As someone who’s life has done nothing but benefit from athletics since the age of six, I can become extremely disgruntled and disheartened when people do not respect their craft.
And yes, sports done well, is indeed, a craft.
With performance-based sports, this is sometimes recognized and honored. With “fitness” or cosmetic sports it is most-often not.
But regardless of the outcome you are attempting to chase with your physical body, nothing is more disgraceful than to steal it’s beauty and intent by making it your meal ticket.
Sure, many great athletes in many sports (especially in the big team sports) get paid extremely large salaries for their skills. They may even have endorsements thrown at them or shoes and apparel made to bear their name for a small fortune.
However, those athletes, the ones worth millions, did not get there by chance. And they did not get there quickly.
Those athletes are the ones who put the blood, sweat, and tears into their respected craft for more than a decade to pray for a collegiate recruiter to acknowledge their existence, much less make them an offer that might get them to the entry levels of the big leagues.
This is a situation I can respect and admire.
But what I DON’T admire, what crushes me to my core, is when someone has a relatively small athletic or aesthetic success and immediately goes looking for the sponsors — when it is obvious that they have degraded their gifts into quickest and shortest route to money possible.
“I look really good in a bikini, so someone should probably pay me for that.”
“I can lift some weight, so I will shove my skills in the internet’s face until a sponsor gives me money so I can quit my day job and rely solely on this for a living.”
While I have touched on this before, I will reiterate once again…
The chances that someone will throw job-quitting money at you because of your athletic skills or physical appearance are extremely slim.
And if they do bless you with enough financial support to actually fund your life, it will only be for so long. The ride stops at some point. Then what will you do?
Now to be clear, I personally DO have a current goal of becoming a professional athlete in the sport of GRID. Not because I am so delusional to think that whatever amount of money they give me will have me financially set, but because that is the highest level of that sport.
I want that for what it stands for. I want that for what it will make of me. I want that because I feel like it’s at the high end of what I can possibly expect of myself.
And if I don’t make it, I know I will compete in something else. I always do, because that’s what I love.
Asking your athletic endeavor to support you and/or your family steals the intention, purity, and joy of why you started in the first place.
Personally, I consider it my duty to make or raise money for myself by whatever means necessary in order to support my athletic pursuit. I care about it too much to rely on it.
New York Times Bestselling Author, Elizabeth Gilbert, talks about this similarly in her book “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear“.
Here she describes the vow she made to herself at the age of sixteen to pursue the creative life of a writer.
I didn’t make a promise that I would be a successful writer, because I sensed that success was not under my control. Nor did I promise that I would be a great writer, because I didn’t know if I could be great. Nor did I give myself any time limits for the work, like “If I’m not published by the time I’m thirty, I’ll give up on this dream and go find another line of work.” In fact, I didn’t put any conditions or restrictions on my path at all. My deadline was never.
Instead, I simply vowed to the universe that I would write forever, regardless of the result. I promised that I would try to be brave about it, and grateful, and as uncomplaining as I could possibly be. I also promised that I would never ask writing to take care of me financially, but that I would always take care of it — meaning that I would always support us both, by any means necessary. I did not ask for any external rewards for my devotion; I just wanted to spend my life as near to writing as possible — forever close to that source of all my curiosity and contentment — and so I was willing to make whatever arrangements needed to be made in order to get by.
Gilbert will forever write the way that I will forever train my body. It is not for others to understand, but it is only for me to respect.
When I see many physique athletes get on stage for the first or second time and expect that some protein powder producer will take care of them, I cringe.
When I hear an above-average crossfitter say that they “could be one of the best if only they didn’t have to work”, I am saddened.
When a bodybuilder says “if I don’t get my pro card this year I’m not competing anymore because it’s all rigged and definitely not worth it”, I am crushed.
Don’t they know if they require their “passion” to bring recognition and a paycheck that the love is already lost?
It’s like picking friends to increase your popularity or like marrying for money. With those intentions, you are almost guaranteed to ruin your chances of ever getting the intrinsic and real benefits that typically come with healthy, two-sided relationships.
If these impatient complainers were truly made for this, if they truly coveted this, they should trust there is always a way to make it work, financially or otherwise.
Day jobs, odd jobs, clinics, coaching, or whatever else you need to do to fund your sport or your craft, just do it — and do it happily.
We must always be grateful, but never greedy.
The fact that you have something in your life that you love this much is quite the reward in itself.
Your sport owes you nothing. You owe it.