EPISODE 4: SUCCESS SECRETS FOR WOMEN IN FITNESS WITH SHANNON FABLE
Visit Shannon Fable's website here.
Read Shannon Fable's Post: 6 Success Secrets for Women in Fitness.
Read more by Shannon Fable here.
Check out Ash Ambirge's Middle Finger Project here.
See "Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less" by Greg McKeown on Amazon here.
James Brown (00:00):
While the business world as a whole has been evolving in the past few decades to be more suited to women. The fitness world has been doing it for a long time. In fact, 75% of idea, health and fitness associations, 22,000 members are women. So what can be learned in an environment where women's strengths and skills are so well-suited today? I'm so happy to share a conversation I had with one of the industry's most recognized thought leaders on the topic of women in the fitness business, Shannon fable, she spent more than two decades helping impressive brands with business development and strategic innovation. And she's helped guide the careers of countless individual fitness pros like you and me. I sat down for a chat with Shannon about some of the ways she is distilled. What she's learned about women in fitness into a couple of powerfully helpful lists.
James Brown (00:53):
And we're sharing them on two podcast episodes so that they each get the space and focus that they deserve. On this episode, we hear about Shannon fables, six success secrets for women in fitness. And you might be surprised to learn that some of these secrets might be useful to those who work outside the fitness business. And even to those of us who are not female.
Shannon Fable (01:39):
I'm Shannon fable and I'm from Boulder, Colorado. I'm a business development consultant in the health and wellness industry, uh, started as a fitness instructor back in the day, mid nineties to be exact, did all the things taught all the formats, trained all the clients, sold gym memberships managed and open clubs. And somewhere along the way, it was pulled into presenting, educating, and program development from two different angles. Uh, it ended up being part of a club that launched, or that was owned by rich bogs. And he was the first district or Les mills. So I got pulled into the body pump world very early on one of the first 10 20 instructors in the U S and then also had the luxury of working for crunch and being mentored by Donna Cyrus, who pushed me into the presenting route, which all of that led to tons of opportunities and have been helping folks increase their impact without overwhelm or burnout. ever since.
James Brown (02:30):
You are well-known for a, a talk that you present, um, that you've presented for years called an overview of six success secrets for women. Uh, can you tell us a little bit about that maybe first, like how it came about what you found the need was for such a thing.
Shannon Fable (02:46):
Like I mentioned, I've been doing business development consulting for a long time and also done independent coaching and mentoring for fitness professionals. And most of them happen to be women because there are a lot of women, the fitness industry. And what I notice is that know, working with aspiring female leaders, whether, you know, it was working, whether those female leaders were working for someone else and trying to climb the ladder, get new opportunities, or they were flexing their muscle and striking out on their own to become entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, whatever you want to call it. Um, they were a little lost and it didn't matter how many, you know, tactical, practical things I would tell them to do. I realized there was a mindset piece that you can either look at it as existing on top of those practical tactical things or underneath as the foundation.
So, you know, I came to learn and working with a lot of these women over the years, that there are six things that successful women do that separate them from the pack. And honestly, these six things are also super helpful for a minute as well. Uh, but you know, it's conversation in the fitness industry for about a decade now is how can we support women, bolster women, empower women and help them land the jobs or do the things that they want increase their impact is what we always say. So I put these things down, yeah. Have used it in my consulting over the years, repurposed it in a million different ways, but I find it really helpful to set that foundation before we dive into those tactical and practical things for building the career of your dreams.
James Brown (04:19):
I love that you say that, that they came from, um, seeing what successful people did rather than seeing what unsuccessful people don't do.
Shannon Fable (04:28):
Yeah. So, you know, I always like to level set before I explain what the six things are and make sure that we acknowledged, you know, there are inherent and systemic challenges to making it work. And I'm using air quotes as a female in our society. And, you know, for sure could have exacerbated that, um, there are biological anthropological societal issues that are ingrained in the world we live in. And of course there are plenty of institutional underpinnings. So, you know, I, I nod to that. I acknowledge it, but I don't allow my clients to let that be an excuse for not doing and trying to get what they want. That's part one. And then I also know there's a ton of emerging research that points a finger, not actually at the male versus female stuff. I was just alluding to, but actually the nature of business in the U S in particular, the overworking nature, which naturally ends in women exiting stage left, or otherwise lane, small, they feel like they have to, because there's not an option.
And again, I make sure that my clients and the folks that I work with acknowledge it, but then set it to the side. Like those things can be true. And we can still try to use these secrets as they were to make happen, what we want to happen. So, like I said, honor, those realities. Then we get on with it because women are poised to do amazing things. So for the purposes of this podcast, I'm actually going to break them into just three big buckets, superpowers, pick yourself and trust. There are no wrong moves and then avoid female fallacy is those are the three that I think are the most important.
James Brown (06:09):
Okay. So let let's hear about them.
Shannon Fable (06:13):
All right. So let's start with superpowers. I always want to lean into the strengths of my clients. And again, not to say that these super powers can't be present in males, but these three things are disproportionately female. Like they are things that we naturally gravitate towards and work on and have in our arsenal. And those are communication, connection and empathy. So communication, connection, and empathy. These three superpowers that most women naturally have are the three ingredients that make you win in business. These days, especially fitness and wellness industry, um, in this heightened, you know, world that we're living in, where people want customization, personalization, they want to be seen. They want to be heard if you can express that both written as well as verbally. And if you can connect on a soul level, a spiritual level, and you can walk beside people and really feel what it feels like to be them, you already have a headstart in anything you want to do as a service provider.
Shannon Fable (07:27):
So the first thing I tell my female clients is take a look at those three things. Make sure you're leaning into that, turning up the volume on your communication abilities, your connection abilities, which, you know, we can go down the line of what connection means, your authenticity, making sure you have a strong why choosing the right target market, getting to know people in your target market and then empathy. This is a big one I want to finish with because empathy and sympathy we know are two very, very different things. And many times we are led to believe that having all the answers is what people buy. And that actually is a little bit of a sympathetic nod. So I use the analogy of like the wise woman on the mountaintop versus the sheriff of walking beside you. So women assume they have to be the wise woman on the mountain top that has all the answers and can sit down with you and tell you all you need to do to get from a to Z. But what customers really want right now is someone, like I said, to see them here, then feel them and walk beside them and empower them to take the steps, to find their own way. So empathy is huge, but those would be my three, four for women in particular communication connection, empathy know that you are naturally suited to use those turn up the volume and you cannot be stopped if you do that.
James Brown (08:40):
I just want to ask, do you think that before, it's sort of the era that we're in with women trying to, um, sort of, uh, move ahead in the business world. Do you think that those things were suppressed?
Shannon Fable (08:55):
Think if I go back to those first things that I talked about with level setting, when we continue to hear that, you know, disproportionately women aren't getting paid as much and disproportionately they're not in leadership positions and dah, dah, dah, dah. Um, you said it in the intro, people start to look at women and go, okay, so don't do these things because if men are winning and this is how a man reacts in the business world, maybe you need to be more like a man. And I've just found that that's not true. So if you suppress the things that make you uniquely female, then you can't lean into your superpowers and the business world has changed. And not to say that you still don't need to be calculated strategic. I'm not going to use like, people equate that with like being brazen and bossy. And that's not what I'm talking about, but you, you do need to flex some of that more masculine energy when it comes to decision-making and it, you know, your communication style.
But yeah, like you said, I think we typically turn down the things that make us uniquely female, but today, those things that make us uniquely female make us highly marketable to people that want to work with us, not everyone. Um, but communication, connection, empathy. Don't, don't suppress it, turn it up. Um, and, and I guess I should put an asterisks next to it. Some of this depends on what you're trying to do, but I believe your audience or service professionals looking change people's lives. And that's why I consider these the three super powers because they are so necessary, but yes, hundred percent agree. I think we've, we've been led to believe we need to suppress it and be less female when the world actually needs us to be more female.
James Brown (10:36):
And, and yes, very suited to this industry. The, the, I remember a long time ago, there was a huge survey of yoga students. And the number one thing they wanted from a teacher was for the teacher to see them. And you know, it, it wasn't, it wasn't for them to the teacher to know everything or to have all the answers or did they fit it was, it was that, that, that connection existed. So what's the next one, the next grouping. Yeah.
Shannon Fable (11:03):
Yeah. Pick yourself and trust that there are no wrong moves. So I, you know, I'm gonna hit on something that you just said to segue into it. Um, when you were talking about the yoga study, your clients do not expect you to know all of the answers. No one knows all the answers, but if you believe that people need you to have all the answers that sometimes leads women to disproportionately have imposter syndrome, because we believe we can't possibly be paid, revered, hired. Um, we can't win. We can't do the things we want if we don't know all the things. So we end up feeling like there's this giant gap between what we know and what we need to know to be impactful. So it leads into picking yourself and trusting. There are no wrong moves. Um, there is a great book that I encourage every woman to read.
It's called The Middle Finger Project, very irreverent, but it's so brilliant as long as you're not offended by raw language, but whatever it's great. Uh, the author is Ash Ambirge. And my favorite part in the whole book was the thing that got me to lump these two things together and talk about them really loud, becoming radically self reliant. And it doesn't mean what it appears to mean at first glance. It doesn't mean that you go about it on your own, which again, if you buy into the fact that we already have one foot down or one rung down on the ladder, we need to be male. We feel like we need to go in guns, a blazing and be alone and solo, and we can do it all by ourselves. But again, another super power of women is we're really good at community building. We're really good at being a village.
We're really good at harnessing the energy of a group of people. So radically self-reliant doesn't mean let go of that, but it means that you choose your army of empowerment. You choose the people that you put in your corner and you do so strategically so that you can be successful. Um, the other thing with being radically self-reliant, you know, you pick yourself, you say, these are the people I want to serve. This is the benefit I want to provide. And this is a way that I want to do it. And I teach something that is, uh, in the entrepreneurial playbook from many colleges that teach entrepreneurship. And it's a wheel at the top of the wheel is act, and then it's learn and then it's build. So it makes you rethink about your actions in business, as many experiments, which to me, it takes the edge off.
It, it decreases the amount of anxiety I have about the move, because if I treat it like an experiment, then I mean, we all went to science, right? And did Chem one? You come up with a hypothesis and you do some research to get your hypothesis. And then you do the experiment and it either works or it doesn't. And you look at why it did or why it didn't. And then you try again, or maybe you choose a different experiment. So if we can, and I find that helping women reframe business, like you're not going to have every answer. You are going to meet people to go with you, but you pick yourself. And by picking yourself, you choose your experiments wisely. And, and the best advice I can give is you choose an action that will not cost you anything more than you could potentially gain.
So a great example that I worked with a lot of female clients that are moving into working for themselves, and they want to build courses like eight hour long courses, like, okay, that's giant. And it's going to take you a long time to get there. Do you even know that anyone wants to buy it? What could we do as an experiment to put something out there, to get some feedback so that you can iterate act, learn, iterate, lather, rinse, repeat, do the whole thing again. So that in a nutshell is what pick yourself and trust. There are no wrong moves, become radically self-reliant, but that doesn't mean go at it alone, choose your army of empowerment wisely and keep them close to you. But trust that you have all the answers inside to make these little experiments go out into the world, do some things. And if you string together, a lot of little actions, you can have a big impact.
James Brown (15:26):
Okay. So the third one is avoid female fallacies, uh, which I can't wait to hear about. So, so what are the female fallacies to avoid and why, and how does one avoid them?
Shannon Fable (16:23):
Sure. So there's a lot to unpack in this, in this third one, avoiding female fallacies goes along with what I was saying earlier. Um, you know, I talked about the superpowers where these are things that females inherently have, that we should turn the volume up on. There are still some things that we need to sidestep that are our natural tendencies. And when I say natural tendencies, you know, I don't need hate mail. It doesn't mean that we all do this, but again, systemic underpinnings of our society. These are the ways that we've been brought up, right? So, um, the first one is do less delegate more. This is tough for not just women, but sometimes men too. Especially if you believe that everything is on your back and on your shoulders. So revert back to the army of empowerment. I talked about in the last one, you don't have to do it all yourself.
Even if you are working for yourself, you have to find the things that you can delegate and have a good system so that you still feel like you're in control because I believe we don't delegate because we feel like we lose control when we delegate pieces of our magic to other people. So, you know, again, a lot to unpack in that, that I deal with, uh, with my coaching clients and our implementation work, but you don't have to do it all. You can delegate some things out and also in this do less delegate more. We talk about essential ism. It's another great book that women should read by Greg McKeown. I saw him speak at IRSA a number of years ago, but you know, his whole premise is in order to make big impact, you have to be ruthlessly prioritizing. And the thing that struck me the most in this book is he talks about, you know, we have all these methods for, you know, if you did the Franklin Covey thing, right?
Prioritize with letters and numbers. And he's like, this makes no sense. The word priority means the single most important thing. So you can't have more than one single most important thing. Now I know you do. You've got lots of wheels in your life that you're dealing with. And this is something that, you know, comes into play with my female clients more than my male. You know, you, you want your time, you want to, you know, self care, we all talk about self care with women because we believe that they just, you know, they, they, they don't take care of themselves. And we could talk about that all day long. So I'll move on. Uh, we have relationships, whether they are with romantic partners or with friend partners, you may have children that you're taking care of. You've got your professional life, right? We've got a lot of plates that we're spinning.
So, you know, all of those are equally important, but you know, I talk about this concept of spinning plates. They don't all have to be equal at all times. They just all need to be in motion and have no centrifugal force behind them. That if you need to take your eye off that plate for a minute, it doesn't get wobbly and fall down. That's very different than juggling. So coming back to this, do less concept. You know, you can't eliminate your plates, but what you can do is each week or each day go, what is the one thing? Just the one that I need to do today to move my business forward. And sometimes it might be as simple as not do my work today because I need a day off. I'm burnt out. I'm overwhelmed. It'll be there tomorrow. And again, I mentioned this in the last one, you have to have good systems in place so that you trust.
If you leave it for a day, that you're not going to come back to all your plates crashing down or all your projects slowing to a crawl. But you know, we could talk about this all day long as well, but doing less , you, you really ruthlessly prioritize and get down to the most essential thing that you need to do to move your big idea forward. So that's do less delegate more. Um, the second female fallacy I talk about is cure the disease to please. This is a tough one. And again, I don't know that it's only female, but I tend to see this more from females than I do for men. We get really worried about rocking the boat because we are usually Switzerland. We're the ones that smooth it all over and keep the peace. Whether it's in our family, our friends circle, work wherever.
But if you're wanting to climb the ladder, if you're wanting to do big things, or even if you want to do little things that are extremely meaningful to you, however you describe or classify bigger little it, not that you're going to rock the boat. But if, but if you choose your who, your target market, the people you want to serve and you choose your what, and you do it your way, there are going to be people that do not like it. There will be people that unsubscribed from your email newsletter. There are going to be people that hate on you on social media. There are going to be people that show up to your class and say they didn't like it. And that's okay. But I find that women tend to get in their own way. When if they hear that someone didn't like their thing, they turn towards that light and try to fix that problem when it's not actually a problem. If you go back to this really cool and what, and you have a strong why, and you keep letting that be your guiding light, you may have some people that don't resonate with your message. And we've got to be okay, even if they are vocal and in our face about that, not everyone needs what you are doing. And that's sometimes hard for us to accept too. Right. Um, but they don't all need it. So cure the disease to please.
James Brown (21:51):
I just want to pause on that one. Just really appreciate what you said about, you know, when somebody doesn't like your thing, you know, are you really helping yourself by focusing all your focus and energy on them? Is there any recommendation you can make when you're in that moment of being obsessed with the negative review you got on Yelp or, um, the, the, the, the email that you got that wasn't positive, um, take to get somebody back on track, focusing on what is working.
Shannon Fable (22:20):
Yeah. I mean, it gives you two, well, three, three. It is the first thing that I do with my clients. And I've said it in a few different ways, but I'll be super specific. You must declare your who and do what statement. At some point I help blank do blank. So we do a lot of work and it sounds like such an easy assignment, but for a lot of my clients, this takes a good four or five weeks of deep soul searching because choosing your, who is not about skating to market opportunity, choosing your who is about who were you put on earth to serve and knowing and trusting that that can change over time. But there is a group of people that you are uniquely, uniquely created to work with. And I'll say, you know, when, when I started doing my independent business coaching, mine was truly better suited for men and male personal trainers to be exact.
I was helping male fit pros, make more money. I resonated with them. I felt for them, I knew could do to help them. It was very black and white, and it was a very masculine energy and it worked. And it's interesting because a decade, 12 years later after doing that for a really long time, um, I'm in a very different place in my life. And now I see that my target market, Maya, who are moms with school-aged children and their moms that want to do big things, but they don't want to lose themselves in the process or feel overwhelmed or burned out. They are not okay with any of their plates crashing to the ground. And they just don't know how to put that together. So if you can hear that passion in my voice, like that is my hoop. And once I decided who my, who was, and I let all the other people go, wait, it's not that like, you might not appreciate the things that I write or the articles that I publish, or the talks that I give, or you might buy one of my webinars or show up to one of my things.
That's great, but I'm not talking to you. And if I know who my who is, and you tell me, you don't like my stuff, I can be very okay with going. That's all, you're not my ideal client. Anyway, I don't do my best work with you the end. Um, and you don't necessarily, you might need what I do, but you are not my who. And the same goes with that benefit. And, and I won't spend too much time unpacking that piece, but the who and do what statement is so powerful, because if that can truly be your topic sentence, your guiding light, your north star, whatever analogy you want to put around it. And I tell my clients like, have it on a sticky note, make it your screensaver, put it wherever you need to see it all the time so that when you do get negative feedback or someone says no, or someone unsubscribes.
I mean, I'll be honest. If someone unsubscribes from my newsletter or my mailing list, I look at them and it hurts for a second. But if you want a tactical practical thing, I look at who they are and I compare it to my who and do what, and I go, you know what, that's fine, because that's not my ideal client anyway. So that's one thing. The second thing is I think, um, this is going to sound really funny. I firmly believe in having what I call a praise folder. So anything that I get, whether it is a DM on social or an email or a comment card, or, you know, a voice memo copy paste. I email it to myself and I put it in my praise folder. And when I am having a day where, I mean, you know, inevitably you send out your email newsletter in three, four or five people unsubscribe.
And I feel like, you know, the sky is crumbling and I do go look at all of them, but I'm still feeling kind of down. I go back to my praise folder and I'm like, oh yeah, yeah, people do like me. I have done good work. I, I am in this for the right reasons. Like that's okay. Be evidence. There is evidence to show me I'm big about evidence. The evidence is I am helping people and I do good work with people that need my work. So I know that sounds really trite and simple, but you'd be surprised the power of that piece. And the third goes back to when I said, you need an army of empowerment. I believe that women, they don't just need good girlfriends that are, I mean, good girlfriends are great. Don't get me wrong. But I am a big believer in being part of a mastermind or an accountability group or a social circle where, you know, you may talk about these things, but you've got people at your disposal that they know their job is to hold you accountable and prop you up because we can't always go back to our family and our friends and ask them to do that over time.
Cause sometimes they just don't get it. So I, I do believe that in your army of empowerment, you should institutionalize that, meaning join a business type group. Again, something like a mastermind, or I run an accountability group of women that are all my target market, all doing the same things. And we're communicating daily on slack and Voxer. So if I'm having one of those days where I feel the disease to please, um, I put it out in the slack channel and we can be super vulnerable with each other because we're all going through the same thing. We're all dealing with these female fallacies. So that will look different depending on who you are and what you're up to. But I believe that that is a really good way to sidestep the second female fallacy as well. Fantastic.
James Brown (27:43):
That's really helpful, uh, to our listeners and also me.
Shannon Fable (27:48):
So, um, the next one is stop learning, start working. So I mentioned earlier that women disproportionately suffer from imposter syndrome and I'm not going to get too far into it. But if you suffer from that, you feel like you need to learn more before you can do things. And what I work on with my clients is it's just an excuse. It is an excuse to not get started. So I always tell them again, you act stop learning. You don't need to necessarily go back and get your MBA. Before you can put an idea out into the world. You don't need to get another certification before you can pick up that class. You don't need to go through this new eight hour course before you can do XYZ. I mean, there is targeted learning and learning that is important with whatever it is you want to do.
And I do help my clients make that targeted list, but many of my clients will tell you, sometimes I put them on learning restriction and I make them stop and say, you just need to put something out into the world because you know, all this book knowledge, unless you act on it, isn't worth anything. It's actually not worth anything until you get out in the world and you set those experiments on fire. So stop learning and start working. And then once you do stop, start working own your accomplishments. So it kind of goes back to the praise folder, right? Um, keep track of all the things that you've done. Uh, another little tactical practical here is this is going to sound really dumb, but go with me, um, on Trello is where I manage, where I manage all of my to do's. And if you're familiar with Trello, it works in Kanban style. However you want to say it, and there are lists. So I've got my to do list.
And then I literally have a list that's called done. And every time I do something, I pull that thing over to done. So the end of the week, even if I feel like I haven't, because what is accomplishment? Accomplishment is finishing something. So AI makes sure I break things down into the smallest possible piece so that I can get something done everyday to build momentum. And I for sure derive it into that done column. So I can look at that and go, whoa, look at all the stuff I've done. I feel very accomplished. So that's one really simple thing you can do to own your accomplishments. But then next, and this goes with self promotion. I teach something called the six core self promotion strategies. And part of that is like 10% of your self promotion should be tooting your own horn for lack of a better expression.
You do have to tell people about the podcast that you've recorded or where you've been asked to speak or the articles that you've written. And here's the thing owning your accomplishments means don't downplay that you were chosen because you have something to say, you're not lucky. You are not just so grateful that someone gave you the opportunity. Not that you can't say those things, but I just find that women typically it would be a really interesting experiment for you to go look at a whole bunch of men's social media feeds or wherever they're touting their accomplishments and look at how they put those out into the world versus how females announced that they're speaking at an event or writing a column, being interviewed for XYZ, got this appointment, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. We downplay our accomplishments and talk about how other people have allowed us to let it happen versus saying, look at what I did.
This is awesome. And I'm super proud of myself. So own your accomplishments. And that leads into the last one, which is know your worth and ask for it. Uh, no one's going to pay you what a man gets paid. Like we always talk about the wage gap. And again, there is an institutional problem with wage gaps, but a lot of times, because we do not have the skills to negotiate because you go back and you look at all of these things, we feel like we need to please people. So we keep saying yes, without ever doing the math, right. Our boss says, Hey, do this. You're like, oh, of course. Okay. Because we, we do the math in our head. We assume that men are doing the math in their head too. And I can, I can tell you with absolute certainty, they are not, your male boss is not giving you something and going, oh, she said, yes, sweet another, you know, another check in the column.
I might give her a raise, not to say that they're not looking at what you've done and valuing what you've done, but you can't wait around and just assume that people are keeping score for you, keep your score. And there's a way to, you know, again, we could talk about this for an hour. Um, there are ways to go about asking for what you worth without rocking the boat, so to speak. Because the other thing I find is that women hold back for so long that by the time they know they need to ask for something they're just. And when you're, you don't have really good negotiating power because then you want it more than, than, than you should. When you go into the negotiation, you don't just want it. You're angry that they haven't already given it to you. And you've already made up stories in your head about why they're going to say no and why they haven't offered it to you yet, you feel penalized, right?
Versus you keeping track and doing the math all along. I'll leave it at that. No, you're going to ask for it. And that goes back. Like I said, to owning your accomplishments, keep a list of what you've done. You know, I call it my portfolio so that if I'm going to go and whether it's negotiate for a contract with someone and, and I'm trying to, you know, up my fee, my retainer, my hourly rate, whatever. And I don't feel like I deserve to ask for that. I can go back and look at that list and go, no, no, no I do. Because the last thing I'll say with women, when we look at these two things, remember that people aren't paying, I go back to the math thing. You're always doing the math. I find, I find that my clients do the math. It's like, but it only took me an hour to do it.
So I couldn't ask for $150. Like I don't charge $150 for a coaching call because that's what one hour of my time is where I charge $150 for all of the work effort and energy. I've put in to be able to give you advice that is important in 60 minutes, you're paying me for my portfolio, not trading time for money. So that's another good way to look at this or, you know, make sure you know your worth, but also realize how owning your accomplishments and keeping track of those can help you do different mental gymnastics to get what you want.