How to Play the Long Game, Or Better Yet The Infinite Game in Your Personal Training Career



Are you playing a long game with your personal training career or business? Or will you fall for the traps that will end your career or shut your business down in the first 3 to 5 years, if not sooner?


As a personal trainer and business owner with 20 years of experience, I’ve seen a lot of trends come and go. Although these last two decades came and went faster than I could have imagined — they taught me how to have a successful career in fitness.


A great book I came across recently, called the “Infinite Game” made me reflect back on my career and helped put some things into perspective. While reading the book, I realized I can use my experiences, both positive and negative, to help the next generation of trainers or personal trainers who run businesses.   


If you want to be in this industry for the long haul, you’ll need to play an Infinite Game. To do that, you’ll need to learn and develop the following five traits as outlined in the book. 


1. Just cause

This is not the same as your ‘why’. Your why comes from the past. Whereas having a just cause comes from a specific vision you have for the future, it doesn’t exist yet. But this vision you hold is your inspiration to stay focused. It’s bigger and more worthwhile than any small wins you might celebrate along the way.


Some attributes of this vision include:

  • Something positive and promising

  • Inclusive for all who want to participate

  • Service orientated and beneficial to others

  • Can endure unforeseen advances and changes 

  • Idealistic, big, and bold


Only the coaches and businesses who stand for something will last. The ones who make money their only goal, will likely fail. 


Let’s take a perfect and relevant example — COVID and the resulting pandemic.


You might have taken the important and necessary steps like getting your certification, a job, made some money and earned a little recognition. But when something like the magnitude of COVID hits, what now? 


Without a long term vision or having a just cause, none of the finite stuff holds up. Your vision and cause will give you the strength to endure a lot. And going through a lot teaches and prepares you to get what you want.  


For me, my ‘why’ is multi-layered. It goes far beyond the desire to teach someone how to squat. I want to have a lasting effect on someone’s quality of life. To help give them more active years, to make it easier for them to play with their grandkids, or help improve their mobility and strength so they can go on that trip of a lifetime.


Also, it’s important for me to develop good trainers into great ones, those who need the right guidance in order to break through. In short, my cause is about changing lives. 


2. Trusting teams

Anyone who’s successful in this industry rarely did it alone. Most have mentors, a strong network, and possibly a team of staff members who contributed to the long-term success of these trainers, coaches, and business owners. This network might also include family members, friends, a spouse, or partner.


The reason these key people played a part in the individual’s success has a lot to do with trust.


Working well together is one thing, but having a group of people who trust each other — mentally and emotionally — is something else entirely. This is a vital part of the long term success equation.


Also, your team has to be on board with your cause. If that changes slightly down the road, it’s important that your team can roll with it and adapt. Otherwise, a change in your team might be necessary.


3. Worthy rivals

Stop viewing the competition as people you need to beat. Instead view them as worthy rivals who can teach you how to be better, in a business and personal sense. Those who are a step ahead and reached the ‘next level’ of success could help you grow and evolve. They might push you to be the best version of yourself.


Know that these people are more like you than you think. They were likely in your shoes at some point. Take that as encouragement and motivation to get you to your next level of success, in whatever form that takes.


Also, it’s critical to be around people who think big. Those who understand that no dream is unattainable. They know how to hold a vision in their mind until it becomes reality. These people are rarely negative. Instead, they focus many of their thoughts and attention on staying positive. 


I’m definitely a competitive guy, which has helped and hurt me. And let’s be honest, there’s a lot of competition in this field. At first, you might beat out most people just by showing up consistently and outworking them. But then you get to a point where working smarter, not just harder will benefit you more.


So, I challenge you to think bigger and reach out to the top people in the industry. The ones that motivate you and stretch you. You’ll find that most are willing to help you get to where you want to be. Even if some aren’t eager to help, don’t let that derail you.


Stay focused on your mission and work with those who will help. In time, you’ll find your niche and realize there’s no ‘real’ competition other than yourself.


4. Existential flexibility

This term refers to extreme adaptability and a love for change. An infinite minded person who demonstrates existential flexibility is someone who welcomes challenges, even in the most intense form. Real coaches live for this.


It might sound strange, but I got excited when COVID hit. Not because of the threat it posed to people. But in the way, it disrupted my current reality by presenting an extremely difficult set of circumstances. In other words, I perform well under pressure and never step down from a challenge. Also, I never see a situation as ‘game over’ because I’m a process minded person. 


Even more, I’ve been part of this game long enough to know that some people will flat out fold during tough times. And this has nothing to do with finances, but everything to do with a lack of love for the game. So, to embody this trait you need a strong love for what you do, which will give you the strength to come out on the other side. 


5. A courage to lead 

When you’re working with an infinite mindset you’ll have the courage to change your perception of how the world works, which will give you the courage to lead. Being open-minded is key. How you see the world now will likely change in the next 1, 3, 5 years, and beyond. The change in your outlook and views will help you adapt to the changes in competition and advances. If not, you’ll be out of a business. 


I see the world much differently now than I did 20 years ago and in the subsequent years since. If you don’t evolve and accept that things will change, then you won’t be a respected leader. Or a leader of any kind.


Final thoughts

To survive the long game, take note of these five traits for success and work on developing a specific skill set. Based on my experience, I learned that some of the most valuable skills to have include patience, drive, and a strategic and future-oriented mindset. Take the longest path to success.


With my 5 to 10-year goals, I focus on the actions that will get me there. But, I often do things quickly with the understanding that failure is my biggest ally. This is something I know to be true because I’ve seen it happen time and time again over the last 20 years. Waiting for perfection is holding most of you back.


You might also be holding yourself back because you’re not where you want to be yet. And those around you seem to have it all. The ‘superstar trainers’ might be a leg or two up on you, but if you commit to playing an infinite game, you will pass them, guaranteed.