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  • Writer's pictureMat Harvey

How I left a corporate career to support my family with fitness

I was once asked by a old man - what would you do with your time if you didn’t need to earn money. After the party, after the travel, after buying the toys. What then. You wake up and how do you spend your day?

This is a tough question to answer honestly. Take the time to ponder it, when you find your answer you’ll know what you should do for a living.

Before leaving a perfectly good career to chase a dream, answer these questions honestly:

  1. What would you do if you didn’t need money?

  2. How can you add value to another person's life?

  3. What is success for you?

  4. Are you addicted to money?

  5. Do you mind hard work ?

I’m going to tell you the story behind answering these questions.

Rewind 6 years, I’m working 5 or 6 days a week at an engineering firm, making great money. I didn’t know the answer to the above questions, but I did know that getting environmental approvals to support industrial development wasn’t the answer.

So it was clear to me, my current occupation was an irresponsible way to get old. I certainly wouldn’t look back at this time with satisfaction that I was adding real value to the world. It was time to change.

Eventually, after listening to many many podcasts, reading books and navel gazing it occurred to me that my life long hobby of coaching and participating in a wide range of sports and physical pursuit is probably how I would spend my time if freed from the need to make money.

Question 1 was answered.

Did my desire to coach and participate in physical activity add real value to other people.


Question 2, answered.

How could I make a successful living out of being a coach or trainer?

To answer this question I must credit my old friend and founder of Greg. Greg taught me that the definition of wealth was the difference between your expenditure and your income. While I was working 9 or 10 hour days every day Greg was mostly out riding his bike or enjoying his time on the beach. Living his life. He seemed to have everything. How did he do it? His lifestyle was very very cheap. He didn’t have to earn much to be able to pay his way and save for a rainy day. In all his free time, he lived his life. I wanted this.

Question 3 - sorted!

The next step was simple: I had to become un-addicted to money.

To be fair I was single and child-free at the time, so the process of reinventing my life was relatively simple and free of any real risk. I cut every non essential thing from my life and lived the simple life. I did this for 6 months before leaving my old career. During this time I tracked every cent I spent or earned. As a result I developed an understanding of what the minimum amount of dollars I needed to survive. In this 6 months I also saved enough to get me through the first 12 months of less than minimum wage.

Right so I was living thrifty, had $12k in the bank and a desire for a new life. I did it, pulled the trigger and, much to the surprise of my directors, resigned my career as a marine scientist.

The first 6 months out of work was wonderful and challenging.

Wonderful cause I didn’t have to dress in a suit and sit at a desk, challenging because I wasn’t used to the lack of routine and lack of money. I spent the time qualifying as a cert 4 fitness instructor and crossfit coach and soon as I could get insurance started working in a small gym.

Anyone that tells you this will be easy is kidding you. 4:30 am wake ups, split shifts, 8pm finishes and a weekly wage that was about what my previous lunch budget would have been. Hard work for nearly no money.

Question 4 and 5 - done.

I was doing what I loved. Work didn’t feel like work. I love it and people enjoy my coaching style.

Fast forward to the present day. I’ve been coaching and PTing full time for nearly 5 years. I’ve coached 100’s of people, I've made loads of mistakes and every day I learn how much I don’t know.

The rate of learning is satisfying, its very easy to be a trainer, but very very hard to be an exceptional trainer. I’m still working at it.

I have a wife and daughter, between my online coaching business, PT clients and teaching classes I make a lean but sustainable living. It can be done. Embrace the hard work, don’t expect to be earning huge amounts. A cheap life that focuses less on consuming and more on relationships and adventures doesn’t need a large income to support it.

It's all about balance

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