I have had many jobs over my life. Soccer ref, basketball ref, phone book delivery guy, machine operator, concession stand worker, concession stand manager (look out promotion!), building test equipment for hospitals, designing overhead electrification systems for trains, designing high-speed package handlers, engineering lift assist equipment. A lot of these jobs were great and I certainly didn’t hate any of them. However, the only job I ever loved was working at the UNCC Fitness Center. That’s right the energetic personal greeter slash student ID card swiper. That was my jam for three years during college.
I wasn’t working as the manager or a personal trainer. I was simply the guy who would swipe your ID card, wash the sweaty towels, and clean up the weights. Sounds pretty glamours huh? The pay must have been fantastic, right? Depends on your definition of “fantastic”. Minimum wage isn’t too good for most people but my expenses consisted of cheap beer and pizza so it worked. How about the hours? I usually worked 20-25 hours a week with usually one 5-8am shift a week. Having to be at work at 5:00 am was a trick for a college student but in three years I was only late once. I still feel bad about it actually. Sorry, Stephen.
Why I Loved It
So where did the love come from? The gym folk. I worked with some great people and half of my bosses were cool but I loved interacting with the patrons. Everything I did I felt like I was doing for them in order to help them reach their fitness goals. I loved talking with people about their goals, workouts, and diets.
I would learn your name (it popped up on the screen when I swiped your ID card) and call you by it after a couple visits. Some found this creepy but most people liked it. Even got a few dates with that move (sorry hun).
Washing sweaty towels never bothered me the way it did others. I never viewed it as “this sucks” or “this is gross” I just viewed it as they need towels so they can get an intense workout in.
At one point we started getting complainants about the music because it was nothing but top 20 stuff. The third go of Rhianna’s Umbrella-ella-ella-ella-ella-eh in the same day does get a little old. Without being asked I started making CDs with music I deemed appropriate. The guy’s seemed to appreciate the Slipknot and Disturbed and the girls seemed to find headphones.
I even took it upon myself to label and reorganize all of the weight plate trees and dumbbell racks. I included pictures and little dividers for the dumbbells. Not that this solved the age old problem of people not re-racking their weights but it helped.
Why It Matters
You always hear people talking about finding your passion or finding something you love. “Love your work and you will never work a day in your life.” The part people they leave out is that work you love needs to also pay the bills. Even though I have been out of the gym industry for 8 years I think with my past experience and education I could probably get back into a similar role at another gym 😉 I would then have a job that I love but my income would be severely limited.
Blindly chasing passion can lead trouble. And sometimes you don’t know if you will even enjoy doing what you are passionate about. You might love cooking dinner for your family but working in a kitchen might be too stressful.
I think finding a job (or volunteer work) you love or are passionate about is very difficult. I only recently realized how lucky I am to have been given the opportunity to work such a low paying job. Just think, if you love doing the job of the lowest person on the totem pole you will almost certainly love the higher positions. If you love a job the requires cleaning sweaty towels you would be really okay with running the whole gym. If you love a job that requires cleaning up an animal’s cage you would almost certainly love being a vet. Cleaning dishes to head chef, cutting grass to owning landscaping business, teaching kids to read to opening your own school.
My “Retirement” Goal
As you know we are trying to retire early from our typical 9-5 jobs. Retiring early doesn’t mean just watching the grass grow and sipping Mi Tais all day. Early retirement to me is having the financial independence so you can choose what you do without worrying about the money.
For me, I would love to open a local gym. I already have a sweet home gym so it is just expanding that a few thousand square feet. I have this vision of employing a bunch of the local high school kids, training a couple of clients every week, hosting events/challenges and making enough money to cover my expenses. Retirement is still a few years off but it is fun to start thinking about it now.
So what do you say? Have you ever had a job or volunteer work you loved? Are you doing it now? Could you turn the job you loved into something more?