I have just finished watching the final episode in the third series of Homeland, starring Damian Lewis. Notwithstanding the fact I am six years behind the global viewing population (the show launched in 2011), I have been mesmerised by a master of his art. A genius in his field and undoubtedly an acting ‘hero’, this man is a leader – standing head and shoulders above the majority of his peers.
Reflecting on this kind of inspiring performance in a different industry, I wanted to know more about Lewis and consider what lessons could be learned in the context of fitness and healthcare. It may seem like a big leap from acting to fitness, but is it? I looked into what made Lewis so good and I found key themes from which we could learn.
How do you create heroes?
When you research into Lewis’ journey , you uncover commitment, hard work and self-improvement. Yes, there was privilege in his schooling, but his foundations reveal hard graft and resilience. In 1987, aged 16, he made the decision to become an actor, set up his own theatre company and then subsequently studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, graduating in 1993. Following time as a budding stage actor at the Royal Shakespeare Company, he progressed steadily until noticed by Stephen Spielberg who offered his first ‘big’ role in Band of Brothers (2001). It would still be 10 years before the blockbusting Homeland was unveiled.
Where is the relevance to the fitness and healthcare world you might ask? Well, the first thing that hit me squarely between the eyes was that Lewis started his journey at an institution which promised no shortcuts, no quick fix and no ‘become an actor, just add water’ mentality.
In turn, he didn’t expect to grab a certificate and get out there as quickly as possible. He knew he had to learn from the most experienced, caring but devilishly hardworking teachers, including seasoned professional such as Colin McCormack. He had to devote time to honing the skills which would make him great and feverishly planned how he would bring them to the stage.
Do we have this excellence mentality in fitness and healthcare?
How do we bring this mentality to the fitness industry – make it the standard?
In our industry, the shortest course on the market requires just one day of attendance to qualify as a Personal Trainer. Many others, whilst offering more, are completed in six weeks. Yes, six weeks.
Level 3 Personal Trainer is just like the driving test, right?
I know from experience as an educator that this is far from enough. We are failing to mentor and develop our aspiring professionals, frequently proffering the lame excuse that the qualification is just like the driving test and that actually, all the valid learning takes place ‘on the job’.
Well, here’s my response, using the driving analogy: our dereliction of educational duty leads to many car crashes for new entrants to the industry. Insufficient preparation in technical and business skills precipitates frequent road traffic accidents of the Personal Training kind. And this leads to them exiting the industry very quickly. Epic fail on the part of the industry.
Perhaps we might think instead of developing minimum one year programmes with substantial work on setting up in the business of Personal Training. Substantial practical experience requiring you to perform ‘in the arena’ working with real clients even before you set foot into the harsh environment of the industry.
Learners need time to lay the foundations of excellence - to become a hero
How about we give people time to learn, assimilate and reproduce the requisite skills rather than rushing them through? Handing them a manual doesn’t mean they take it all on board, transform it into a commercial product and thrive in their new business. So let’s stop taking comfort in this assumption.
How about we invest more face to face time with people – teaching them the hands on skills which can only be conferred when you are in the same room?
Let’s get people playing the long game here. Help people progressively develop the skills which will make them sustainable and successful fitness professionals.
To create heroes, we need to invest in learners. There are no short cuts
Damian Lewis started at 16 and is now at age 46 – arguably one of the top 10 actors in the world. That’s 30 years of absolute focus, continuous learning, graft and dedication to excellence in order to reach the pinnacle of his industry.
At HPT5, we are well on the way to creating a world class culture that shuns short cuts and invests a lot of time and effort into mentoring and developing the aspiring Lewis’ of the Personal Training world. We’re confident this is the right way to nurture people’s capabilities and whilst it will be harder and take longer, the rewards will be tenfold. For everyone involved.
I get it that not everyone wants to be a Damian Lewis of the fitness world, but let’s give those who do, the opportunity to excel and maybe, just maybe, we will see a few more heroes who graft their way to the top and inspire us with their superlative performances and a few less road crashes where industry entrants have been set up to fail.