After college I spent several years as a personal trainer to dozens of fantastic and fascinating men and women in downtown Toronto. The majority of my clients were CEO’s, the spouses of CEO’s, or the children of CEO’s. As a result, every single training session was an opportunity to learn something business-related during our post-workout conversations.

At the same time I was growing my online business and writing for Men’s Health magazine. But despite what other trainers at my gym saw as success, I still felt as though something BIG was missing and it was during a training session at 6am on a Tuesday morning that I discovered what it was.

One of my clients, Michael W., had become a business mentor to me. As a retail executive he shared with me his stories of managing people, merchandise, and expenses. He regaled me with stories of traveling around the world, including to his favorite city, Florence, on buying trips.

But it was something that he said to me about his brother, a successful and wealthy lawyer who rode a bicycle to work, that made me realize what I really wanted to be when I grew up.

Once I discovered my real true life goal, my mindset about success changed. Not only did my sense of appreciation increase for what I had already accomplished, but it also gave me more resilience to weather the inevitable storms in my business and personal life. It was this simple, yet profound advice from Michael W. that changed my thinking during tough times.

You see, as I built my online business over the years that followed, it brought with it a lot of criticism. Of course, much of this criticism was from anonymous Internet readers about petty details. For example, anonymous readers would call me names in the comments area on my website, and at one point even went so far to insult my dog. What nerve.

But with each online salvo fired my way, I thought back to what Michael W. said about his brother, and it energized me to work even harder I on making people’s lives better with the information I provided. I now use criticism as fuel for my working fire.

Years have passed since my time in the gym, and now I spend my days entirely devoted to my website businesses and writing, but I have not forgotten what Michael W. said. In fact, it inspired me to create my personal philosophies that I eventually shared with ETR readers as the “12 Rules I Live By“. Not surprisingly, this too brought personal attacks and strange criticisms from people who do not know me. But writing those rules made my life better, not worse, and helped me get closer to my ultimate goal – one that Michael W.’s brother lived on a daily basis.

Criticism is inescapable when you do something that challenges other people’s beliefs.

On the journey towards your real goals and true purpose in life, you’ll have to deal with a lot of criticism. In my life, without knowing my ultimate life goal, it’s possible that the personal attacks would have derailed my efforts. But knowing what I wanted to achieve has allowed me to reframe the criticism.

As Dan Kennedy, author of No BS Wealth Attraction for Entrepreneurs says, “Criticism: It has only the power you, the target, give it. It has none of its own.”

Because of this I now look at my actions in a lighthearted way. Everything is part of my devious little plan to live a life that inspires ETR readers and the over 100,000 fitness readers who check out my content every day.

My recent article about canceling my home Internet in an effort to be more productive resulted in a startling volume of negative feedback. Perhaps the most of any essay I have written for Early To Rise. Yet despite the criticism, the decision I made was best for me and my life got better. Again, I was one step closer to reaching my ultimate goal. But without Michael W.’s words of wisdom from back in 2006 I might not have had the strength to do so.

I am willing to throw myself ‘under the bus’ and tell the world about my crazy experiments for living better all for the greater good of all ETR readers. My extreme examples of lifestyle design, time management and productivity serve to encourage YOU to change a little.

Don’t get me wrong. Rising at 4:30am each morning in order to crank out five ETR issues each week while simultaneously running a full-time fitness business is hardly a sacrifice compared to the lives led by men and women who encounter roadside bombs on a daily basis. However, it is far outside of my comfort zone and that of the average person who watches several hours of television each day.

The results of these lifestyle experiments have been incredibly rewarding. After all, I’m writing this essay from a gorgeous oak dining room table in my friend’s mansion in St. Pete’s Beach, Florida. I’ve spent the last five days following an enjoyable routine of early morning writing followed by a workout, a great lunch, and informal big idea masterminding for several hours, sometimes while having cold drinks in the hot tub.

This week I’m heading to Nicaragua with dozens of like-minded millionaire publishers. Next month I’ll be speaking at two high-energy business events where I’ll be surrounded by hundreds of positive attendees. In May I’ll be running another Mastermind meeting and in June fitness experts will travel from all corners of the globe to attend my yearly Turbulence Training Summit.

The sacrifices are minimal, but the returns are significant. All thanks to one throwaway comment from a client back in 2006.

So what was it that Michael W. said about his brother that made me realize what I really wanted to be when I grew up?

Well, Michael described his brother as being a bit unorthodox. Even though his brother was a successful lawyer at one of Toronto’s biggest law firms, he still rode his bicycle from Forrest Hill (one of the richest neighborhoods in Toronto) downtown to the law firm. “My brother is comfortable in his own skin,” Michael W. said.

As soon as he said that, I knew that was what I wanted. That was my ultimate goal. It wasn’t about impressing other trainers in the gym with my success.

In a world where people go into debt to keep up with their neighbors, who are also in debt, I am doggedly determined to be myself and make choices that lead to significance, to meaning, and to helping others no matter how much criticism it brings.

My suggestion to you is to learn to be comfortable in your own skin. Be true to yourself and your message. People respect people who truly believe in what they are doing and who are comfortable in their own skin. Don’t be embarrassed by what makes you unique, be proud of it instead.

“You don’t have to live your life the way others expect you to. You can do good things for yourself and make the world a better place at the same time.” – Chris Guillebeau

[Ed. Note. Being comfortable in your own skin comes from having a powerful vision for the rest of your life. You need to know your true goal. In turn, that vision comes from being able to set the right goals for your future. Join me on this special coaching program where I share my exact goal setting strategies to help you change your life.]

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Craig Ballantyne

Craig Ballantyne is the author of The Perfect Day Formula: How to Own the Day and Control Your Life. Craig has been a contributor to Men's Health magazine for over 17 years. Today he teaches his gift to high-performing entrepreneurs how to squeeze more out of their days, increase their income, and make more quality time for their families in his Perfect Life Workshop and Work-Life Mastery programs. Craig used his own advice to overcome crippling anxiety attacks in 2006, and he'll teach you his 5 Pillars of Success so you can increase your income, decrease your work time, and live the life of your dreams. Learn more about Craig at craigballantyne.com

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