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Foreword to Rolando Garcia III's Intrinsic Excellence by Dan John



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Foreword to Intrinsic Excellence by Dan John

"Mastery of your art cannot be confused with success in the profession. This adage is applicable not only in boxing, but in any professional field. And personal training is no exception."

There are times a poem or a quote simply stops you in your tracks. The first time I heard Dylan Thomas’s "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night," I realized that poetry can speak to the heart and send the imagination flying.

When I read this quote above from Roland Garcia III’s book, Intrinsic Excellence, I stared out my window on this perfect, snowy winter day in Utah and traveled across my life and personal history and realized that I had just read a new bit of truth:

"Mastery of your art cannot be confused with success in the profession."

Stories of actors, artists and musicians who have great talent and beautiful skill, yet are working 9 to 5 while waiting for their "break" have become cliché. Success demands ensuring—as the Trappist Monk Thomas Merton taught us—that once we climb to the top of the ladder of success, we find ourselves on the right wall.

Success is not the same as achieving a goal. Both the trainer and the client need to understand this early, but Garcia’s book emphasizes this point throughout the text. Losing money, being in the red, is no way to be a personal trainer—and nor is ignoring the client or simply yelling negative comments. Most of us know this. The "How" of learning this is Intrinsic Excellence.

Garcia challenges the reader early…and often. My first wake up call came when we approached his Four Competencies: Technical Expertise, Business Development and Strategy, Customer Care, and Sales.

"What most personal trainers have missed by making these simple assumptions is that 75% of what actually drives professional success in personal training has nothing to do with personal training."

I’m a "25%er," and so are many of the people I know who love the gym, studio, center, spa and club. We love the community, the camaraderie, the smells, the language and the results. We may master the nuances of the squat and press, but Garcia blends a mixture of gut punches and fun narratives to guide the personal trainer from simply being a person who likes the gym to someone who is a successful businessperson. Skipping that 75% seems like a good way to go out of business.

And, most personal trainers barely last over one year. They skip the 75%.

Garcia completely rethinks the idea of goal setting. He keys in on an important truth: most coaches and trainers get excited about goals like "running a faster race," "benching more," or winning some championship. It ties into the performance side of the fitness world that came from the birth of lifting.

Something like "I want to weight X" or "I want to lose 15 pounds" may have a narrative behind the story. Maybe at that bodyweight, Edna fell in love, got married and all her dreams cam true. That bodyweight reflects something much deeper and more personal than some performance level.

Although not bursting with acronyms, Garcia uses several excellent ones that would make great wall art. "PACT" should be instantly memorized by anyone coaching or teaching: Praise, Assist, Coach, Teach. He reviews looking at the positive things that the client is doing, including simply showing up. This section, Customer Care, ties in nicely with the section on Technical Expertise. Technical Expertise is the area most of us consider the foundation of training people, including assessment and program design.

But what good is a perfect program if the client doesn’t know what to do and only receives negative feedback? Without Customer Care, the program is garbage.

One delight in the book is the cast of characters we meet in Garcia’s travels. I think we all know Ryan and Hal, but many of us have met our share of Tanks and Lionesses, too. Their stories keep the book on pace and fun to read. Their stories are especially helpful in understanding the tool kits in Business Development and Strategy and Sales. Tank’s sales stories might be the most enjoyable to read.

The last chapter may be Rolando’s best. He discusses the transformative power of proper physical conditioning. One can’t find a better line than:

"To be a part of helping someone believe in themselves that they become capable of living their lives with courage and dignity, is what makes what we do respectable, noble, and, in the final reckoning, worthwhile."

And this book is certainly respectable, noble and worthwhile.

—Daniel John, author of Never Let Go