“It’s a business!” In 21st century culture, so goes the rallying cry used to defend any decision or course of action somehow connected to dollars, that, on some level—overtly or intuitively—lacks integrity.
Of course the supplement companies are lying to us about the usefulness of their products—it’s a business, after all.
And of course they now have umpteen divisions that have zilch to do with muscle at physique competitions—all of those muscleless divisions are more accessible to the average person, which drives numbers way up with more and more competing, which brings in more dollars and—well, you know the rest—it’s a business.
The mantra is repeated endlessly these days, with nary a thought devoted to whether that justification actually makes any sense, or adds legitimacy to the decisions being made by the supposed businessmen and women involved.
What do I mean exactly? Well, let’s take the oldest business on the planet—good old prostitution. You know, “taking one for the team”, as they say, if there are a few dollars attached. Since the dawn of sexual organs, people have been willing to “do some things” they might not otherwise be willing to do, if the price was right. And as a culture—as individuals—we generally don’t respect it when somebody chooses this path. That’s not to say they are automatically a morally repugnant person, but it is to say that, in everyday life, we evaluate the content of one’s actions and decisions not merely by whether it produces a positive monetary return for the person, but also by reference to one’s moral code—did the decision display integrity?; pride?; honesty? And a slew of other virtues that most of us, on some level, hold close to our hearts as being “good qualities”.
But this is fading in our culture. As the wave of immediate gratification and overnight success has taken a stranglehold on the younger generations—nobody wants to work anymore, nobody wants to study, to learn to read, to learn to communicate, to develop legitimate skill sets that might actually help them deal with and advance in the world—as this culture rises to prominence, “it’s a business” is now embraced as a valid justification for seemingly any behavior, no matter how crass, no matter how cheap and tawdry and hollow. Apparently, dollars now trump morality from top to bottom, and the fact that one would even stop to question that, makes them insane.
I know the mentality well, being deeply entrenched in the fitness industry where arguably 90% or more of the wares advertised to people are dead-ends and nothing more than glossed-up bullshit: from the supplement industry almost as a whole (implying results that are never one-to-one correlated with their products); to fitness fads that have zip to do with one actually getting in shape (I’m looking at you, Zumba and 2am infomercials); to implied promises of wealth and stardom and importance (nabbing a pro card, getting a sponsorship, or whatever the bullshit flavor du jour happens to be)—the fitness industry has a long and proud history of selling lies and false hope, to put it bluntly. And I’m privy to it, not daily, but multiple times per day, every day.
The real question you should be asking: does it have to be this way? Can one succeed economically—particularly in an industry where most people are selling lies or lowering standards most of the time—without selling their soul and selling out? And if so, doesn’t that mean others should be held to the same standard?
Last month, Forbes magazine did a piece on IFBB pro John Meadows – Moutain Dog Diet. Yes, Forbes. And in the piece, they mentioned that Meadows now brings in over seven figures a year. If you don’t know who John Meadows is, in a nutshell, he is a former Chase bank executive who left his job—a job with a great annual income and guarantees of safety—to pursue his dream of being a bodybuilding trainer and educator, since that was his passion. And if there is one individual in the bodybuilding world who is generally considered to have the highest levels of honesty, integrity, and would never bullshit a client, it’s Mr. John Meadows.
Ironically, Meadows appears to be raking in more cash these days than anybody else on the scene—and all without succumbing to the rationalization, “It’s a business”. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Meadows promote a shoddy product, or give an evasive answer to a question. He has certainly never ripped off anybody else’s training templates and sold them as his own, or sought sponsorship from companies that he didn’t believe in.
No, Meadows did things a little differently: he put in twice the work of anybody out there, barely sleeping for several years straight, while doing things his own way—not selling out, not compromising his ideals or what he stood for, and certainly never stabbing his beloved bodybuilding dream in the back for the sake of chasing a few quick bucks. I have zero doubt he could have been a social media personality, like so many other bozos out there on the scene right now. But he took the longer, and harder, road, of building a quality product that he could be proud of, stand behind, and endorse. And now, years later, everybody wants him on their team.
Interesting what happens when you hold out and don’t sell your soul for some quick dollars, isn’t it?
So the next time you’re presented with a decision—go for the quick sell and compromise your beliefs, or stand firm and uphold your innermost values while figuring out how to translate them into dollars—remember, it is all a business. BUT, when you have to look back on your legacy, what exactly are you selling? There is always a shortcut. Just remove the middleman and go back to the oldest profession on the planet, if prostitution sounds appealing. But if you don’t really believe in that product, stand firm, put in double the work of everybody else surrounding you, and do things the right way.
Your pride will thank me later.
-David A. Johnston