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8 Lessons I Learned from my “Real Job”

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Today is a bittersweet day for me. It’s my final day at the job I have had for over 8 years, as Fitness Coordinator at Wake Forest University. I started at Wake (my alma mater) when I was 22 and spent my 20s there–that pivotal work period when you are learning so much about yourself, both professionals and personally.

As I reflected at my time at Wake, it was a great opportunity for me to recap some important life lessons that I learned as a result of my time there. And of course, who else would I share them with if not you? :)

1] Immerse yourself in what you are passionate about.
No amount of money can replace the sheer joy of waking up excited to be doing what you do. Don’t stress about having to be in a traditional job/cubicle. More than ever, there are so many different avenues to take. I was worried about following the path of fitness (where’s the money?) when I was young, but I went with my gut and have never been happier (nor have I ever worn anything but spandex to work). Money comes if you are good at what you do. And if you love what you do, no question you will work hard to become an expert.

2] Always tell people that you appreciate them.
It’s no skin off your back to tell someone how awesome they are. It doesn’t take away from you, and in fact it lift them up AND you. Sometimes we shy away from emotional expressions for fear of looking too soft or offering “status” to another. But truthfully, there is nothing more powerful. It is the epitome of selflessness and security. Another word for confidence is humility. Try it on and I think you’ll find it looks good on you!

3] Money without time is useless.
In 2007, I read The 4 Hour Work Week and it completely changed my world. At the time, I was working 60-80 hour weeks & starting my graduate degree, and I was miserable. I needed to find a way to carve out time for studying, me time and to stay sane. I was willing to take a pay cut to do it. I worked with my superior and he was able to help me come up with some solutions. I brought on an assistant to help with the load, and was able to leverage my time by starting a new program so that I did not have to do as much of the hands-on work. Since then, I truly feel like my time is my own. Learning to leverage my time was invaluable.

4] Management can and should mentor.
I was lucky enough to have an amazing supervisor, Max Floyd, who always supported me in whatever I wanted to do. He provided a safe environment for me to “try things on” as a fitness professional and grow within that. Honestly, I would not have stayed at Wake for as long as I did if it was not for the guidance, trust and belief in me that I have always felt from Max. He was a hugely important mentor for me as a young professional and I will always appreciate his unwavering support. He has been my professional rock for many years. I have managed hundreds of students over the years at Wake, and I hope I have been able to give them even a slice of the mentorship I attained under Max.

5] Making mistakes is necessary in order to grow.
In any professional pursuit, if you are not messing up, chances you are playing it safe and really not doing anything at all. I messed up at Wake. A lot. Some things that I wish I did differently, but I will always be proud of my ability to take risks. Of course, you have to take responsibility for those risks, but it is worth it when in the end you have growth personally, and you are able to take your programs to the next level. My programs at Wake are 3 times the size that they were when I came in, and that never would have happened if I not stuck my neck out a little. Mistakes are only “bad” if you don’t grow from them. Every moment is a lesson waiting to be learned.

6] Read your ass off. It’s the cheapest education on earth.
“Poor people have big TVs. Rich people have big libraries.” –Jim Rohn. I love this quote by Jim Rohn, not because I am necessarily in the money game, but because I believe so strongly in education. Of course, degrees are important, they open doors. But I am talking about getting your hands on some books. And reading them. And learning from them. I average a book a week, and honestly, I find it an invaluable way to spend my time. It allows me to think laterally and connect dots between fitness, nutrition, psychology, business, personal development, self-help, etc. And the secret is that no one reads. Knowledge is power, and reading is the #1 way to continue to invest in yourself professionally and personally. It’s the cheapest form of education around.

7] There’s nothing better than helping others get better. 
This is what I have done at Wake for the last 8 years, and what I will continue to do through JillFit and Metabolic Effect in the future. There is nothing more fulfilling than helping others in their pursuits. Offering your expertise, your time or a kind word. Helping others helps you. My favorite part of my job at Wake has been training new fitness instructors to teach fitness classes. It is THE most awesome part of what I do. Why? Because I am able to make an impact and give someone a skill that they can then take to help others. In the last 8 years, I have trained over 100 students to become new fitness professionals so that when they leave Wake, they can go out and make a difference in the world. It’s like dropping a stone in a pond and creating a ripple that extends beyond you–creating something bigger than yourself. THIS—> Passion + Expertise + Time = Huge impact :)

8] Having a “real job” can hold you back from doing more. I was lucky enough to have a job where I was able to spread my wings and do other things simultaneously, like JillFit (blogging at 5am, anyone?), but oftentimes people stay in jobs because of the security of them. Which of course is necessary, especially in today’s economy. BUT, what if you stay tool long and don’t ever do that one thing that you want to? It’s a scary scenario to behold. For some, safety wins out over personal fulfillment. I think it’s important to ask yourself the questions: Is what I am doing holding me back from doing what I truly want? If I was not doing this, would I be free to pursue my dreams? Is there something that I need to do to feel fulfilled that I am not currently doing? Brendon Burchard, author of ‘Charged’ calls this “the comfortable life” where you are doing well, but something is missing. You are forgoing your calling for comfort. Always a good reminder, and sometimes you just need a little nudge. It can be scary, but it can also be the most important choice you make for your personal happiness.

I am grateful for my time at Wake. I truly feel as though I grew up there, both personally and professionally and for all of those I have worked with other the years, I am grateful for you. It’s an incredible feeling–moving on to the next chapter, but also knowing I have made a difference. Thank you for reading, I would love to hear your own experiences if you have them! Leave a comment below! :) ox Jill

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