Health and fitness coach Ali Watts, 42, lives and works in New York, with her husband and young daughter. We find out what makes her tick and how she went from sales, to finance (via caddying), before following her fitness dream.
How did you find the career path you wanted to follow?
I just do stuff I enjoy now, so the idea of a career makes me laugh a little. When I started out I measured success in financial terms. At 14 I began working for a fashion designer and entrepreneur, then put off going to university to take a job in sales. After a stint in Japan, where I did all sorts of jobs, including caddying, finally got a degree (in Japanese, Asian studies and linguistics) and found a husband, I moved back to Australia and worked in banking for ten years before realising it was sucking the life out of me.
My husband took a job in Hong Kong where I started picking up clients as a personal trainer. And it really took off when I spotted a niche market for 30 to 55-year-old mums. Now we’re based in New York and the business is thriving. I found myself wanting to help more people lose weight and be healthy and realised I can’t do it alone. I have since recruited like-minded and experienced health coaches and am currently expanding my Health Coaching Business under a new brand (Primal.Health) so stay tuned. I thought I had tried all sports and activities until I fell in love with the best form of exercise there is, and have become a business partner in a Strength and Conditioning Adults Gymnastics studio in Manhattan – TransformGST.
How has your upbringing affected your professional life?
Growing up with two brothers (one older, one younger) meant I was always playing sport and was forced to be competitive. I can still beat them both up at once (hopefully they’re not reading). That competitiveness helped me work hard and get decent grades even though I didn’t love studying. But the best motivation for me is being told I can’t do something – my Japanese teacher at high school told me I should quit, now I have a degree in it. I just can’t resist going against the grain, which is perhaps why I didn’t love the corporate environment.
Is there any advice you can offer from an experience that changed your career?
I was setting up my business and realised I should stop worrying about the details and just start. At first I had a list of all the things I needed to do before getting going: registering the business, building a website and so on. Then I decided to invite a few friends to come and workout. Within two weeks I had several full classes and began adding more. Not only did it prove there was a niche, it paid for the website that hadn’t been built yet.
Lots of people get caught up in the preparation but I’ve learnt you just need to go for it. Follow in Facebook’s footsteps: start, refine, continue, get feedback, refine, continue, get feedback, repeat.
What do you value most about your working life now?
Authenticity. I’m not promoting anything or doing anything I don’t 100% believe in. And I can choose which clients I work for, rather than being given a boss and told how things need to be done.
If you could go back 20 years what advice would you give yourself?
You could die tomorrow so do what lights you up today.
What are you most proud of in your career?
Funnily enough it’s not having a career, but choosing a way of life.
Have you had any career low points and how have you overcome them?
I’ve had moments when I’ve wondered if I should just go back to banking and make money. But that thought usually makes me feel a bit sick and reminds me that I’m making money on my terms. And the more people I help, the less I have that thought. In fact, now I never do.
Who are your career role models and why?
There are lots of people I admire in the industry who practice what they preach, are open minded, well researched and humble. People like Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf and Paul Watson and Nick Ebner from Transform GST in New York, to name just a few. But they all work way too much for my liking!
What’s your ultimate goal?
I haven’t got one, because if I got there I’d still want to be chopping wood and carrying water (that’s taken from a Buddhist proverb). I just make sure that I do my thing every day and that brings me happiness.
If money was no object what would you buy?
Time for more experiences.
What would your motto be?
Apparently the famous quote ‘a jack of all trades is a master of none’ was actually shortened from ‘a jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one’. I like that.
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