did it seem that the goal of the exam was to trick me as opposed to test my comprehension of the material?
- Why did a professor say to my face that he would rather take on a masters student with a 75% average than one with a 95%? What does that say about the teachers faith in the system?
- Why do courses like “introduction to vampires in society” count towards an honors degree in Kinesiology?
The list goes on but I’ll refer you towards the Education of Millionaires for a full discussion on this. It’s a brilliant book that I highly recommend.
Formal Education is Not For Me
This isn’t to say it’s not for everybody. Some people need the rigid structure that a classroom and testing provides. Personally I prefer organized chaos or what I call “lightening learning”.
What I mean by that is that when lightening strikes and my passion is ignited I’ll go out of my way to seek out materials and learn. I don’t want to learn for a piece of paper and I don’t want to learn obscure points just for the sake of filling in a bubble on a piece of paper. (scantron = evil) I became known for writing answers to this on my exams for questions I felt were inane (probably not the best approach, but damn funny. I really wish I’d kept some of them. I do distinctly remember drawing a fish head on an exam but don’t recall why.)
My Crazy Mind
It seems as if I think differently than the majority of people. This doesn’t bother me now in fact I pride myself on it. What it did do was make me feel stupid for much of my young life. I hardly passed most of my classes until grade 12 (where I found my love for science and excelled).
In University I barely made it through until the later years when testing was done in short answer or essay format where I again excelled. For me to understand the material I must put it in my own words.
After considering all of this I decided a masters and PhD were not for me. For my crazy mind there wouldn’t be enough creative freedom. I decided to carve out my own path instead.
If I’d followed my plan on going back to school I would have finished my PhD this summer. Let’s assume for a minute that I actually made it through (a pretty bit stretch). Right now I’d be sitting in a coffee shop much like I am right now contemplating my next steps. Maybe it would be to get a job in a gym? Continue research? Or maybe start on the book that was my intention when speaking with the mentor years back? Whatever the action plan it would have started now.
Instead I decided to follow my concept of lightening learning. I studied and created when lightening struck. I learned to selectively listen to others but follow my intuition first. Here’s where things stand now:
- I said screw it and wrote the book anyway. Ignite the Fire has now been bought by 1,500+ fitness professionals worldwide and is being used in 3 (so far) college curriculums starting next year.
- ThePTDC was created as a collaborative blogging network for personal trainers. It’s helped me establish an unbeatable network of fitness pros worldwide that’s growing by the day. To me a network and good relationships is the most valuable thing I own.
- I wrote my second book “Race to the Top: How to Take Over the Social Media Feed” due out in a couple weeks. The theories in this book are so powerful I’m confident that, when followed, they can take any business and make it the go-to in their neighborhood, city, or country, and/or industry.
- I’ve been fortunate enough to be contracted to work with Girls Gone Strong and help them finally eliminate this insane myth that women shouldn’t lift heavy weights.
- I co-created a comic with Teiko Reindorf (yeah really…) MightyTrainer is fun. It’s a break from serious writing and allows me to explore my creative side.
- At 26 years of age I quit my job (which I loved) and am spending the winter in Hawaii working remotely. If that’s not the dream I don’t know what is.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t pursue higher level ed. after reading this. Far from it. It just wasn’t for me. Instead of spending years in a lab I took the time to study what I wanted to study and get tons of real world experience. I tried and failed but eventually found a couple specs of success and ran with it.
I pace when I think, I talk to myself, I explore scenarios out loud to anybody that will listen. I analyze, break down, and build back up systems looking for things missing or ways to make them better.
I thrive in organized chaos and don’t listen well to others (sorry Mom and Dad). So to you I ask you one simple question that led to the introspection that changed my path, “why?”
What do you think about pursuing higher level education? Is it the right path for you or others? Comment below. Also add me as a friend on Facebook. I’m happy to connect.