Those around you can have a huge impact on your success.
Back in the day, success was pretty much a one man show. If you buckled down, focussed, worked hard and produced you'd more than likely do pretty well for yourself. This was just as true in business as it was in bodybuilding. No matter how you sliced it, hard work ruled the day. Unlike most pros today, I never had a coach or a “guru” for all of my bodybuilding career. For obvious reasons, I don't necessarily recommend it these days, but, back then, it was just the way it was for me and a lot of guys with whom l competed. Bodybuilding was very much a solo sport - a team of one. That went for our side gigs too. Many of us sold our own tee shirts, or training programs, videos, straps, wraps, belts, posters.... no matter what it was, out of our garages. It was us on the front lines flying solo – appearances, traveling, packing, shipping. The idea of doing all this – while also training, dieting, and prepping for a bodybuilding contest – under the guise of a “Team Gaspari,” with a staff of people helping me, was something l could never have imagined. Today, “Team so-and-sos” are all over the place and everyone has an entourage. Almost no one flies solo anymore.
Now, that’s not to say I accomplished everything on my own. I had incredible parents who provided a stable home, with a lot of love and support. Although my dad was convinced this bodybuilding thing I had gotten myself into was crazy. I was also armed with the wisdom I picked up over the years from the bodybuilding greats that went before me. I soaked up everything my heroes like Joe Weider and others wrote. I even bought the Charles Atlas program from an ad in a comic book! I was the skinny kid that didn’t want sand kicked in my face. If it had to do with building muscle, I read it.
But, like a lot of bodybuilders, I flew solo. I didn’t play team sports at all. My parents were immigrants to this great country. My dad was caught up with making it in America. He was a very hard worker and wasn't the kind of dad to take me out in the yard to toss a baseball or have me go out for passes while he winged a football at me, and we didn’t have a basketball hoop in the driveway. I wasn’t tall enough for a basketball career anyway. But, Dad gave me my work ethic and I think that was the greatest lesson any kid could have learned.
When I was 20, I packed up my few belongings, loaded them into one of my dad’s old beat up suitcases, and flew to southern California, to the mecca of bodybuilding. Almost as soon as I landed I was offered a job by Ed Connors, one of the owners of Gold’s Gym. He saw the potential in me and made me a manager of Gold’s in Reseda, California.
Things started happening—which is usually the case when you work hard. Lee Haney, who would go on to win eight Mr. Olympia titles, saw my ferocious intensity from across the weight room and asked me to be his training partner. He's the one who taught me to work smarter. I was bench-pressing 525 pounds as part of a normal workout. He taught me how to “stimulate, not annihilate,” muscles by using less weight and better form.
My point is simple. Even for a guy like me who likes to do things on his own, we all need the right people around us. The best relationships are mutual, where both parties push, compliment, and help the other improve. I honestly believe I helped Lee as much as he helped me. I know he would agree with that statement. If I had to take 2nd place in the Olympia THREE times, it was only fitting that it would be Lee who beat me, because it was me who pushed him.
This isn’t just a lesson for bodybuilding. Nowhere is it more true than in business. One of my greatest sources of pride as the owner of Gaspari Nutrition was being vendor of the year for both GNC (five times) and Vitamin King. To that end, I’ve done everything at Gaspari Nutrition - from helping to develop and test new formulas, to packing boxes, to making sales calls and promotional appearances. I’ve mopped the floors a few times, too. But, believe me, I know I couldn’t have done anything past what I could have done out of my garage without hiring— and occasionally firing—the right people. You'll see that as you grow older, wiser and more successful that it's the team – the people with whom you surround yourself - that will have the greatest impact on your drive downfield. The marketable universe in which we find ourselves today is too vast, too complicated, too crowded and too competitive to navigate yourself. It's not 1983 anymore.
Who do you have on your team? Are they making you better? Are you making others better? Are they team players?
How many times have we seen a kid with all the potential in the world but they get caught up with the wrong group of friends, and they end up going through life in the wrong direction?
If you train with people who practice bad form and put out mediocre effort, you aren’t nearly as likely to give your ultimate effort and your bodybuilding career will suffer as a result. If your best friends on the job do nothing but complain and have a terrible work ethic, you probably aren’t doing your professional career any favors. If you hang around people with lousy attitudes, don’t be surprised to discover you have a lousy attitude too.
If you want to succeed, you have to surround yourself with the right people - people who will help you just as much as much as you help them. You need people with whom you can grow; encourage and push each other, be each others’ fans and hold each other accountable to work harder for better results. If you absolutely can’t find the right workout partners, or the colleagues, to help you grow in your chosen career, then at minimum make a commitment to stretch your mind and your vision through select books and videos. Study what the greats do and follow their lead.
The bottom line is this: Whether it's writing iPhone apps or building custom toilets, you must visualize your success in it, believe in it yourself, and surround yourself with people who will motivate you and help nurture your belief. With that team structure in place, nothing but great things will happen.