The Trump Card

Alan was a fairly new client but we hit it off right away.

He was a life-long New Yorker who grew up on the Upper East Side, went to the finest private schools which led to an Ivy League education. A society kid. He was now the CEO of a Fortune 500 Company that he had built from the ground up.

Blue bloods like Alan usually fall into one of two camps. Corporate raiders who will mow down everything in their path in order to gain one more dollar or super liberals who will attend church, synagogue and a mosque on any given weekend just so they don’t offend anyone.

Alan fell into this second camp.

With over 1000 employees in his charge along with a wife, three children, sitting on a number of charity boards, Alan’s biggest struggle was not the workouts themselves, but making sure that he got down here to train and stay focused the entire time.

Most people think the role of the trainer is to analyze the squat or design the perfect exercise program or meal plan but, really, the best trainers will simply remove the biggest obstacles the clients have to success. And when that’s solved, they’ll move onto the next one until none remain.

“Dan, I got a call from my bank this week that they needed a pre-authorization on my credit card from you guys,” Alan said as he came in for a training session.

“Yeah, man. Don’t worry about it,” I off-handedly reassured him. “It’s just a new procedure we have to go through with our processor.”

Alan came the next Tuesday after missing his previous two sessions. After an hour split between deadlifts and “I-have-to-take-this” phone calls, I told Alan we needed to talk.

Now, some coaches, full of bravado, may have threatened to “fire” a client for this type of behavior. But I just don’t believe in that. Sure, if a client is being inappropriate with you or stiffs you for sessions or whatever, maybe it’s time to part ways. But I’ve never been one to turn someone away because they are struggling with one of the main things (accountability) that they came to me for in the first place.

“I know that you have a lot going on,” I told him. “But I know that you value your training and your health and that getting this in is really important to you. But, obviously, we haven’t found the right motivation.”


Alan looked half embarrassed and half confused.

“You know that bank pre-authorization you approved last week?”

“Yes,” the word slowly escaping Alan’s mouth.

“That has nothing to do with your gym dues. That 5 grand is earmarked for a donation to the Trump presidential campaign. And if you don’t make your sessions regularly, I’m pushing the button and sending the money.”

Part of me expected to get punched in the face. Most of me expected at least some yelling. But Alan took a beat, looking me right in the eye, grabbed his towel and wordlessly headed to the shower.

For the next few weeks, Alan made his sessions without fail. He still looked at his phone but it was pretty rare. I’d say we were at least 90% improved which I took as a giant win.

We never talked about the donation. And I don’t think I really would have had the stones to pull the trigger on it anyway.

The beauty of this gym is the positive motivation you pull from the coaching staff, your training partners, the program, the scoreboard on the wall, the pumping music, the shouts of encouragement. It’s all very powerful.

But, every once in a while, the only motivation that truly works is the one that comes from your sworn enemy.