James Griffiths, Personal Trainer and founder of Wild Training
This is something I’ve been excited about writing for a long time. It’s something I always think about. What do I need to do to move forward? To get better. What does dedicating yourself to one career for 10 years do. What do you learn? What does it enable you to achieve?
If you are interested in the story so far look at the “One Wild Story” blog. It covers everything from before starting as a personal trainer to the end of 2016. Here is a link to that post - http://www.wildtraining.co.uk/wild-blog/2016/10/6/one-wild-story
In 2007, I qualified as a personal trainer, and back then if you'd have told me what the next 10 years would have in store for me, it would have sounded impossible. I probably would have said something instinctive like “Rock on, let’s go and make it happen”. That constant “let’s go and try it” attitude I have gets me in to a lot of trouble, but luckily nothing I haven’t been able to handle yet. I don’t think I could change it if I wanted to anyway. #LiveAWildLife right.
So why 10 years. Why am I excited about finishing my first 10 years as a personal trainer? It comes down to one question.
How long does it take to become elite?
A dude called John Hayes wanted to know the same thing, and being a cognitive psychology professor, he had a much better chance of understanding what makes people elite and being able to write it up than I ever could.
John looked at the way effort, practice and knowledge affected success and looked at the way experiences and different choices effect success.
The cool bit and how this links to my 10 years of silent exercise. John Hayes started his research by looking at the most successful music composers in history. This involved analysing thousands of pieces of music roughly created between 1685 and 1900.
John was looking at all this music to answer one thing. “How long after one becomes interested in music is it that one becomes world class?”.
What happened next is awesome. John ended up with 500 pieces of famous music that were regularly played around the world and were all considered to be the “masterworks” in the field. These 500 pieces of music were created by 76 different composers.
Next was to calculate how long each composer had been working before they created their “masterwork” music. What John discovered was that except for 3 pieces of music out of 500, all the “masterworks” were written after 10 years of starting their careers as composers.
Mozart had to work 10 years before creating anything popular! Forget overnight success and getting rich quick. 10 years of dedicated graft to become a legend.
John Hayes referred to this 10-year period, filled with hard work and very little recognition, as the “10 years of silence”.
John found similar patterns when he investigated famous painters and poets. Maybe more famously is the research from professors like K. Anders Ericson, who completed research that showed you need to put 10,000 hours of work in to become an expert in your field. Malcolm Gladwell did a lot around making that idea popular too.
Sad for some but obvious to others is that it doesn’t just come down to time served. The way people approach their 10 years, or their 10,000 hours is everything when it comes to the success that will be achieved. Perfect practice makes perfect. Rubbish practice makes… yep, rubbish.
Different people can get a lot of different things out of one hour. I’m not smart enough to understand the mentality of a successful vs a unsuccessful person. A person that consistently makes the most of every moment to get to their goal and to go beyond their goals and someone that doesn’t approach life with the focus to make their expectations a reality.
All I know is whenever someone tries to make a rule around success or how to become successful I see loads of exceptions to the rule. Can it not just be as simple as it takes epic amounts of hard work, discipline and tenacity to achieve success, and different people will go about it in different ways and need varying amounts of time to achieve their idea of success?
That is what made me want to write this article. Do I believe in “10 years of silence”? 10,000 hours of work before becoming elite at your career. I’m currently on around 10,800 hours of personal training and probably half of that in group exercise classes. What do you get after “10 Years of Silent Exercise”?
From a hobby to a job. A passion to a career. What Wild Training is now, is not what I planned for it to be, but honestly, it’s a lot better.
Hard to do sometimes when times are tough, workload is over capacity and money is tight, but when you step back and look with neutral eyes at what you have done, what you have, and the prospects that are on the table, I’m very happy with what we have achieved in 10 years.
There have been plenty of times when I'm not sure I did the right thing. Work more hours than anyone I know. Sacrifice family time. All to have more moments of scrimping and scrounging money together than you can imagine, and no guarantee of it being worth your while.
Wild Training grew as a company very differently to most because the focus was always growing the brand to be cool. Not just to grow the bottom line. The story would be very different if it was about money.
My intentions have always been good and honest. My wife Sophie always says if you put your personality out there then people will judge. Wild Training is very much my personality.
Even though it wasn't my purpose, if you decide to do a job a bit differently to other people that do the same job, you are inadvertently saying that you think your way is better than theirs. Your way is right and they are wrong. That was never my goal.
Wild Training was an opportunity for me to have a go at doing stuff I wanted to do the way I wanted to do it. Lots of people liked it, so it grew. That was it.
I really do try to help a lot of people. Not just with fitness. Wild Training is about helping people enjoy their lifestyle doing the same kind of things that have helped me enjoy mine. Was never guess work. Just tried to share the fun. We try everything. We get lots wrong. We do charity work we can't really afford because it’s the right thing to do. We learn from everything. We keep the best stuff. That's Wild Training.
Many opinions are formed on assumptions. Luckily the Wild Training brand is stronger than me. No one sees it cry. Professional organisations believe in it. They see the value in the colour, the vitality, the spark we have cultivated in the Wild Training brand. The energy that Wild Training has. The excitement the brand brings to people.
So why am I more excited today than I have ever been before in my 10 years as a personal trainer? Well if I’m going to believe John Hayes, then everything I have done so far, isn’t worth remembering, and what I’m about to do… well hopefully there is still something special to come.
The best thing I’m going to do hasn’t been done yet, and knowing that makes my whole body feel jacked full of excitement for tomorrow and beyond. What Wild story will we be able to tell in 50 years’ time?
… Or maybe I’m not elite. I just try hard but try in the wrong way. Remember it isn’t just about the time. It’s about how you use that time, so who’s to say I have used my time wisely to achieve success?
10 years in, where am I in my career, and where is the Wild Training brand?
Well I’m no Joe Wicks. I’ve always hidden behind the brand. Creating a profile for myself has been right down at the bottom of my priorities. No doubt that isn’t the smartest approach in an industry that is very much building up around some superficial windows like social media.
Having said that it has felt like this year that more big brands and top people are keen to work with me. That’s been a big confidence booster as a lot of them reached out to me. That is probably to do with the Wild Training Gym doing so well and the Wild Training website looking a lot better. Maybe it’s just because everyone got wind that I’m 10 years in!
I’m still learning every day. Still looking at equipment and movement differently to keep training effective and fun. Now I’m able to look back at older systems and re model them with more experienced hands.
The Wild Training Online system is approaching 300 gigabytes of programming and training resources to help all the Wild Trainers and franchises deliver the best training possible. That’s a lot of info and videos on exercise, nutrition and lifestyle.
Honestly that online training platform has felt like a lifetime of work and I don’t think it will ever end because I don’t want to stop creating new ideas around how to help different people with different goals have fun getting awesome results.
Showing people, what Wild Training is. How we train. How we coach. The equipment we use. The energy we share. It still gives me the buzz. It’s an addiction and I’ve done it long enough now and seen enough people to know that any time someone comes in with open eyes they will always see some form of exercise they can enjoy and benefit from.
We have literally been running the Wild Training Gym for 1 year now, and what a year it has been. Not one I would necessarily want to repeat as it’s involved working more hours than I would like to add up, but with the atmosphere it has and the membership growing every day, we did it right.
For anyone that hasn’t seen the gym it’s not much of a standard model. It’s not a cross fit gym. It’s not a performance strength and conditioning centre. It’s not a personal training and group exercise studio. You don’t need to be really fit before joining. Those are just some of the things we hear.
It’s a playground, designed to let everyone from kids to elite athletes, old, young, thin, fat. Strength focused beasts to elegant yoga and dance.
One place that lets people of all abilities discover new skills, and turn those skills in to a lifestyle. Somewhere for people to express their personalities physically and benefit in all the ways that great exercise in great company helps us manage modern life.
Is the gym done? Nothing in Wild Training is ever done. Of all the things we have planned, Muscle Tunnel is going to be one of the most unique things we probably ever deliver… Maybe a 10 year in the making “Masterwork”.
Supported by some of the very best people and brands in the strength and conditioning, Strongman and Calisthenics communities, Muscle Tunnel will be a strength and conditioning set up like nothing else. Imagine Muscle Beach in Miami, in High Wycombe, in a tunnel.
Sounds silly but look at the renders. In real life when it lands in September it will be even more incredible. Such a massive space to be able to throw, slam, lift, drop and shift some serious weight. 3 squat racks, Viking press, plate loaded leg press, seated row, lifting platforms, bars, tyres, atlas stones, farmer carries, super yokes, strongman logs, kegs, car deadlift. There is too much to list.
Rebel Strength, Craig Mullineux, Precor and Physical company are setting us up so we have more lifting and strongman equipment than most large commercial gyms. How about some epic body weight calisthenics skills with the Barmania 7 meter rig we are getting thanks to Neil Timms and Incite Fitness.
See what I was saying about the best people now wanting to work with Wild Training. Yes to 10 years of silent exercise.
So the Wild Training Gym could be a 10 years ‘masterwork’. Muscle Tunnel could be up there as well. Anything else.
Earn Your Claws has been an idea I’ve had (and not had time to deliver) since about 2013. People have always asked me what I am training for. I’ve never had a very good answer. I don’t do anything competitively. No sports. No events. In December 2016, I did my first strongman event and that was my first competition since the snowboarding days around 2004.
I’ve always trained because I love training, and I love discovering better ways to train myself and my clients. My focus was always simple. Gain skills and be good at everything. I didn’t just want to be strong, or to be able to run, or to be able to fight or stretch. I wanted all of it. My training plans evolved to try and deliver that balanced fitness, whilst minimising the risk of injury. Still to this day I have never suffered any kind of injury that has stopped me from training or enjoying my lifestyle.
How did this lead me to the Earn Your Claws idea? Martial arts have belts. Musical instruments have grades. Fitness has…. Nothing.
Imagine martial arts belts but instead of coloured belts you get #EarnYourClaws coloured T shirts and instead of martial arts we hit fitness.
Most importantly with the Earn Your Claws system we test fitness in balance so for each level we test stamina, strength, power, speed, flexibility, skill and knowledge. You can’t get to level 2 until you’ve passed all the components in level 1.
Whilst some people will excel at one or two of those components of fitness, to be at a good standard in all of those components of fitness is the key.
Level 1 (white) is something most people, even with very little training experience should be able to achieve after one month as a Wild Training member. Level 2 (yellow) will take 2-3 months for most people depending on where they are starting from. Level 3 (Wild Blue) is our minimum standard for a personal trainers to work with Wild Training, so it’s a great level of fitness, achievable by everyone of our members and that is the target we set all of them. Level 4 (orange), level 5 (green) and level 6 (purple) are a lot more serious and will take some real dedication to achieve them. The black level 7 t-shirt is out of my league right now, so you can imagine what all of my training is currently focused on.
The assessments are fun and challenging. We have tested them over a long period to make sure the levels are balanced right but we have seen in a short space of time showing some of our members it gives people an exciting focus to their training, which is maybe a lot more positive than thinking about their weight or body fat.
One of the most exciting things about Earn Your Claws is the youth program we are launching in schools this September. The mission? For every kid to leave school with a Blue Level 3 Earn Your Claws t-shirt. The youth assessments are different to the adults' but the concept is the same. Teach them how to train, achieve balance, and have fun with it as a part of their lifestyle.
For each level we include a training guide relevant to the Earn Your Claws level, the one hour assessment session and your Earn Your Claws T-shirt and with the schools we are running specific Earn Your Claws group exercise sessions at lunch or after school.
No matter what happens over the next 10 years Earn Your Claws will be something I put a lot of energy in to. The schools need it, the kids love it and from what I’ve seen, adults going to the gym to feel good about who they are buzzing for a structured system like Earn Your Claws.
There is one more thing. While building up the Wild Training Gym over the last year, I’ve been working on something else too. We are about to launch a brand new Wild Training franchise model built around a deal that has been a year in the making, with the largest personal training management companies in the UK.
It’s a massive step forward for the brand. We have already had interest from people wanting to buy master franchises for different countries. Most exciting is that I don’t have to try to manage the whole thing on my own. We deliver the Wild Training brand, the programming, the education… the stuff we can do with our eyes closed.
Our partners manage the recruitment, membership sales, personal training sales, and all trainers for each site. That means that the trainers onsite can just do their job and don’t need to worry about marketing or sales or any of the admin that often group exercise and personal training businesses fall on. The infrastructure and backing is there now to take the Wild Training brand to the top which is an exciting thing to imagine.
Mostly it’s been a real confidence booster knowing that very successful people in the fitness industry, who have been in the industry a whole lot longer than me, that already own and run their own businesses, see something in the Wild Training brand that they haven’t seen anywhere else.
For me that is a win. 10 years of silent exercise. Work hard. Don’t get much recognition. Get less money. Then after 10 years, all of a sudden, a ‘masterwork’. Maybe if I’m lucky 4 masterworks. Who knows?
What do I know? What have I learned?
When it comes to apologies never hesitate. Whatever the result, if you do everything you can to fix a mistake then do it with all your heart and odds are the result will be better than you imagine.
Success. When you are down, no one talks to you about being successful, but when it appears things are going well, everyone starts asking what your secret to success is. My question is how do they measure success, because from the down times when no one talked to me, to now, nothing has changed.
If they judge it by anything to do with the car you drive, the size of your house or the money you earn they are crazy. I don't think success in any form can be measured by a moment, or an achievement. No one ever wins a race by patting themselves on the back while they are running.
I'm not saying you shouldn't enjoy the exciting, positive moments you have, in fact I'm saying you should enjoy every moment, including the bad ones that feel like negative moments in your journey. Enjoy over coming those challenges, and the reward you get from realising you can find a solution to any situation.
Acknowledge the positive comments you get and REMEMBER them. They give me more energy than all the coffee in the world. People say to me "James you should sit back and appreciate what you have done and should be really proud of yourself". Thing with that is... I'm not done.
I've got trainers that have invested in Wild Training as a brand, that are still working towards where they want to be, so my job isn't done. I don't get to spend enough time with my family yet so I need to work on the processes, and build the management team within Wild Training to allow the business to operate with less of my time.
Why would I take a second out just to self-congratulate myself. I'm happy with who I am and what I do. If I wanted to change anything, I'd change it. I'll let my family and the people I care about choose if they want to be proud of me. I'll just focus on doing the best I can and not worry about spending time feeling proud of myself.
So to me being successful isn't measured by a moment, an asset or any specific achievement. I think being successful, or to achieve success, you need to have a successful mindset, and that is the end of it. I enjoy every day I have. I enjoy the journey, because I don't see it having an end, and I wouldn't want it to have an end. Everyone can be successful. They just need to put more energy in to everything they do till the output of what they do matches their expectations.
A lot of the time I have seen people that want to earn money more than they want to be good at their job. This is why I think so many self-employed people fail. Have big eyes and take on too much with too little ability. Success comes from being a master of what you do, and that means taking time not earning lots of money so you can gain the skills and abilities you need to be properly successful.
Personal trainers. Some are really really good looking, but can’t move properly without pain. Some promote health while they themselves suffer from IBS, regular kidney infections and other illnesses through the extreme lifestyles and nutrition plans that they do to look the way they think they are supposed to look to be able to say they are a good personal trainer. I hear lots of jokes about personal trainers attitudes towards other personal trainers, normally being a bit quick to overly criticise our peers' work, but the vast majority of personal trainers help people enjoy exercise.... so to me that's a win.
I started out as a personal trainer 10 years ago and saw a fitness industry that was failing. That's not me saying everyone else is rubbish and I had it right. That's one of the problems with the industry right there. Gyms looking at other gyms. Personal trainers looking at other personal trainers and having a knee jerk reaction to criticise, belittle and bad mouth without knowing any background, which is just an unwillingness to learn.
There are lessons in everything if you look, good and bad. What I'm talking about is the industry failing the people we serve in that of the millions of pounds that are spent on health and fitness, there are pounds that have a big impact and there are still pounds today being spent that have very little impact. Fitness can help people suffering from illness, disease, some of the darkest times in life.
Fitness can help people improve the QUALITY OF THEIR LIFE. From what I see you get two types of business in the fitness industry. Those that focus on earning money, and focus less on creating real impact on improving people's quality of life. Then there are those businesses that focus on having a positive impact on people's lives and have less focus on earning the money.
Guess which businesses have the best referral, attendance and retention rates? That's right. The ones that focus on delivering the positive impact. If that's the case why don't more fitness businesses take on this approach instead of putting Ben and Jerry's ice cream vending machines in their "Health" clubs to make more money from their members, and have less impact on improving their quality of life.
I will only ever focus my business on having the greatest impact possible on improving as many people's quality of life as we can. There are commercial reasons to do this and it must be done the right way to see those benefits. That's what I want to try to prove to the industry, so as a collective we serve our customers better and earn more of the money people spend on fitness and health by delivering more for each pound spent.
You put your heart in to it. Your love. Your soul. Your passion. Your best energy. It doesn't have your name on it, but it’s a part of you. An extension of who you are. Your values. It represents you. It becomes your identity. That point is the fear. It becomes an acceptable way for people to judge you.
People that don't know you. Have never spoken to you. People will judge sometimes without ever experiencing what we do. Assumptions. Preconceptions. That's why it’s so scary. You know that at the end of the day, if it fails, it’s on you. It will be judged very publicly as your best, the things that you are so passionate about, your heart and soul... came up short.
From the start you have zero guarantees, no idea if the time and energy you spend will be worth it. You can't rationalise your efforts. Can you justify missing out on so much life? The glimpse of joy that comes in the shape of a compliment from a friend. A thank you from a client. An idea becoming a reality, and it working the way you thought it would, and one person enjoying it.
Those are the moments that fuel your work. You're not crazy. People like it. It's not just you. You're going to get it wrong. You're going to be wrong. You're going to make mistakes.... and it doesn't matter.
The thing that was true before it started, that was always true during even the worst moments, that is still true today, will keep you moving forward. You believe you can help people enjoy life more, and you want to do that for as many people as possible to leave the world a happier place for having the privilege of being here.
The lesson I still haven’t finished. Just because you think you can do something good, doesn't always mean you should do it. Likewise, just because you think you can't do something good, doesn't mean you should never try. Understanding the right option is without doubt my biggest weakness because I love life and I love people.
Self-respect. To have a genuine ability to respect yourself. To be honest with yourself about what you're good at and what you’re not good at. To know your limits but to have the confidence in knowing you can push them to become a better version of yourself. Most important is to respect your heart.
Follow your gut and don't let those feelings stop at your mouth. I can, I could, I will, I should, I will.... If you want it, do it. If you don't want it enough to do it, then don't talk about wanting it. If I ever say I'm going to do something everyone knows what that means. It's getting done. No doubt. Doesn't matter how long it takes. I'll finish it.
Respect yourself enough to be honest with yourself. Arrogance and confidence get confused a lot these days. Being confident, knowing your ability based on previous experience, isn't a bad thing.
Even when you get the above right, life doesn't work solo. We all thrive off of other people and at the same time will find other people to be the most challenging part of our lives. Colleagues, friends, families, partners. We can easily control how we behave ourselves but understanding how people around you behave isn't as easy.
For me I think it's having an honest understanding of my values so I know what I can accept and what I can't accept when it comes to how other people behave around me. If I know that I know who to keep in my life and who to remove. If I don't stick to those values then I'm going to feel conflicted and won't be happy.
Some people are spiritual, religious, look at star signs, become hippies, go 100% corporate, love life completely through logic.... or completely through chaos. I've never described myself as any of those things but at the same time I know I'm more than a head, a heart and some really clever evolution. I'm more than the sum of my parts. I'm a lover of people. I love that we all create a great story to tell.
One of my favourite things is to listen to other people sharing their stories. Their passions. Their memories. Their lessons.
I'm a lover of life and everything it can offer. I'm pretty sure if we stripped it all back and lived on the planet in the simplest way we could and focused our efforts in supporting our local community on average we'd all live happier. At the same time, I'm happy to live in the world I live so I just try to balance what I need to do with what I want to do.
Realistically we have values around who we are and how we are and whilst they can change as we get older, I don't think I've ever been that distracted or unhappy with my values. I've made changes to what I do and how I do it but to the core I'm the same person, the same soul, the same heart I have always been.
Hopefully just a bit wiser so I can stop myself from making a mistake or letting someone down because odds are I have probably done it before and learned the lesson. What I do know is that in my life I have had tough times. Times where everything went against me. When people I trusted let me down. I felt like I never thought I could feel. Worthless. Weak. Depressed. Angry. Incapable to deliver what I wanted to be able to do for the people around me and for myself.
I hadn't changed. I was the same person with the same values that I had when I was in my early 20's. The same person I am today. Yet today I'm happy. Every day is an exciting adventure I look forward to waking up to. It's all incredible. I feel fulfilled in what I do. I know that the hard times where worth the sacrifice of time I made for my family.
The difference. I have the right people around me now. In life and in work. When times were hard I could have become cynical. To give up on people, which I genuinely felt like doing. To just shrink my business and do it on my own. I didn't do that. I love people and I wanted to prove to myself that the belief I always had that a team of dedicated people can deliver better than anything an individual can deliver is true.
It is true. I found the right people. I worked hard to give them what they needed and worked harder to keep them motivated and passionate about delivering the brands future. Find the right people. Look after them. Trust them. If they let you down, move on. Find new people to work with. Learn the lesson but don't let bad people make you a bad person. Keep your values, keep looking for new people and be open to working with new kinds of people and keep working hard on delivering your dreams with their help while you help them deliver their dreams. If you do that for long enough the journey you share on balance is going to be a lot of fun.
In 10 years the best thing I've learned in life is to focus on myself. Sounds selfish. We live in a world where people worry more about what other people think of them than what they think of themselves.
We seek acceptance on superficial social media platforms from people we don't see for months, or years. Some we've never met. It's like a drug. Getting a like! I know I can control me, and I definitely know I can't control other people.
Personalities are so diverse and the way we all build our identities and values are wildly different. Why try to work out a way to analyse the way other people think and act. For every concept on mindset and life coaching there will be examples that break the rules.
For me spending time understanding me makes more sense. Where am I good. Where am I bad. How can I make the good stuff better? How can I make the bad stuff good? Know what bad things I can't change and accept it.
I remember an awesome old guy busting some epic Indian style dancing at a wedding (attempting to teach me Indian dancing) shared a pearl of wisdom I'll never forget. He said "In the 1st third of your life you worry lots about what others think of you. In the 2nd third of your life you say, 'I don't care what other people think of me' which is you still thinking about what others think of you. In the last third of your life you realise, no one was ever thinking about you, they were all too busy worrying about what other people were thinking about them.
What do I think it takes to be successful?
- · You need a good idea
- · You need the balls to give it a go
- · You need the talent to make it great
- · Then you need the work ethic to see it through
There is only one fight in your life that you should never avoid, and you should never back down from, and you must never lose, because bottom line is, you never need to lose it. It’s the fight with yourself. Your fears, your doubts, your weaknesses, your injuries, your lack of motivation or determination. Your negativity. You might only have this fight a few times a year, or every month, or every week or even every day, but don't think you are the only one fighting.
All successful people have the same fight. The difference with people that experience a lot of success, the people that never moan about a lack of opportunities, the people that never give excuses, is they know, no matter what, they will always win this fight.
Everyone can step up. It works at every level. That's what inspiration is, when you see something that you can relate to, that makes you want to try harder and be better.
There are people that think about doing stuff, people that talk about doing stuff and people that actually do stuff. To me the scariest people in the world are the ones that say they want to do something and then don't do it. I don't understand them.
When someone shakes your hand, acknowledges the hard work, and tells you you're doing a good job. That will always be more powerful motivation to me than any amount of money. Work for those moments and let yourself enjoy them.