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Wednesday, 24 January 2018 16:24

Jerry Girton

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I grew up poor.  Not poor like John Randle, living in a shack with a dirt floor and no hot water poor.  I experienced the kind of poor where my parents sometimes couldn’t afford to take me to the big town 15 miles south, the town where there was a mall, and the reason was because of gas money. 


I never went hungry, and I was voted best dressed in my high school class.  Now, I grew up in rural Minnesota, in a town with two dozen less than 2000 residents, in the 1980’s.  My competition for clothing was Levi jeans and a Nascar T-shirt. 

But Moms made sure I looked presentable.  And I am so grateful for that, all these years later.

I had a short attention span, and I didn’t like being told what to do.   I never liked school.  Never, not even Senior high, where I was a 7 time letter winner, homecoming king candidate and MVP golfer as a 10th grader.  Wow, what a way to boast in a backhanded way.  Ha.  My point:  I was not “college material.”

But Mother had a Bachelors degree and she was the first in her family, and god dammit I would be the second, if she had her druthers.

So, I went to University (I like to pretend I am British sometimes) and spent a lot of time drinking Old Milwaukee and trying to get laid. 

My first semester resulted in a GPA of .55.   Seriously, I was about a half a point away from failing everything. 

So, I buckled down a bit.  No, I will not pretend that because of one shitty semester, I turned my life around after wasting thousands of dollars to live in a dorm, stay up until 4am, and only eat 14 meals per week in the cafeteria while the rents paid for 21.  Breakfast? Who gets up for breakfast?

The next semester was a solid 2.0.  Right in the meaty part of the curve.  Not showing off.  Not falling behind.   Ell O Ell. 

My third semester (we were on a three terms per year system back then) was a 2.75.  Progress of a kind.

I made it through my first year with 35 credits.  And then I found out I needed 36 to be eligible for financial assistance moving forward.  Fuck.

The summer of 1992 was a summer I will never forget.  I slept on a cot, did not get laid even once, was too young to alter my state of mind at a bar, got yelled at by a supervisor at a meat packing plant, quit, went to a factory to make widgets the rest of the summer, discovered Bob Dylan, and took a class at Austin Community College taught by Jerry Girton.

Jerry was in his thirties, and was the head of the theater department at the college.  I enrolled in an 8 week course.  Tuesday and Thursday evening from 6pm to 8pm.  The class:  Interpersonal Communication.

Jerry was awesome, and as I write this, I am reminding myself to reach out to him, to find him on Facebook or Twitter, and thank him for what he did for me.

He taught me many things, but the biggest thing was that I could earn an A in college.

The next four years at University was much more productive.  I made the Dean’s list a few times, never, I mean, never missed a class and graduated with a B average. 

I still hated school.

But what I did not hate, in fact, what I started really loving was learning. 

I enjoyed knowing as much as I could about as much as I could but I needed to get it in small doses.

Since college, like millions of folks, I have been self-taught.

I learned a lot in college, and I don’t remember any of it.  I don’t use anything I learned in any of the courses.  Seriously.  I majored in Public Health.  I had a focus in worksite health promotion. 

And for the past 22 years, I have been a fitness business professional.  Sales and management of fitness centers.  Well, to be clear:  I have been full time in the fitness industry since I was 21 years old, but the past 7 years I have been a consultant.

I am very good at what I do, and I am not everybody’s cup of tea.  Well, I am pretty sure, based on client feedback, that everybody who hires me is 100% satisfied.  But you have to understand that it is a thankless profession.  And I am not complaining.  But think about this:  Most fitness centers who hire me as a consultant to come onsite, have never hired a consultant before.  They have no comparison.

And there is this thing called hindsight bias, where you forget that there was a time when you didn’t know what you know now.

And all I really do is reinforce things that are easy to grasp, things that you mainly know you should be doing. 

But the proof is in the results. 

My clients spend a couple thousand bucks, and for that, they start selling a couple thousand more every week. 

Isiah went from 12.5% closing on PT sales to over 40% after one 30 minute telephone call. 

Matt increased revenue in his 2 gyms by 20% in 6 months, selling them for a healthy profit.

Janis expanded and tripled membership in 3 months.  “Janis, yes, fucking expand, like now!”

I earn a good living, working on my own terms, not having a boss, choosing to work with who I want.

And I grew up poor, raised by big hearted people, who never earned much money, and who never dreamed big.

I grew up as a kid who hated school, couldn’t pay attention, would have been force fed Ritalin if I were born 15 years later, and who never knew what he wanted to do, but was full of anxiety because everybody around him made him feel like he had to find a trade, a career, a job.

Jerry Girton’s class was my defining moment.  Interpersonal communication.  I learned about using verbal and non-verbal cues, had fun while doing it, learned from a super nice professor, and discovered that I could get an A in college. 

You can do whatever you want to, I believe this for the most part.  On my Facebook page, I have a picture, a meme if you will, and the caption reads:  Decide what to be and go be it.

I chose that quote, which is a line from a song by the Avett brothers, because it is simple.  But within the simplicity of deciding what to be and going and being that person, is the often complicated and challenging aspect of deciding what to be.

You don’t have to know today. 

You don’t have to know tomorrow.

And deciding what to be doesn’t have to be something in the context of a job, a career, a line of work.

Tony Robbins decided he was a communicator.  He came to this conclusion at a young age, and has parlayed that decision into 500 million dollars of net worth, but it isn’t about the money, is it? 

Hollywood is full of actors who decided at very young ages that they wanted to entertain.

And the country is full of folks who had the same plan, but never made it on the big screen.

Our past does not define us.  But I do think it is wise to, on occasion, reflect back to moments that defined you. 

I made it through college with a B average and an attention span worse than a 3 year old.

I have won my golf club championship 9 times, and I am the least talented golfer to win even one.

I have not had a boss in 7 years in a niche market that is small, crowded, with a high percentage of gym owners who would never think it necessary to hire a consultant.

I started a team building and corporate wellness company that will help so many people while earning me a lot of income, but so far, I am failing miserably.  Why? 

I need to learn how to get in front of Human Resource folks and other decision makers at companies with 150 or more employees.  I have figured out how to get the attention of gym owners.  But not corporate America.

So, I will learn how.  And I will do it in my own time frame, not by sitting in a classroom for 8 weeks trying to pay attention.

You can do whatever you want to do, and I want you do it while being happy.  Because here’s the deal:  You are here for 80 years, so if you are reading this and are 40 years old, you are 50% done. 

You are going to die.  Do something about it. 

Decisions.  They can happen in an instant.  I decided a few years ago that I am really good at asking questions.

And if you are really good at asking questions, to others, and to yourself, that is a solid skillset, and arguably, a rare one. 

So, I use it to help me in my business endeavors, and in my interpersonal relationships. 

Essentially, I have carved out a niche as a fitness business coach by teaching fitness center folks to ask: “What are your fitness goals?”  “Why are those goals important to you?”  “How are you going to reach those goals?”

I like to keep things simple.  I need to.  Most of us do.  So, if you are in a struggle, major or minor, with wondering what to do, where to turn, where to start, I have a recommendation for you.  Answer these three questions:


What are your goals? (1 year, 3 year, 5 year)

Why are those goals important to you?  (This is the most important question you need answered accurately and honestly.   Take as long as you need on this one.  If you are like me and my attention span, that means about 90 seconds.)

How are you going to reach those goals?  (It is okay to say “I don’t know.” As long as that means right now, today, as I read this question.  But then, figure out the way.  The plan.  And the best way to do that, in my opinion, is to find somebody who has reached the goals you have set for yourself and ask them how they did it.  Then model them.

If you need some coaching on your business, team building and corporate wellness, email me This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . 

If you need some coaching for your fitness business email me This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If you need to understand yourself better, and are struggling to ask yourself the right questions, I can help.  612 310 1319.  Or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Keep changing lives.   

Jason Linse

Jason has a passion for the industry, follows other industry experts, attends workshops, speaker schools, reads, reads and reads.  He enjoys imparting knowledge and ultimately affecting the bottom line of business.  He lives in uptown, Minneapolis, exercises almost daily, and lives by the motto:  “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

Website: jasonlinse.com Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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