Five coaching lessons from my first Chinese foot massage

October 18, 2016 / General
Five coaching lessons from my first Chinese foot massage

I went for a foot massage last night. Well, it started as a foot massage. Then it turned into a full body rub down. Oh, and they even gave me a deep ear cleaning, too.

Yup. It’s true.

I indulged in a cultural experience that most “Western” travelers would question, debate, or even raise their eyes at.

Guess what? It was absolutely incredible.

After 28 hours of flying, three days of presentations, and a 12-hour time zone difference that could cripple the novice traveler (although THIS works well)—I learned a man really hasn’t experienced life, until he gets a Chinese foot massage.

Trust me. Give it a shot

This whole experience was made possible through the incredible opportunity to present at the China International Health and Fitness Conference this past week.

stageI shared the stage with incredible coaches and friends, like Brett Bartholomew and Ron McKeefery.

I caught up with my incredible alumni network of Springfield College and even shared chopsticks and Tsingtao beer with powerful researchers, former Olympic gold medalists, and organizational directors in the field of strength and conditioning.

Not to mention, representing two organizations that have played a deep part in my growth and development as a coach—RYPT and Precision Nutrition.

And as a coach, you know our minds are always in ludicrous speed.

What can we do better? What can we fix? How can we get the best results for our athletes and students?

So, after driving back in a Chinese Uber with my gracious host “Jerry”, I reflected on what this experience reminded me about the parallels of coaching and living.

1)   Raise up your SAY/DO level

I have to credit this to my personal nutrition coach, Dominic Matteo. A few weeks ago, Coach Dom challenged me to match my actions with my words—a little bit better, a little bit more often. In the scope of management, leadership, or even behavior change, often, we SAY things without following through on them. Our requests and promises fall on deaf ears to those who’ve “heard it before.”

In its simplest terms, the more you say something, the more you should be doing something.

So, as I sat there soaking my feet, drinking hot tea, and watching news anchors report of the struggles between Russia and the United States, I couldn’t help but notice that my “therapist” would constantly show me the time left on our treatment session.

She would show me the oven timer of a 90-minute countdown any time she would stop working on my body, walk out of the room, or swap positions.

She LITERALLY worked on my body for 90 minutes. (The session took about 2 hours.)

So, it reminded me…

How often do we say X, but do Y?

Or fail to deliver on an investment or opportunity because of something “outside our control”?

Do we walk our talk or simply make excuses for why things didn’t go as planned?

Don’t make false promises.

Don’t cheat yourself.

Don’t say one thing and do another.

2)   Client-centeredness puts the capital C in Coaching

Throughout my massage, I was constantly asked how I was feeling (albeit, through my translator).

IMG_4455Perhaps, it was the coughing fits and tears from a metal Q-tip grinding along my ear-drum.

Maybe, it was the position of my body in the recliner.

Or the wrinkled brow and head tilt when I didn’t understand what was going on.

Whatever it was, my “coach” was actively listening to me.

She didn’t go through her normal routine and carry on like every other client.

She didn’t do things without asking for approval or giving me a heads-up.

She stayed present, mindful, and client-centered. While she had a plan, she made sure I was ready to go along with it.

But how often do we NOT do that with our athletes or students?

You know…

Give a diet plan, write a workout program, and offer our advice without asking if our clients would like to hear it?

Probably a little too much…

Client-centered coaching puts the client, not the coach, in the driver’s seat.

It reinforces that this is THEIR journey. We’re simply riding shotgun, giving a little nudge and navigation when they veer off-course.

3)   The devil (and angel) is in the details

Have you ever watched a real technician at work?

Like Will Smith before an autopsy or Dexter Morgan before a kill?

They don’t concern themselves with the outcome until they methodically prepare and perform each step with precision and purpose.

Every tool. Every motion. Every client.

During my massage, I sat in complete awe and witnessed extraordinary detail with the working of the human body.

The way she applied pressure.

Adjusted her body angle.

bigstock-Coaching-31496405Manipulated each and every little joint from my ankle to my pinky toe.

She was 100% focused on the process with ZERO concern for the outcome. 

Yet, many of us coaches and trainers still worry about the end of the road, rather than the road itself.

John Wooden, arguably one of the most successful coaches of all time, would take time out of his practice plan to ensure his players’ socks were folded PERFECTLY to avoid blisters.

He knew that attention to detail and emphasis on each step would contribute (or take away) from achieving success.

When you focus on the processes, the outcomes take care of themselves.

4)   A better future is created by reviewing your past

How often do you rush to finish coaching a group or reading a book, only to move on to the next one, with no sense of retention of relationships and information.

Or push through a training session, simply because that’s what the script calls for that day?

Often, we fail to give ourselves any opportunity to take in what is happening around us.

Blame it on your Type A personality.

Or lack of time.


But, imagine if you actually took the time to breathe, think, and reflect on what’s happening around you.

Maybe perform an end of the year review?

Or put together your notes from that latest Kindle binge?

What if you made time to make things stick?

Spending time sitting in that massage chair allowed me to take an inventory of what was happening to my body.

I felt pain, struggle, stretch, tenderness, tightness, and growth.

I was reminded that, regardless of how fast I was going, I needed to slow down and change speeds, once in a while.

Because, as much as we want to think we’re always Superman, we still have to work at the Daily Planet. 

5)   Self-care sets up sustainable success

In the past 3 weeks, I’ve had to “stretch” myself to accommodate a lot of projects and deadlines.

I wrote an entire chapter for a new youth training book, put together five presentations for two global and national conferences, on-boarded a new coaching staff, hosted a weekend speed and power summit, orientated nearly 200 students to a new coaching program, and recorded 11 presentations for an upcoming female training project.

I also watched my son score his first soccer goal, helped out at a few of my daughter’s gymnastics classes, and even start watching Game of Thrones (I know…wicked late to this party).

But I also MADE TIME to get a float tank treatment, two massages, and a sweet manicure and pedicure for the first time since my honeymoon (thanks PN!)

So, what’s the point?

We spend so much time worrying about recharging our iPhone batteries that we forget to recharge the one battery that needs it the most—our own.

Trust me. I’m the stereotypical “I don’t have time” father, husband, business partner, and coach to the T. I never have time!

But guess what? We do have time.

We just choose to do something else (and sometimes, that’s OK).

We can talk about the never-ending quest for life-work balance, but it doesn’t exist.

The only thing that exists is the choices and consequences of our actions (and inactions).

adam-jerrySo, whether you slow down, speed up, or simply hit cruise control, remember this: innovation is driven by your intent to inspire.

Learn from everywhere and everyone around you.

Practice saying NO (and yes).

And get yourself a foot massage, once in a while.

You deserve it.

(And if you know a coach, who could benefit from a foot massage, please consider liking and sharing this article with them.)

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