The interview below was featured on the website Exercise Jobs. By Sarah Koszyk
What attracted you to the field of fitness and exercise? Fitness was something that I loved and feared as a child. Luckily my parents let me try tons of different sports and there were several that were a great fit for me: competitive swimming since 5, middle/high school soccer, college cheerleading. But there were also sports that no matter how hard I tried, I sucked at them! Altogether everyone – BASKETBALL! Ugh! I was horrible… I am mildly less horrible now. And of course I hit puberty early and was the tall guy for a year or so, and naturally that would mean that Billy liked hoops, right? Just to clarify to all parents out there, NO it really doesn’t. Annual basketball tryouts became a HUGE dread for me. I can still remember the stomach cramps I had doing ball control drills through folding chairs in the old elementary school gym in front of all the rec league coaches.
I am totally serious when I say that I was horrible! Anyway, other than basketball, athletics were usually very fun for me and I continued to consistently try new sports throughout college and after graduation. Receiving a BS in Statistics, trust me that a career in sports was the last option in my head. There really were not personal trainers at that time and I could not imagine a life in polyester shorts as a PE coach. So I did the sensible thing and started computer programming for work and luckily my job moved me to the most amazing athletic and outdoor city of San Francisco! I was living an incredibly healthy and active life but then sitting behind a computer and desk all day… for 7 years…I was bored out of my mind with the work and knew I needed more out of life! So I took a self assessment course and the results over-whelmingly said, ‘You love fitness and health, you are good at it, DO WHAT YOU
LOVE and the money will come.’ So I started studying and received my personal training certification. I soon began training and it has been the most incredible decision of my life. I get to work with people really wanting to make changes in their lives and walk with them down these amazing paths on rewarding journeys and I feel so fortunate to do what I love and teach people every day! I also get to help tons of people with fears and insecurities around exercise and fitness. Just like the basketball phobias I had as a kid, there are so many people with fears of being the last one picked, shirts and skins, climbing that damn rope in PE class, getting low scores on that horribly designed Presidential Fitness Test! These are the folks I love to work with and watch them discover the athlete they have had inside this whole time!
What is your job title and what company you are with now?
What’s a typical (or not so typical) day-in-the-work-life for you? Mike and I get up every morning at 5:40 am and have a full meal for breakfast (lately we have been having a slice of meat loaf, arugula (grown in our garden) salad with avocado and brown rice for breakfast) before seeing our first client at 7a. I usually work with 4 clients for an hour each before lunch time. Midday I usually have a 3 hour break where I eat lunch (my latest favorite lunch is a grapefruit, spinach and avocado salad with grilled fresh salmon from The Plant Cafe in downtown SF – check it out!) and then workout. Currently my workouts have been what I call a ‘functional beach’ workout- a perfect mix of some functional movements for summer sports (swimming, kite surfing, biking) and some body building to look good on the beach. Then each afternoon is a little different for me. 2 days a week I have 4 more hours of clients in the afternoon. 2 days a week I have a study session with another trainer for practicing neuro-muscular manual therapy and then write for the DIAKADI blog. And then this summer I have started spending one afternoon a week learning to kitesurf. For me it is all about balance. I love doing LOTS of things, so I am careful to make time for these things in my life. Mike and I come home, water our garden and have a healthy dinner (luckily we have an amazing organic chef service for clients at DIAKADI, so we get to take advantage of that for our dinners in the evenings). And then after dinner we may watch a little TV or take a walk around the neighborhood. And around 9p we get in bed and read before lights out around 940p. Currently Mike is reading a book about the San Francisco 1904 Earthquake and I am finishing Tina Fey’s auto-biography and started an amazing book called ‘Learning to Breath’ by Alison Wright.
How did you get your current job in fitness and exercise? In 2003, Mike and I were both personal trainers in a small basement training facility for independent trainers in SF. The gym was great for beginners but there was definitely a ceiling on how far you could advance your business as well as your clients there. (Literally and figuratively.) The ceiling was so low in the basement gym that clients could not even jump rope!) So I spent 2003 writing the business plan for DIAKADI, looking for a space, and gathering my resources so that in April of 2004 we opened DIAKADI. People always ask me what was the toughest part of opening a business and I always say right off, ‘finding the right space’. We bid on several spaces before finally getting the amazing space we are in now. And the bidding game was incredibly stressful, filled with the highs of getting excited about a space and the lows of getting shot down by the landlord before having to go out again and find a new space to get excited about. Every time I would get turned down on a space I would go and get a chocolate milk shake and cry to let it all out. (Yes! Trainers can drink a milk shake every now and then when it is vital to our survival and coping!) And then the next day I would be out searching for the next perfect space again. But it was all meant to be, 2 of the spaces we bid on would have been horrible mistakes and the business could have really suffered. And the space we have now is simply incredible. It is a 9000 square foot, open loft style space with floor to ceiling warehouse windows and an incredible feel and flow to it. It is inspirational home to both our trainers and clients.
What skills were you born with and what skills have you learned along the way? Man, who can say where we gain our skills? I would say the most valuable skills I learned as a child were to be confident in exactly who I am and to have compassion, humility and understanding for the people around me. I was lucky to have parents who taught me these ideas as well as gaining some incredible insight into the world as a camper and a camp counselor for an amazing youth summer camp called Camp Kanata in NC. These basic ideas are create a strong foundation for any direction you head in life. In athletics, your confidence will give you the strength to try different activities, discovering which fit you best. In business, humility and compassion will make you a caring, connected leader, while confidence will give you the drive to surpass limits and excel!
What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you? There are several mantras that I live by and I feel like each of them has helped lead me to where I am today: – ‘Do It All and Do It Hard’ – This is actually the start of where the name DIAKADI came from. (DIAKADI is an acronym for ‘Do It All and Kick Ass Doing It’.) For me, I am a 7 on the Enneagram chart. For those of you who have no idea what that means, a Enneagram 7 is someone who wants to experience everything this life has to offer. I mean heck, WHY NOT? I had to know what it felt like to jump out of a plane, so I jumped out of one! I needed to know what my mental and emotional experience would be if I spent 4 days in silent meditation so I went to Spirit Rock in Marin and discovered a completely new level to the power of quiet. And I had to know what I looked like with a mohawk. So the day before Thanksgiving in 2001, when I was meeting Mike’s parents and extended family for the first time, oh yes, I got a mohawk. (I told them it was in honor of my Dad’s Cherokee tribe and that each year my Dad and I would give one another mohawks before we sat down to our Thanksgiving meal.) So if there are curious thoughts in your head about a new career, a new sport, a new relationship, or even a new haircut – then take the plunge and feel the experience. The day we stop trying new things is the day we give up and throw in the towel. – ‘Never make any decision based on fear.’ – This one actually ties a lot into the idea above. Do not let fear run your life, let confidence run it. I was scared as heck to walk away from a safe (read ‘boring as he’ll) career of computer programming and begin working for myself as a personal trainer, but I did my research and planning and figured out a way to be smart about the change and it was a decision that improved my life in every way. (And funny enough the ‘safe’ company I was doing computer programming for crashed a few years later due to unfair customer market practices. Things that make you go hmmm.) The one thing I see people most frequently do in fear is staying in relationships that you are unhappy in and scared to leave. We all deserve to be happy, loved, respected and safe. And none of us needs a relationship to find these things. Find all of these things within yourself and your relationships will come.
If you could be paid for your job with something other than a paycheck, what would it be? Time off and travel expenses! I am a Type 7, a ‘Do It All, Kick Ass Doing It’ guy, and that includes seeing as much of the world as possible, experiencing different cultures, being the minority whenever possible, doing crazy outrageous things just so you have the story to tell and laugh about later! Things to do and people to see! All tickets on Virgin Airlines please!