THE ROAD TO RICH & FIT: HOW I BECAME DUBAI’S HIGHEST-PAID PERSONAL TRAINER
My first weight set was a bunch of heavy textbooks. I didn’t have any dumb-bells or barbells and I was just too damn introverted and shy to join a gym. I started off with one book, I think it was an organic chemistry text, that I pushed, pulled, and curled for what I recall was hours at a time. Alone in my room. I quickly realized I needed to stack more books together in order to add more resistance to the movements I had chosen to sculpt my soon-to-be Greek god-like physique. So, I tied together a bunch of these heavy University levels textbooks with a cloth that I tightly twisted and spiraled into a makeshift rope. It worked. It kept the books from slipping and falling so that I could push and press them together smoothly. I also used my mom’s coffee table as my first weight bench. She didn’t like that much.
That was 25 years ago, and I’ve never looked back. Today I’m writing this short article about where I’ve come since, intellectually and professionally, and what I’ve discovered, invented, and realized with the ultimate goal of helping my clients. And YOU.
At 13-years-old I had the epiphany that my physical self and my mental self were intricately connected; interdependent. I observed in the kids around me that the fitter and more athletic ones were always happier and seemed optimistic; they smiled more. The less athletic and slower kids seemed depressed and shy; they were reserved. That’s why I took up fitness soon after at around 14-years-old. As an adult now, I see the same pattern in adults, but that’s another story for another day.
When I was a teen, I just wanted to get stronger so as to be able to defend myself, but in the back of my mind, in the deep subconscious, I also knew that how I looked had an effect on how I was perceived, and that the best way to end being mocked for being fat (slightly chubby now that I think about it) and unathletic was to exercise. As an adult, I’ve realized that overweight and unathletic people are viewed as lazy and un-reliable. If it looks right, it flies right? Form and function are intrinsically intertwined in our perceptions and realities.
It’s not right, it just is. Making it out of this life in one piece sometimes requires an accepting of some base realities for what they are instead of living in delusion of how you wish they were.
Fitness training isn’t even an option if you want to live your best life.
The gist of this introduction is this. I wasn’t physically gifted, and I realized that I had to do something about it if I was going to live my life with maximal happiness and experience maximal pleasure, because life will give you pain and sadness no matter what. Pleasure and joy we need to fight for.
To me, exercise is the:
- A context provider and schedule regulator.
- An anti depressant and mood enhancer.
- Anti aging and pro sex.
- Pro food and anti fat.
I don’t want nature to take me down without giving her the fight of my life. If you want to live your life to its absolute fullest, then you’ll want to read this book in which I will teach you how to take charge and control of your body and mind against the forces that want you weak, fat and dead.
My First Fitness Job—Cleaning Boy
My “career” in fitness began quite humbly, working as a cleaning boy at Gold’s Gym in Smithtown of Long Island.
Despite the fact that I was only required to keep the weights area tidy, for me this was endlessly exciting work because I felt that I could embed myself within my most cherished element and become part of the machinery of strength and its conditioning.
I was like a chocolate-loving kid that got to work in the chocolate factory. I would/could interact with chocolate lovers and help them indulge in the sweetened cocoas of their choice. And I could do this all damn day. I did. I loved it. That’s the thing about this Symmetry project; it was a passion before it was a profession. It nearly put me on the street before it helped pay my rent. It nearly disabled me before it made me strong. What you love fucks you one way or another. Back in those weight room cleaning days, I didn’t have ANY interest in taking up personal training professionally. Thinking idealistically, I was repulsed by the very idea of putting a price tag on my “love.” The transactional structure of by-the-hour just added to the repelling disgust I felt.
I guess I was the definition of a young, naive and unjustified idealist not just because I was a fool to NOT get paid to “help” people but also because I refused to see (or couldn’t) that serious-minded people needed and wanted serious help with their personal fitness. A huge number of these serious-minded people existed—all around me—who wanted someone serious that would intensely devote her/his experience, expertise and knowledge in the pursuit of THEIR fitness goals and not just keep the keys to the kingdom locked away for themselves. It took many hard years to realize that.
My First Professional Gym— No Roof and No Doors
Our first gym had no ceiling or roof. It was basically half a garage that someone was willing to rent out to us. We came up with the bright idea of installing a roof so we would have a ceiling. We thought thin tin sheets could serve as overhead shelter—a roof—not realizing at that exact moment of purchase that the tin sheets wouldn’t be able to hold back the mighty rains of the torrential South Asian monsoon season, which was right around the corner.
So, the following morning after installing the sheets the prior night to serve as a makeshift roof, we walked into a totally flooded gym on the first day of the rainy season. There were only 90 minutes to the first client showing up, so we began to bucket out the water and use towels to dry the carpet. We rushed and managed and were able to save the carpet and our reputation.
After that tumultuous event of events, we thought to buy military grade (used) tents—available everywhere in South Asian towns—to cover over our thin tin roof, thinking it would hold back the rain water. It still didn’t work. The rain kept getting through. We decided to cover the tent cloth with plastic sheet, of course. So, we bought a LOT of plastic sheet and spread it out and laid it over the tent and then used bricks to hold it all down from the heavy wind trying to blow it away. It sort of worked—sort of. But for an entire monsoon season, we would have to get up at 4 a.m. every morning to get to that garage gym early enough in order to bucket out the water, and then pat down the carpets and equipment with towels to dry it up. It always took an hour or longer. Consequently, when I see and hear people complaining about the work, effort and time it takes to achieve financial and professional success, you have no idea how repulsed I get….
The Final Message I Need to Convey
NONE of this was planned—my career in fitness, training over 2,000 clients, training dozens of coaches, having multiple successful businesses—none of it. There is no “intelligent design” theory here. Symmetry is simply the never-ending product of a purely organic process of discovery and innovation within a specific domain of human endeavor—fitness. To this day, I’m trying to re-create the whole project from the inside out using creative-destruction— breaking it all apart once it seems like it’s good enough and then trying to make it better. My hope is to continue unfolding and growing the ideas behind the Symmetry project. This is only possible as long as we have clients who support the process and continue to give my team and me the opportunity to help, evolve and grow.