I’ll admit it: I’ve become a walking talking billboard for the Fitness and Sports Network FMI (Fitness Model International) conference that takes place twice a year. Don’t let the name of the business fool you; the conference is not for folks looking to get glammed up in front of a camera and take pretty pictures and show off to their friends. The FMI is intended for aspiring fitness professionals looking to run a successful fitness business. That was (and still is) me, spot on.

Though I’ve only attended two thus far (the next one will be in Vegas in April 2013, folks!), I’ve seen significant improvement in the quality of content offered and knowledge gems handed to the individuals who have trekked from all over the nation to connect with the industry’s top fitness business know-hows. This year, I was much more meticulous about jotting down notes and highlighting memorable passages from keynote speakers. Below I share with you the top 5 most valuable lessons I learned at the FMI.

1. You’ll find support if you only know the right places to look.

Quitting the premed route halfway through my junior year of college was probably one of the more difficult decisions I’ve made in my life. I’d been downright unhappy and questioning my true calling with every organic chemistry class that I took, and there’d been an incredible amount of pressure from my family to pursue the path to become a prestigious physician (Wait, what? Asian parents want their  daughter to become a doctor? I’ve never heard of such a thing!). That’s what I’d been told I’d be good at my entire life, and given that I loved science and fitness, sports medicine seemed to be the perfect intersection for me. Coming to grips with the fact that my heart wasn’t set on medicine was hard, but admitting defeat and following my true calling was even harder. I was harassed with questions - What are you going to do with a career in fitness? - and was faced with skepticism and doubtful looks everywhere I turned. I’d never felt more alone in my life.

Coming to the FMI for the first time in October of 2011 saved me and renewed my drive to hustle. To be surrounded by individuals with just as much hunger as myself for something more in fitness was something I’d never experienced before, and I can’t tell you how refreshing that was. The amount of support that I felt sitting in a hotel conference room scribbling down notes, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with other aspiring fitness entrepreneurs, was overwhelming. Here was a place, finally, that I could feel that I was not an outcast - not even remotely. That was when I realized that I had the support system of the entire FMI family. I’d struck gold.

2. Never underestimate the power of authenticity and making connections.

In my writing, on Twitter, in whatever I do - I do my best to just be myself. Or at least the best version of myself. I want my readers to be drawn to me because of who I am, not who I pretend to be. I have a tendency to ramble and I am a huge fan of the semicolon. I like to tell personal stories and mention my love of Diet Mt. Dew whenever I get the chance. I get frustrated easily and sometimes I snap. I don’t workout everyday, nor do I try to. That’s me. That’s who I am. And for all of you who have stuck around through all of my quirks, I know you’re here because you like me for me. There is power in a connection like this, and I promise you it will persist as long as I’m around ;)

By the same token, don’t be shy to reach out to another individual and form a new connection. Tell someone how much you admire his or her work and that you’d love some advice on something you’ve been struggling with. Ask to meet for coffee to chat about some business ideas you had in mind. Extend an invitation to collaborate on a project that you believe would be mutually beneficial for both parties. Or you know what? Just say hey, I just want to let you know that you’ve been a huge inspiration to me in my career, so thank you. That right there is genuine, and such a gesture will not go unnoticed.

3. “I don’t have time” is never an excuse.

Sorry, but it’s not. I know people who work full-time, 60+ hours jobs and still manage to block out at least a couple of hours a week to devote to whatever their passions are. Flexing your guns for 45 minutes a day, banging out 1,000 words every night after you come home from work because you want to be a writer, dedicating Sunday afternoons to food prep - where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Take a good look at the minute-by-minute play of your daily life and be honest with yourself. How much of that time are you spending being simply busy versus actually being productive? It’s shocking how many hours can slip away wasted by doing things that don’t actually get you anywhere. In all likelihood, you do have time; you’re just not using it correctly. Decide what your top two or three priorities are in your life and filter out everything else. All of a sudden you’ll find that entire afternoons open up, and there will be a lot less standing in the way of you and your goals.

4. Ready, fire, aim, aim, aim....

I am guilty of not doing this enough. In other words, everything doesn’t have to be 100% the way you want it before you move forward. A lot of times, done is better than perfect, and that’s something I’ve had to learn the hard way. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m about as type -A as they come; I’m particularly neurotic about organization and little nitty gritty details. If left unchecked, I can spend way too many hours on a project that should have been completed and turned in a millenium ago. But working on a product that’s never actually finished becomes an exercise in futility, as nobody gets to enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Sometimes, in order to make progress, you have to be willing to accept that good enough is good enough for the time being. Make the first move before you re-assess and make improvements. Then re-assess again, and continue to tweak and tweak as you go. Release an e-book, then release version 2.0, then 3.0, and so on and so forth.

(Thanks, Jill, for this one!)

5. Commitment is distinct from motivation.

I never realized this until Clark Bartram spoke about this. You can have all the motivation in the world but it’ll mean squat until you actually do something with it - and do it consistently. That last part there is the difference and is what separates the passive watchers from the go-getters. If there’s enough will and want in you, then find the do and execute the right behavior day in and day out. How many people are motivated to start up a blog and become a fitness writer? Of those, what small fraction actually stay consistent with it and make concerted efforts to get better and more widely known? Think about it.

What’s a car on a full tank of gas going to do for you if it’s just sitting there? Get in the passenger seat, buckle your seatbelt, and put your foot down on that damn accelerator!

Danielle Pascente, FMI alumna and rising fitness model star. 
Danielle Pascente, FMI alumna and rising fitness model star.

If this hasn’t convinced you yet that you need to register for the FMI Spring 2013 (April 12-14 in Vegas), then I don’t know what will. I know some of you reading my words are in a place in your lives where you’re perhaps stuck in an unsatisfying career and you’re spending all your free time consumed in fitness. Maybe you’re dreaming of someday launching your own fitness brand - whether it be recipes, workouts, or videos - but as far as you know, it will only stay an unmaterialized dream. But I’m here to tell you that there is a way to do what you love in fitness and be successful in your endeavors, and the tools and resources are right here.

What are you waiting for?