As a shy introvert, being in a room full of strangers for three days sounds like something you’d have to pay me to do. So when I bought a ticket for the Nor Cal Fitness Summit this past October, I was probably more surprised than anyone. Leading up to it, my excitement was solely for what I expected to learn from the speakers. But I was willing to suck up my discomfort and go because I was about to change careers, moving from the music industry into the fitness industry, and I was in the process of gathering as much information as possible about fitness coaching and running a business.
I never imagined becoming an entrepreneur and it still feels weird to say it: I’m an entrepreneur. But when I decided to to dive wholeheartedly into self-employment, I both wanted and needed to learn how to be successful at it, lest I end up in a tent city in San Francisco.
Before the first day, I checked out the schedule and picked out a few “must-see” presentations, which turned out to be most of them. And then I wandered into the building Friday morning with a bit of that sad, lost puppy look, although I made every effort not to. After I checked in I found a chair in the lecture hall where I immediately pulled out my laptop and checked my email.—not because I had something important to do, but so I had a shield against introducing myself to ::gasp:: people!
I lowered my shield more as the conference went on. I had some great conversations with industry professionals that are very passionate about what they’re doing, and very passionate about learning how to be better—that was my common bond with every attendee. Oh, and I guess fitness. So we had lots to talk about. Is that called networking? It felt like I was just making friends. (If you attended this event and we didn’t connect, reach out now and say hi!)
In between those 5-10 minute breaks where I was consistently surprised that I actually enjoyed meeting strangers with common interests, I went to as many presentations as possible, even if the topics didn’t look relevant to me. In some cases, I left early, but in most, I stayed through, surprised at what I could take home and apply.
During the talks, I watched a few people frantically scribbling notes and photographing slides, but I tried to jot down only what felt revelatory or actionable. I designated the first page of my notebook for “big picture” bullets, ideas that I heard repeatedly that weekend or that were the subject of the most important points and questions that arose. (I ended up with 5: defining your values, goal-setting, positivity, growth mindset, and reframing.) I designated another page for ideas that popped into my head, questions I wanted to think about later, books that were suggested, etc.
I watched a few of the speakers get mobbed immediately after their talks. I found myself wanting to say hi, thank you, or ask questions of a few of them, but I made a point of approaching them either later in the day, or even on a different day. Aside from not wanting to wait in a small crowd, I didn’t want the conversation, however brief, to feel rushed because they were waiting to get to someone else, or because they had to clear the room for the next speaker.
What happened after the summit was at least as important as my actual attendance. It sounds a bit more technical than personal, but I kept a list of everyone that I met at the summit that I was interested in keeping in touch with. Afterwards, I reached out to say hi (and to make sure they had my contact information) and to follow up on anything that we had talked about.
Here’s where my robotic organization really came in handy: I went through my notes and found all of my actionable items again. If I decided it was worth taking action, I put it in a to-do list, complete with prioritization, and it ranged from smaller, concrete actions, like creating my first product (Forest Vance) to larger, ongoing ones like changing who I surround myself with (John Spencer Ellis). All of the questions that the presenters asked I answered, from “Who do you want to be a hero to?” (AJ Mihrzad) to “What actions do you take that define your beliefs and values?” (John Rusin).
By far, the most important step I took was contacting a presenter to ask for help. The opening talk of the summit was AJ Mihrzad’s “How to Build a High-Profit and Low-Stress Online Fitness Coaching Business.” Based on that hour of content, it looked like AJ could help me figure out how to really get things going. About a month later, we talked on the phone, and he laid out a plan of action, and let me know exactly what I could expect from a 12-week program he offered. It sounded like the perfect fit for me, so I jumped at the opportunity.
I just completed the course, and I got even more than I expected. When we started, I got a step-by-step plan of action, and a deeper clarity on where I wanted to go and why. I got to connect with many other coaches that were working on similar projects, toward similar goals, and to see what worked for them and what didn't. The course increased my efficacy as a salesperson, sparked my creativity, and skyrocketed my confidence.
As cheesy and contrived as it sounds, the biggest lesson I took from the entire experience was how important it is to force myself out of my comfort zone. I may not be able to stop myself from feeling uncomfortable, but I can stop my discomfort from holding me back. My attendance at the summit was invaluable, and to tell the truth, I’m already looking forward to the next one.