Originally posted on October 17, 2014. It still rings true today in running a bootcamp business so here it is again.
After I ran my very first 4 week bootcamp I sent out a survey to get feedback for improvement.
90% of the comments and feedback was positive. A few people complained about how the workouts included running (yes, we’ve all had those clients) and some complained about the fitness level variation (something I improved after that). At the end of the survey I asked if they’d recommend us to a friend: 95% of the participants said Yes.
It was all really positive, in face here are some of the things that people wrote:
“Every session is completely different. You never know what to expect! Everyone works at there own pace. Friendly & fun. Kyle keeps everyone moving & motivated. I’m sure it’s difficult for him considering we are all so different in our fitness levels. Me, being one of the ‘slower’ ones, never felt left out or that i was holding back the others who were fitter!”
“The people – so friendly and Kyle was a great group trainer. Even though training required three early mornings per week, I didn’t dread going when I got up and that had a lot to do with the style of training (motivating and supportive) and the mix of activities.”
“Kyle was a great trainer. He took it seriously but also knew how to have a laugh, and not make everyone intimidated by the experience. I would definitely recomend him as a trainer to anyone interested. It was also a good group of people, and being in beautiful Fairfield Park was nice (more enjoyable than being stuck indoors). There was also a really good mix of activities, so the time went fairly quickly – you never got bored of doing the one thing repeatedly like in a gym class.”
What wonderful feedback, right?!
I’m not sharing these comments to blow my own trumpet, I’m sharing these because until I went back through the feedback to research this post I had completely forgotten about all the lovely things people wrote.
The one comment that I remembered and wanted to use as an example for this article was one I still remembered 4.5 years later (over 9 years ago at the time of republishing this):
“I appreciated Kyle’s trying to keep training activities diverse and interesting. I think with more experience he will be an excellent trainer.”
When I read this it cut through me like a knife.
I felt like a complete failure.
‘Trying to keep training diverse and interesting.’
‘He will be an excellent’ I’m not already?
Looking back on it now with perspective, it seems crazy. I was a new trainer of course I need some more experience. I mean, this comment is not even bad. It’s actually quite encouraging.
At the time though, I was sensitive about my abilities as a trainer. Being new to the industry I already thought I was doing everything wrong and this somehow confirmed it.
I projected my own insecurities into this benign feedback.
The client that wrote this didn’t continue with bootcamp after that round. So the comment plus the action of them not continuing equaled negative feelings despite the half a dozen positive comments I also received.
This was the one I focused on. Why?
The thing is, everyone does this.
I’m writing this article in the hope that you will see you are not alone. Everyone focuses on the negative at some point in their life.
It’s called Negativity Bias.
Human beings find a strange comfort in focusing on the negative rather than the positive. Just turn on the news to see this in action.
There are several theories that try and explain this. Here are two that make sense to me are:
- Instinctual – Being attacked by a lion is negative for your health. Your brain remembers that so you stay away from lions in future. In order to do this it’s always focusing on things that might be lions.
- Novelty – We are terrible at truly being open to and accepting positive comments. Our perfectionism drives us to make excellent the normal and that anything less is a failure. It blocks us from being able to accept kind words and instead focus on anything that might be slightly negative.
Is there a lesson?
When we put ourselves out there and be vulnerable by starting a bootcamp and establishing ourselves as an expert, we are going to attract negative comments and criticisms. And they can come out of no where and catch you off guard.
If you aren’t careful these feelings will bury you. So here’s what to do:
Identify if the critique actually holds any weight or if the person is just being a hater.
Check out these examples to see what I mean:
When someone sends me an email abusing me of selling things to them all the time, there was no reason to for them to use that language, after all they did sign up to my mailing list willingly.
But there probably is some merit to it too. Maybe they joined my mailing list just as I launched a new product. Maybe I can work out a way to not send those more sales-y emails to subscribers until they’ve been on my list for longer and I’ve built more trust with them.
When someone gets mad at you at the park because your bootcamp is making noise, maybe they shouldn’t have told you to ‘F Off’ but maybe in future you could be more considerate and not use a whistle at 5:30am next to their house.
A client leaves you feedback that they don’t like doing boxing at your bootcamp. They literally say: ‘I hate when you run boxing sessions.’
It’s good to be mindful of your clients feedback. But if the rest of your group loves boxing workouts, then you should probably just keep doing them.
What to do when it happens
(Because it will happen)
Even if we know that these comments are well meaning, it doesn’t stop it from hurting.
To deal with this, a lot of people will tell you, ‘Just develop a thick skin’.
That is a crappy piece of advice, especially if you are someone who feels things deeply like me.
To me, a thick skin comes off as uncaring. I don’t want to be uncaring. I want to care, I want to have compassion, I want to have empathy. To do that I have to feel both the nice and the not so nice feelings.
Here is my advice if you feel things too:
First things first. Don’t make any decisions while stressed out or angry.
Don’t reply to any emails. Don’t call anyone back. Don’t make any drastic overhauls to your business.
Instead pause. Breathe.
Literally, stop and take 5 deep breaths.
Then try one of these things:
1. Consult your Praise Folder. Every time you get some positive feedback copy it into a folder or document. Over time this document will become a power house of positivity. When you get one of those negative emails, go here and read all of the awesome positive things people have said about you and your business. Remind yourself that you are doing a lot of good too.
2. Call a ‘marble jar’ friend. This is a tip from Brené Brown. A marble jar friend someone who has spent a lot of time building trust with you through small actions. Often it helps if this person also runs a business and can empathise with you in that way. This is not always your spouse so work out who your marble jar friends are and tap into them when you need to.
3. Get outside. Get out into nature. Nature is a huge reset for me. Go run, workout, play, put your feet in the dirt and just be for a little while.
Once you have done one or more of these things you will start feeling better.
Bonus tip: If you really want to master handling these feelings, look into a mindfulness practice. It will help give you the space you need to digest negative stuff like this. Lately I’ve just been doing a few minutes of breathing exercises in the morning, it makes a big difference.
Having a business, putting yourself out there, getting in front of a group of people, these are all things that invite critics.
Sometimes it’s haters just hating but other times it hurts because a part of us that agrees with the statement.
Either way start with breathing then go to your positive stash, call a marble jar friend or get up and get out for a bit.
And most important, know that you are not alone in this feeling. There is a whole community of trainers here who are right there with you.
Kyle Wood created Bootcamp Ideas in 2010 when he was hunting around on the internet for workout ideas. He ran a successful bootcamp in Victoria, Australia and spends his spare time managing this site, adventuring (or lazying) with his wife and find new ways to make bootcamps even better.