The truth is, not too long ago, I was secretly dealing with depression, endlessly thinking about quitting my job, and fed up with everything.
I was fed up with my career path and my direction. I was fed up with my industry (fitness): how negligent personal trainers around me were making more money, getting better clients, moving up, etc. I was fed up with being a “knowledgable trainer” (their words, not mine), but making $700 a paycheck. I was fed up with how internet trainers continuously put self-serving updates about how great they were, how great their clients were, half-naked pictures, and — like — memes about cats.
“I don’t get it,” I thought. What the heck am I missing?
At the time, I was working for a commercial gym that didn’t value its employees and clients. But I needed the paycheck. I wanted to write for fitness magazines… but the only thing I could muster was a few, free guest posts that were sometimes attacked by angry commenters. Actually, as I recall, I did a lot of those articles.
It was hard. I was working for peanuts, running across the street during any gaps in my schedule to write, and running back to train until 9pm. And why should I think this would get any better? The year before that, I was mopping floors and cleaning toilets as a janitor for a gym in the outskirts of Los Angeles.
It didn’t help that neither of my parents had faith in me.
“Screw this,” I said. “I’m going to follow my dream and become a strength coach.” So I emailed people. I cold-emailed over 50 strength coaches in the US, Asia, and Europe to learn. I had a beer one of the best soccer strength coaches in the MLS. I Skype-called an English Premier League strength coach minutes before kickoff… to the Super Bowl. (I’ll tie in this story at the end.) I visited campus upon campus. I even randomly met Clay Matthews.
But I’m not telling you this to show “how great I am.”
I’m telling you this because I was confused as hell and doing this on my dime.
Finally, I got three offers to become a strength coach intern. One with an NFL training center. One with a prestigious university. And one with a prestigious prep school.
I said “no” to each one.
The path was not what I expected: if you want to be a real college or pro strength coach, the road is pitiful. Years and years of unpaid work. Working from 5am to 8pm for people who don’t care about you because you’re so replaceable. My mentor was the strength coach for a Division-I university… and was on welfare.
(If you really want it, that’s great, but just know it’s a hard path.)
I tried being an online trainer. I offered free trials and several people stiffed me — didn’t even leave me a testimonial and never responded to my emails. Then I tried calling and emailing sites for partnerships. I emailed every single Top 100 PGA instructor.
One golf coach said this might be something he’s interested in the future. “But I’m not sure right now.” Another one was put off by my pricing model and declined.
So I continued at my commercial gym. “Maybe,” I thought, “I could get better at what I do.”
Well, I knew something was really wrong when I invested over $5000 of my own hard-earned money in online courses, books, and seminars and their tactics didn’t work at my company. I had about 12 straight consultations — not one single purchase. Others were converting six… a month.
It sucked because I knew I had the skills; I just couldn’t get the clients. It was getting hopeless.
“Maybe I’m just not cut to be a trainer,” I thought. “Maybe it’s time to give up.”
I started to message contacts in my old career path (finance) once again.
One October night, while studying my course, I listened to an interview with a girl who switched careers and was making a multi-six-figure income. She said this throwaway line:
One year is a long time to waste. Don’t waste two.
Ugh. That’s exactly what I was doing. I wanted to quit, but I was compounding my mistake my holding on. And it hurt to hear that.
I wasn’t that adventurous 21-year-old kid who moved to South Korea to teach English anymore — I was 25, sitting in the same room I lived in as a kid, going nowhere, and struggling to save money.
Some nights, I wished I never left Asia.
So I paused the audio, wrote my resignation letter, and signed it.
“Don’t quit, man,” my friends and colleagues said. “Find something first and then quit.” But I couldn’t. I couldn’t delay it anymore. Every morning I woke up, I didn’t want to go to work and I thought about quitting everyday for months. Training wasn’t fun anymore. (It wasn’t even about training anymore — it was business.) I had no backup plan and there was only one tiny glimmer of hope:
I started writing for Muscle & Fitness.
Remember all the hard work I put in writing for free? One person recognized and praised that. He helped connect me. He trusted me.
So I quit. November 4th was my last day.
What was I going to do? I didn’t know. Maybe write more and find another job being a trainer? Maybe just train privately?
So I emailed people. I called people. I asked. I listened. I took notes. And I took more notes. I flew out to New York to meet editors and connectors. I flew to Toronto to… well… that one was for fun, honestly [wink].
The more I wrote, the more I loved it. I wrote a few articles while staying on my friend’s couch in Toronto. And even though I was some thin Asian kid with three years of experience, the message was the same:
I could write.
[Fun fact: I was a horrible writer in high school and college. My English teacher in high school sent me to detention and, yes, I cheated a lot. (My finest moment was being sent to the counselor’s office and being put on academic probation.) I hated all the books they assigned. My vocab tests were awful. I didn’t — and still don’t — know what a “predicate” is.]
Meanwhile, my clients from the commercial gym didn’t come with me. They invested too heavily, they said. Or they were accustomed to the style of gym.
So I kept writing and I kept emailing. One cold, windy December morning, I emailed a major editor/publisher and he responded within minutes. “Actually,” he wrote, “I can hop on the phone with you right now, if you have time.”
That led to a huge gig.
And it turned out that a lot of people I previously emailed years ago really weren’t as good as they claimed. They had made themselves seem bigger than they were, so once I surpassed them, they were shocked.
Then, I got an advanced copywriting gig. Remember all those online courses I bought? They blew my managers away.
And remember that golf coach who wasn’t sure if he had a role? Well, they brought me in — as their Fitness Instructor.
Things were falling into place. All after I quit?!
Yep. I guess it allowed the swirl of activity happening in the background to finally come forward and shine.
Soon, I got more gigs and more pay. That led to even more gigs. “You’re not a beginner anymore,” one editor told me. “You can ask for way more.”
So I did. And I received.
Life is different now.
I don’t do personal training anymore, but I still like learning about fitness. I run my own remote business, I take days off, and I’ve been able to figure out how to travel full-time while working on my laptop.
I don’t wake up with a groan. I take my time and enjoy my breakfast. But when I work, I work.
I smile a lot more, too.
But can I tell you one thing from the heart?
If you ever think about quitting a job or trying something new, just do it. Don’t delay — that’s more wasted time and pain. “What if I don’t have a backup plan?” you might ask. Well, that’s an inappropriate question because you’re trying to solve a problem with the same mindset that got you that crappy job in the first place.
Enjoy the power of serendipity. Be confident in your resourcefulness. And, if all else fails, sometimes it helps to know that your true friends will love you, no matter what.
Sure, I’m not “wildly successful” or whatever: I don’t own a million-dollar company, I don’t have a yacht, and I don’t have a New York Times bestselling book. But I have made mistakes.
And that counts, too.
It’s your life, baby.
Thinking about quitting your job? Struggling with your work? Get my best tips on building the career of your dreams and getting more freedom in your life at www.anthonyjyeung.com.