I have been in the fitness industry for over 10 years. I started working at 24hour Fitness when I was 18 years old, first at the front desk then I was able to earn my position as a class instructor and eventually became a personal trainer. I didn’t start my fitness business through Instagram; I worked very hard training clients in person for 5 years before social media took over the fitness industry and everyone became some form of online coach or trainer.
Ten years later, I am now a gym owner. I made what most people would consider to be a large sum of money in a short amount of time at young age from selling my fitness/nutrition e-books and from my lifestyle brand, Doughnuts & Deadlifts. Two years ago, I had over a quarter million dollars in my savings account after many years of hard work. I chose to use that money to open Black Iron Gym and employ a group of people who I believe in and who believe in me.
If I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t have a lot to show for a decade of hard work when I compare myself to most of the other big names in the fitness industry. I don’t live in a mansion, fuck, I don’t even own a home yet. I don’t have a garage full of luxury vehicles. I don’t own a nice watch, or any nice jewelry for that matter. I don’t have veneers on my teeth, I don’t get eyelash extensions, and I have no idea how to do my makeup with very little I have. My Instagram does not showcase the things I have bought, rather it’s purpose is to motivate people to get physically fit, stay mentally healthy, challenge themselves, travel, and get the absolute most out of life.
I walk into Black Iron Gym everyday and see my members smiling, laughing, and working hard. In my opinion, that is something far more valuable than any material possession one could purchase. The feeling I get walking into my gym is far more meaningful than the feeling one must get when they walk into a garage filled with a half million dollars worth of foreign sports cars.
For the sake of transparency, I do live very comfortably. The house I rent is roomy and nice, in a modest, gated neighborhood. Two years ago, I bought a bottom of the line Range Rover that I saved for for years. I get to walk into my closet everyday and I have a selection of Lululemon and Nike to choose from. I am not writing this to convince anyone that I don’t like nice things, because that is not always the case. The point is that when I came into a decent amount of money when my online presence in the industry took off, I had a choice. Would I spend it on things or would I spend on a concept greater than myself that would help others? I chose that latter while still treating myself to nice things once I feel like I have earned them and can safely afford them.
Frivolous spending for the sake of instant gratification has not once brought me happiness that lasted longer than a few days. Take it from me, money will never buy happiness. Prior to opening the gym, I had a $6500/month penthouse apartment in Manhattan, on the weekends I would treat my team to $750 dinners, and I had more clothes and shoes than I could possibly wear. I was still miserable and I lacked purpose. I was just a moderately attractive girl with a large social media platform who sold a shit ton of e-books and was in the early stages of selling a shit ton of t-shirts.
I constantly felt like I had something to prove and it was completely exhausting. The notion of making others aware of your success and status is an empty way to live. Your self worth should not be predicated on your social media following nor the total dollar amount of all your possessions. Furthermore, you should never seek validation from people you will never meet by boasting about your cars, shoes, and bullshit. Head pats from thousands of people on Instagram that come from showcasing your stuff will never replace real life, deep relationships that come from showcasing your soul.
Karina Baymiller recently wrote “What in the hell have we gotten ourselves into? We’re so busy proving our happiness and status via the things we can afford (to people we don’t even know nonetheless), that we’ve forgotten what we really, truly need to be happy.” This really hit home with me given the changes I have made in my life as of late and I felt compelled to write about what she said. The past two years have a been a personal journey of enlightenment and I have learned a lot about happiness. I am a rich woman when it comes to experiences and meaningful relationships.
Life experiences, without a doubt, bring more happiness than material possessions. The hard thing about this notion, is that material possessions provide a concrete, tangible representation of wealth and value where as experiences depend upon memory. You can slap a value on a Rolex, a pair of Yeezys, or a Mercedes, but memories and experiences are essentially priceless… their value is literally so precious that it can’t be determined.
One could surely argue that Black Iron Gym is a “material possession” given that it is full of nice equipment that I bought, but I did not buy it to show off. It was not purchased for a dick measuring contest. The gym was paid for to act as a lifelong, boundless experience for myself, the people whom I employ, and the countless people who will come to Black Iron to better themselves over the years. I look at it as an investment toward the legacy that I am trying to establish. I am not building an empire, empires fall. I am creating something eternal that will undoubtably last.
I have come to terms with the fact that I will never get my personal financial investment back from the opening cost of my gym and I am 100% alright with that because I am no longer compelled to posses more things. In my opinion, I have built something that will provide careers and livelihoods for myself and my team for the rest of our lives. The gym will live on after my time on earth is done. I will be remembered within the walls, not a forgotten social media “celebrity”.