We live in a world of ‘quick-starts’, ‘how-to-guides’, ‘career hacks’. This article is none of those. It’s a different kind of success story. And a powerful lesson on how to get ahead in health, fitness, and wellness, or any other field.
Tips, tricks, and quick formulas.
I’m often asked to share these as advice; the requests come when I’m being interviewed on podcasts, speaking at conferences, talking to journalists.
People who want to get ahead in health and fitness—or just about any other field—want to know:
How did you go from starting a health and fitness website with your buddy…
… to running a 200-million dollar company with about 100 team members and over 100,000 clients across 120 countries.
… to advising companies like Apple, Equinox, Nike, and Titleist.
… to being selected as one of the smartest/most influential people in the field?
And they really want to know:
What tip, method, shortcut do you recommend to help others do the same?
As you can probably tell, I’m not a big fan of these kinds of questions.
Can’t blame people for asking, though.
After all, I also want to learn from the people who’ve gone before me, the people who’ve succeeded in the way I hope to succeed.
But here’s the problem:
I could rhyme off a bunch of tips about my morning routine that allow me to run a business while being a father of four. But I don’t think they’ll matter much unless you’re also a father of four and already running a successful business.
Likewise, I don’t believe it was magical morning routines, or growth hacks, or tricks and tips that put me on the road to success in the first place.
In fact, I think it was something completely different.
Something that isn’t often talked about.
I call it “going down the rabbit hole”.
I remember it like it was yesterday.
It was a fresh Autumn day.
I was 21 years old, it was my first semester away at University, and I had an appointment with my first-ever guidance counselor.
I was ambitious, I had big goals, and I was excited to get some advice on how to plan my future.
I assumed the meeting would go something like this: He’d listen to me talk about my passions, about my goals, and he’d help me create an academic plan. Maybe even make suggestions for volunteer or internship opportunities.
As I gushed about my love for all things exercise and nutrition, about how it was my goal to have a successful career working with pro sports teams, athletes, and exercisers looking to eat, move, and live better©, his face was stolid.
I was completely unprepared for what he said next:
“That’s nice… but there’s not much of a career in that for you. We have to be realistic here. There are too few jobs and the chances you’ll get one of them is almost zero. You’re a smart guy. Why don’t we sign you up for Pre-Med? Med school will be a great path for you.”
I walked out, head down, backpack dragging the ground behind me.
Days went by and, yes, the fog eventually lifted.
I figured… maybe he was wrong. Maybe I needed a second opinion. So, over the next few weeks, I asked around. Looking for a glimmer of hope.
Almost everyone gave the same advice.
Be sensible. Become a doctor. Forget this weird exercise obsession.
I was a 21-year-old from a blue-collar immigrant family. Who was I to not take advice from all these educated people? So I did the responsible, sensible thing. I signed up for Pre-Med, and I plotted my course to medical school.
At the same time, a part of me was mad. Really mad.
Who were they to tell me what my potential was? To squash my dream?
So, partly out of spite, but mostly out of this magnetic draw I felt towards health and fitness, sport and performance, I began living a double life.
I scraped together every dollar I had. During evenings and weekends I attended seminars covering fitness, nutrition, and sport related topics. I read everything. I wrote articles for free; I volunteered with gyms and sports teams.
Throughout, I still fully expected to attend med school.
But, eventually, some strange and interesting paths opened up.
I found a peer group that was passionate about the things I was interested in. (Surprise: I didn’t find them in my 4th year Chemistry and Physics classes.) And I stumbled upon formal and informal mentors.
Almost magically, more opportunities appeared, including offers to attend grad school in Exercise Science and Nutritional Biochemistry. Invitations to coach high-level athletes. Contracts to write for influential publications.
Still, after graduating with my Pre-Med degree (and minors in Philosophy and Psychology), it was no small feat to turn down the Med School offers. The voices were still in my head. But I did.
And instead of going to Med School…
…I fell down the health, fitness, and nutrition rabbit hole.
Here’s what I’ve come to realize:
Before Doctor Berardi, before Precision Nutrition, before I could have ever seen where it all would take me, I did something that many people felt unwise: I followed my passion.
Not because it was part of some master plan. But because everything I learned about health, fitness and nutrition made me want to learn more.
So, although I didn’t quit my day job, I didn’t quit dreaming either.
Instead of fighting my own intrinsic motivation, I went with it.
Instead of paddling upstream, I went with the current.
I rode the horses in the direction they were going.
I went down the rabbit hole.
And here I am today.
The hidden costs of having “A Master Plan”.
When it comes to our careers, our relationships, even our health and fitness, we’re often taught to plot very strategically.
Whether it’s from guidance counselors, business advisors, teachers, courses, e-books, blogs, podcasts, well-intentioned parents, or (seemingly) the whole Internet, we’re taught that we need to plan our path down to every step.
(“Life hackers” and proponents of “accelerated learning” teach us that we can even leapfrog a few of these steps. Bonus!)
So, that’s what we do.
We make checklists, knock off each item, rush to completion, and pray that our calculated maneuvering will lead to success or accomplishment or connection (or whatever we think we’ll need to feel happy).
Unfortunately, this particular approach may have a cost.
It might prevent us from experiencing some of the best, brightest, and most unexpectedly rewarding moments in life.
Even worse, it might prevent us from deep learning and mastery, which has been proven to give us satisfaction, meaning, and, if you’re a competitive person, a “leg up on the competition”.
Here’s an approach I like much better.
I’ve found that there’s tremendous joy—and surprising, unexpected rewards—that come from “going down the rabbit hole”.
From looking deeply, intensely at something you’re really passionate about.
From learning everything you can about it.
And from going “all in”.
If there is a formula for the kind of success most people want, even if they don’t know what that looks like yet, it might be something like this:
Strong personal mission
System for execution
Personal and career satisfaction
Have a look around.
You’ll find there’s almost nothing more powerful than someone with a deeply held motivation to do their work plus high level of skill plus a blueprint or system for executing every day.
Most people (in any field) have only one or two of those.
In some cases, that might be enough.
However, if you have all three, you’ll be amazed at what happens.
It doesn’t even matter where you’re starting from, or in what career you begin.
It’s interesting to note that most of the people on the Precision Nutrition team started in totally different fields:
- Precision Nutrition co-founder Phil Caravaggio:
Started as a software engineer.
- Curriculum developer Krista Scott-Dixon:
Started as a college professor in a different field.
- Coach and exercise director Craig Weller:
Started in the Navy special operations forces.
- Coach and client care specialist Krista Schaus:
Started as a police officer.
- Coach Brian St. Pierre:
Started at his dad’s paint store.
- Client care specialist Sarah Masi:
Started in a house cleaning business.
Then there are the thousands of Precision Nutrition Certification graduates.
In the last 6 months I’ve met:
- mothers coaching online while on maternity leave,
- graduates fresh out of school ready to do something meaningful,
- boomers coming out of retirement to give something back,
- surgeons dropping their scalpels and turning to preventative care,
- investment bankers leaving the financial world, and helping others lead healthier lives.
None of these folks would have guessed their future would include working in health and fitness, coaching clients, and changing lives.
But here they are today.
And let’s not forget the reason they’re here…
Each did something that most people don’t.
They went “all in” on learning about their passion.
Even before they quit their day jobs.
Even before deciding:
“Yes, this is going to be my next career!”
They learned everything there is to know for the sheer joy of it. They talked to the best experts. They did courses and certifications.
They went down the rabbit hole.
And they had a blast doing it.
Then came the unintended, unexpected rewards.
The inevitable paths and opportunities that seem to magically appear; the stuff you can’t possibly know about when you’re just starting out.
- The satisfaction of learning everything there is to know about something meaningful to you.
- The deep personal pride that comes from putting in countless hours and finally mastering that thing.
- The surprising career paths that spring up, almost magically, opportunities you never knew existed or never considered right for you, and
- The unexpected joy you never thought you could get from work.
However, that’s all stuff for later.
For now, you just have to start, from wherever you are.
Take whatever your passion is, whatever you’re excited about, whatever you’re hesitating on, whatever your inner voice tells you to explore and…
…go explore THAT thing.
Go down the rabbit hole.
You won’t be worse off.
Chances are, it’ll change your life.
What to do next:
Some tips from Precision Nutrition
1. ‘Fess up to yourself.
You probably already know what that ‘thing’ is; the one that lights you up and makes you tick.
It’s the thing you can’t stop reading about and researching, just for fun, even when it’s late at night and you know it’s really time to go to bed.
It’s the thing you can’t stop talking about… maybe the thing you’re driving your family members nuts about because you just can’t shut up about it.
It’s the thing you’re totally hooked on. You can’t get enough. You might even say you’re a little bit obsessed.
That thing? Embrace it.
You don’t necessarily have to plan a career change or do anything drastic. Just give yourself permission to ‘go down the rabbit hole’ of learning, exploration and experimentation.
2. Look for role models.
Who’s already doing what you would like to be doing? Who is inspiring or fascinating to you?
Watch for the people who are involved in the field or a subject that interests you.
Is there a way to learn from them, watch them, talk with them, or ask questions?
Don’t just expect them to give you the magic formula. But take advantage of every opportunity to observe and learn.
And don’t discount people who aren’t on Instagram or getting all the attention, either. Ask yourself: Who else is working in this industry? Who else can I learn from?
Cast a wide net. Aim to observe and learn all you can.
3. Put your hand up.
Look for opportunities to ask questions, get feedback, and learn all you can.
Attend a lecture and participate in the Q&A.
Write letters to your role models.
Do stuff: Write articles, join projects, conduct experiments. Do it for free, in your spare time. Do it in the name of learning, and for the joy of it.
Don’t worry too much about the payoff now. Just plant the seeds.
4. Continue your education.
Education doesn’t just have to come from traditional schooling (not that there’s anything wrong with that). These days, plenty of options are available, for just about any industry.
If you ask me, there’s never been a better time to learn anything. Courses, books, certifications, master classes… the world is your educational oyster.
The trick: choose educational opportunities from places that are proven, who you trust and respect. Take your time and do your research.
And then, after you’ve signed up, make sure to show up.
And go all in.
If you’re a coach, or you want to be…
Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.
If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.
Forget “career hacks”… Here’s the real key to career success that almost no one is talking about. is written by John Berardi, PhD, CSCS for www.precisionnutrition.com