5 Lessons I Got from Tony Doherty


Last weekend I attended the fourth of five seminars with the Enterprise Fitness Wolfpack mentoring program. The guest speaker for Saturday was Tony Doherty. To those in the bodybuilding and hardcore training world, Doherty is nothing short of a legend and his gyms are a sort of Mecca for bodybuilders around the world.

From taking out a loan against his parents house, to trading his car for a lat-pulldown machine, to working with Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Arnold Classic – his story and message really connected with us all.

As someone who has definitely achieved his childhood and adult dreams, he makes a fascinating talker, and provides some amazing insight into how his mind works and the shape of his worldview.

Here are my five take-aways…

  1. Obsession is a clue.

Tony was telling us about his unrelenting desire to meet his childhood hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

During my second year of university, I was thinking about the possibility of making Personal Training work – what I’d need to do, where I’d need to be, who I’d need to be. It took my step-brother saying “Mart, just go be a PT.” for me to take the action to book in Cert IV in Fitness and get the ball rolling! Tony lives the idea that we only live one life, following our dreams can work – and the regret of not trying to make it work will be huge come the end of our life.

Ever since seeing Arnie on a late night tv program as a child, Tony was obsessed with sculpting his own body and aimed to meet his idol. At this stage, Arnie and Tony are business partners with the Arnold Classic, and as Tony put it – “Arnie sometimes just calls me to chat!”

Ultimately life is short, obsessive thoughts are our psych telling us something. We do have finite time here, so spending as much of it as we can doing what we love really is important.

  1. Reactive is often wrong.

Doherty’s gym has remained unchanged and unwavering in the few decades its been around. Tony knows exactly what he stands for, who his market is and what they want and need. He pointed out that gyms and studios that jump on the latest trend or idea are often unclear in their marketing and business strategy, and ultimately fail.

Doherty’s 247 is an expression of Tony himself. He is absolutely sure of who he is.

This means that Tony gets to act on the market, rather than react to it. He accepts that it’s not for everyone – he appeals to the ‘misfits’ and the hardcore crowd. He doesn’t want to build a gym for everyone. Appealing to everybody is appealing to nobody.

In business as well as in life, knowing our values and our standards puts us on a course. Living them will alienate some people, as it should. It’s not about who doesn’t get it, it’s all about those that do.

  1. Don’t have time for illness nor jet-lag. 

“One of my mantras is ‘sleep faster.’”

… Said to a group of personal trainers and general health nuts, this advice was met with nervous laughter.

Have you ever noticed that when you are really busy and occupied, we get things done, we eat, we sleep, we work, we train and life flies by. Then when we get a weekend to chill out and relax, we get sick. The same pattern sometimes happens when going on holidays too…

Thinking about our own final days and funeral raises some interesting thoughts…

– what will people say about me and my life

– what will I think, looking back

– will spending my weekends binge watching tv be time well spent 20 years from now

And so we can ask, what could I do to make my life ‘highlights reel’ and legacy as amazing as possible? Who can I touch with my time here? How can I leave the world and the people around me better than I found them?

There is a question of balance… but consider this, if we slept an hour less per night we’d get an extra 150 days worth of time over 10 years.

Go build that business, start that blog, create that product, write that novel.

  1. Idleness and overthinking brings negativity.

This one spoke volumes to me. Being naturally introverted, reflective and developing something of a habit of writing, I can easily justify to myself the need to spend time at a cafe, nursing a long black and just enjoying my own company.

The justification is that I can acknowledge the problem on paper, and so don’t need to act. Wrong.

Action always wins. Tony talked about the idea of ‘failing forward.’ This means that movement is always positive – right or wrong, changing our circumstances either brings the result we were looking for, a lesson to move us closer or a realisation to expand elsewhere.

The lesson for me was to just make a decision. Then once made, take action.

  1. “Luck is rare. Motivation is fake. Consistency and hard-working is king.”

This was on a social media post that Tony shared with us. I think this quote best captures his philosophy and story. There’s not much more to him than this belief, expressed in all areas of his life.

It importance stems out of taking ownership and responsibility for our life – what can I do today to make my life better; what can I do in the next hour to make a positive change in my life?

By not accepting luck or fate or chance, out-working and out-lasting all challenges and competition will with certainty bring us to whatever goals we set for ourselves.

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