5 Things I Learned About Life from Owning a Pilates Studio

joeclara.17685303_std As Modern Pilates fades into the history of the Pilates community, what keeps running through my head are the life lessons I learned over the past 17 years. The words I’m left with are kindness, optimism, gumption, bravery, and community. I want to explain what these mean to me.

Kindness

I remember having a conversation with another studio owner years back. She said, “I don’t like to live close to my studio because you have to be nice to everyone all the time.” What she meant was when you’re running errands, maybe when you’re harried, you still have to be on your best behavior in case someone recognizes you and judges you for poor decorum. For most of the studio’s life I lived within a mile of its location. I knew most of the shop and restaurant owners and was a kinder person for it. I learned customer service from both perspectives and it’s left me with a profound sense of how hard everyone works in the customer service industry. As a result, I tip really well, wait patiently in line (almost always), and give deference to people struggling with their chores. The reward? People got to know me, would return the kindness when they could, and I made some new friends.

Optimism

You cannot be a small business owner, especially in the customer service sector, without being an optimist. You must be a glass-half-full kind of girl or you will never make it. An instructor suddenly quits? No worries; you heard about someone looking for a job and you’ll reach out to them. You walk into your new studio space and there are wires hanging from the ceiling and junction boxes ripped from the walls? No problem; dial up your awesome electrician and let him save the day. The mantra of “it will all work out” is your secret weapon and when something goes awry you’ll just figure it out. While optimism will get you out of a tight spot, it will also help you think ahead with new goals and big dreams. Optimism is what launched my social media work and lead to dozens of interviews with national media, a columnist gig for PilatesStyle magazine, and, ultimately, to the career I now have in digital marketing. Optimism will take you far; believe in it, believe in yourself.

Gumption

Or as Bostonians call it -- balls. You need a pair, yes, even if you’re a woman. You might need to go toe-to-toe with a landlord or negotiate hard for contract work to be done. Kindness will take you a long way, but when a bully comes at you, you better be ready to stand your ground. As a business owner, you’ll be negotiating with people who have expertise outside of your area and they will have the upper hand. Know this going in and be patient with yourself while you learn the lay of the land and what outcome you need from the situation. Don’t settle. Ever. Have the gumption to walk away from something you really want if your gut tells you it’s a bad idea. You’ll find when you let something go that’s not a good fit, a better solution will always appear.

Bravery

“Being brave means to know something is scary, difficult, and dangerous, and doing it anyway, because the possibility of winning the fight is worth the chance of losing it.” ~ Emille Autumn
Yes, those nights you lie awake thinking awful things, the dawn breaks and you get up and do what you must. Maybe it’s to confront an instructor who stole from you, maybe it’s a physical ailment you have to overcome just to get to work, maybe it’s looking a recession square in the eye and daring it to take you down. Bravery will be needed in the dark times and you must do this while everyone else thinks all is going along swimmingly because you cannot let them see you sweat. Gumption is needed in the moment, but to me, bravery is a higher calling -- something that welds itself to your backbone -- something that gives you infinite strength. Bravery is empowering.

Community

I had someone thank me yesterday for being a big part of the Boston Pilates community and I welled up. You all have given me so, so much more. The tears that have been ever-present these past few days have been a reminder of the connections I have made over the years with clients, entrepreneurs, instructors, random people thrown in my path … it’s a miraculous thing. There was no Pilates community in Boston when I started; I was one of the first studios to open. Now, the local Pilates community is vibrant with thousands of members. I looked at my studio records and just over 3,000 clients have come through my doors and I can’t imagine what that number is across the city. How fantastic is that? It’s humbling, isn’t it? Look at what we’ve brought together and in the end I’m only a very small piece of that community. Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting me be part of it. ~~~ There are many people to thank. Dozens? Hundreds? But a few people I want to single out: My Mom, my sister, my son, Sheri & Eli Gurock, Nina Eigerman, Christine Streeter, Daria Wright, Erin Bliss, Ed Sparks, Lindsay Bentis, PJ O’Clair, Lili Banani, Chris Pratt, Annette Itzkan, the Coolidge Corner Merchants’ Association, Betty Bothereau, Kenny Goldstein, Steve Goldstein, Bridget Riley, and my incredible husband, Greg Wymer, who has stood by me through absolutely every second of this crazy ride. I love you all.

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.
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