For too many years, I stood in the shadows hoping and wishing I could make more out of my life. But I always hesitated, always came up short, always had an excuse or a justifiable ‘reason’ for not meeting my goals and my heart head on. I was getting in my own way at every corner.
A couple years ago I stopped with the excuses and self-deprecating attitude. I finally realized that I have a unique and almost unheard-of set of skills and a niche was awaiting me. I only had to start putting the pieces in place to make things happen.
I’m going to start at the end, so please keep that in mind and don’t compare the middle of your story to the end of mine. I’m a full-time union firefighter holding the rank of Lieutenant on a busy engine company in the suburbs of Chicago. I’m a strength and conditioning coach, tactical strength coach (NSCA CSCS and TSAC-F) and a nutritionist certified through the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
I currently own and operate a successful business that beautifully marries my two skill sets together: FireSQFitness <let me help you out…it’s Fire Rescue Fitness>. FireSQFitness is dedicated to the health and wellness of firefighters worldwide and since finding my voice, my business has exploded.
In the previous whirlwind 365 days, I’ve published an article in a trade magazine, presented at 5 conferences, 6 fire departments and 3 universities and been solicited to write an article for an online fitness and nutrition company. In less than 3 weeks I will be going to Canada to present to students at Brandon University. I’m literally turning down opportunities now because I have so many.
How did I get here you might ask? You might question yourself and whisper “but I can’t possibly do any of that…”
“And one day she discovered that she was fierce, and strong, and full of fire, and that not even she could hold herself back because her passion burned brighter than her fears.” Mark Anthony
You are powerful and strong in ways you haven’t even figured out yet. And there are people out there doing exactly what you want to be doing with less of a skillset that you have. Trust me. I’ve been there. I’ve doubted. I’ve ruminated. I’ve what-iffed myself almost into a tizzy. I’ve wasted YEARS of my life not betting on me. Writing those words almost makes me giggle because I now ALWAYS bet on AZ!
If there is something you want to be doing but haven’t done it for one reason or another, I implore you to just get started. Make a few tiny steps in the right direction.
Here’s a little secret: everything I needed had always been inside me and it’s inside of you too. But my self-doubt and inability to take risks kept me from succeeding. I’m standing on the shoulders of giants—I didn’t figure out much of this for myself. But I had one thing going for me…an unwavering work ethic and the realization the just having passion for FireSQFitness wasn’t nearly enough. I needed to start moving forward down my path.
I can’t possibly give you an exact road map to get you where you want to be, but what I can do is give you some tips that I used and I hope that you will find one that you can start using to go after the goals you have for your life:
Every person you know should know exactly what you do. If your neighbor can’t explain to her mother what you do, you’re not doing a good enough job. Get your message out there. Tell everyone. Take small seemingly inconsequential opportunities (like speaking to a Girl Scout Troop) to get your message out there. You never know who’s listening.
Find someone doing what you want to be doing and ask them how they got there. And then DO WHAT THEY TELL YOU TO DO. This one comes courtesy of my friend Shante Cofield, The Movement Maestro. Shante is the real deal, but her greatest advice is: “do what successful people tell you to do!”
Sometimes you’re going to need to pay someone to help you. But take advantage of all the free advice you can (keeping in mind that sometimes you get what you pay for). I had the extreme good fortune of scoring a free 30-minute business coaching call with David Crump. He offered a paid business coaching mentorship at the end and I declined based on the fact that I felt I had a lot to work with already. Guess what? I implemented everything David said and although he lost a client, I gained a professional friend. We keep in touch to this day. These free coaching calls count on the fact that you’re not going to have the discipline to implement the advice that they’re giving you. Outsmart the system girl! David still won though. I refer people to him all the time!
Get specific with your vision and know exactly you want to be doing. Remember in grade school when your teacher told you your essay topic was too broad? Well your aspiration may be too broad as well. Narrow that ‘ish down. There is a large pool of people needing your services and you can’t possibly capture them all. But if your niche is too broad, you’ll miss your perfect clients and customers.
Figure out the venue for getting your message out and then SHOW up. If your venue is Instagram, or Twitter or even the coffee house, you need to consistently show up with content and material. When you show up, people pay attention. Keep putting content out there even if you don’t think people are listening. (I recently had an inquiry via e-mail from a lecture I did in MAY.)
You are likely going to do some pro bono work (at least initially). Never use the word FREE. You’re doing a complimentary or pro bono lecture. You are NOT FREE. And then the next time they ask be ready with your rates and don’t apologize for them.
Know that if you’re working on your dream part time, you’re going to get part time results (which is the boat I’m currently rowing). I’m not encouraging you to quit your job and go all in on your dream. At some point you need to take calculated risks to further your path. That’s going to look different for each person. For me, I’m deliberating quitting the FD and going all in on FireSQFitness. I know I can make it financially, but I’m also walking away from a pension that would help me take care of myself for the rest of my life. It’s a hard decision that I can’t take lightly. Shante (who I mentioned earlier) was able to quit her job as a physical therapist knowing that she could always find another PT job if she wanted to. It doesn’t work that way in the fire service. I’m too old to be re-employable, once I’m gone, I’m gone.
I hope this glimpse into my journey in entrepreneurship has been helpful for you. My best advice I can repeat is this: get out of your own way and bet on YOU. No one else is going to.
To connect with Annette check out her
Learn more about: Annette Zapp, CSCS
A 15-year veteran of the fire service, Zapp holds the rank of Lieutenant on a busy suburban Chicago engine company and has over 25 years’ experience in fitness coaching and training. She owns and operates FireSQFitness (pronounced Fire Rescue Fitness), a coaching business dedicated to the physical and mental health and wellness of first responders. She is honored to have the opportunity to help Firefighters live their best lives.
Holding a master’s degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of South Dakota School of Medicine, she is also credentialed as a NSCA CSCS and TSAC-Facilitator, Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach and an CISSN through the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Her proudest career accolade was being selected as a member of the Illinois Firefighter Peer Support Team where she counsels and supports her fellow firefighters. Annette has recently accepted a position teaching courses for the Denver University in their graduate program for Sport Coaching.