Editor’s Note: APH CareerConnect connected with Michael Finn, owner of Finn Fitness & Wellness, a holistic exercise and lifestyle coaching business, to ask about his career and what led him into the industry. Mr. Finn inspires us with his quest for health, and he offers advice to career seekers who are also blind or low vision.
APH CareerConnect: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Michael Finn: I have spent my fifty-two years living all over the state of California.
I’m an athlete. I’ve wanted to be an athlete from the time I was a little kid. It has allowed me to travel all around the world competing in a variety of sports and activities. That led me to my career choice of being a coach; coaching others into being healthy, fit, pain-free, competing in their sport, or just living a life they love.
My success in sports like track and field, beep baseball, kayaking, snowboarding, and many others built my confidence and showed me with hard work and practice I could have the career I wanted and live the life of my dreams.
I’m also a parent and husband—I’ve been married for eighteen years now and I have an 11.5-year-old in the sixth grade. We work hard on learning and growing and doing lots of fun things together.
APH CareerConnect: Can you tell us about your current job and what it entails?
Michael Finn: The title I give myself is a Holistic Exercise and Lifestyle Coach. I coach people how to live the lifestyle that leads them down the path to the life they love to live. This includes nutrition, activities, exercise, education, changing of careers—every aspect of someone’s life we will get into as needed, depending on what they truly want to accomplish with their life. There is a decent amount of life coaching in addition to the nutrition and fitness side. I will also mix in some massage work and other holistic practices to help my clients move forward to reach their goals.
Some people come to me wanting to lose weight, and in our conversation, we find out the reason why they have a weight problem is because they’re very unhappy. They don’t like their job or where they live, so they medicate with food. We come up with a plan. What job would you like to have? We do research on what needs to happen. We also talk about nutrition—when you have a happy day living your dream it’s easy to stick to the patterns of eating appropriately to have the energy to do the things you want to do. In contrast, if you’re doing things you have to do instead of want to do, that’s when you go eat as much of a large pizza as you possibly can, and chase it down with ice cream, all to self-medicate because you’re unhappy with how your life is rolling out.
So, we meet regularly (once a month or a few times a week, online, over the phone, or in-person) and put together the plans and strategies as to how they’re going to change their lifestyle into what they love. I may be teaching them how to stretch and exercise while we talk about making better food choices or how to deal with the stress their boss is putting on them. I may be doing some life coaching while massaging a frozen shoulder or tight hip.
The key is coaching each person—teaching each individual the things they need to know to reach their goals, and encouraging them, and motivating them to make the changes in their life to reach those goals.
So many times people try to bite off more than they can chew and end up struggling and then quitting. They think they just can’t do it or don’t have the ability to do it, but that is not true. They are just lacking the knowledge and experience needed to achieve their goals.
This is why we all need a coach, someone with more knowledge and experience than we have. The coach can guide the individual through the learning process, providing resources, information, and guidelines to learn and implement strategies.
One of my favorite quotes is “We only know what we know”. A coach provides the knowledge and tools needed to be successful. A coach will know how to balance all of the lifestyle factors in someone’s life. A coach can communicate and explain how fast to expect results and provide accountability and encouragement so that everyone can find a balanced lifestyle they can sustain.
That is the key. Results come with following the lifestyle for days, weeks, months and then years so that your body and life take the shape of your dreams.
It’s very tricky to explain exactly what I do because I do everything completely differently with each person. It is very unique to what their experiences are in life, their current knowledge base, and most importantly what they want to accomplish.
APH CareerConnect: What led you to work in the industry?
Michael Finn: Going all the way back to when I was in high school, I was overweight and completely miserable. I changed from being a really overweight (220lb.) fourteen-year-old to a six-foot-tall 170lb track athlete. After that, lots of people came to me asking how to get stronger, get in shape, or how to build muscles. People continued asking me for help and were progressing—by then I was 30 and I decided to become a personal trainer.
Over the years I have expanded my knowledge base and acquired many different certifications to help others reach their goals and dreams.
From all of my education, coaching, and experience I have learned that it is a lifestyle. The lifestyle we live creates who we are.
I wanted to help people figure out what their goals and dreams really are and coach them through the process to create it.
I live the lifestyle that I love, and I coach other people how to live the lifestyle they love and can sustain throughout their life. It isn’t quick and easy. It takes some work and there is always a bump in the road here and there, but in the end they appreciate what they have accomplished. They have a healthy mind, body and spirit to accomplish whatever they set their mind to.
APH CareerConnect: How did you acquire the job skills?
Michael Finn: When I was 14 and out of shape, I started reading books and finding all the information I possibly could. Anybody I ran across who seemed like they knew more than me and were in a better position than I was, I tried to pick their brain and learn from them.
When I got into college, unfortunately the guidance counselor told me I couldn’t go into the health and fitness industry because I was blind. They pushed me into business classes. So, while in college I did take business classes—but in all reality, I was bored and dreaming of being a coach. After that, I competed in sports internationally and in the Paralympics. I learned from the coaches at the U.S. Olympic training center.
I needed to work and make money, so I would jump into any job I could find. I was happy to work for others because I could learn from them, but I realized I wanted to own my own company.
I tried my hand in the coffee business and did just fine, but after eight years I couldn’t deal with being unhappy anymore.
I got the needed certifications and then worked at a corporate gym as a personal trainer. I learned how they did their sales and marketing. I told myself I would dive into it really hard for two years to learn their puzzle pieces and shape them into what I wanted for my own business down the road.
While there, I realized I didn’t have near enough education. I found the CHEK Institute in the San Diego area, one of the main sources of my education for life coaching, nutrition, physical therapy and rehab, strength and conditioning, and massage therapy. The amount of material is endless—which is another thing I like about it. I don’t get bored; there’s always more to learn.
I am a huge believer in continuing my education. I spent a year learning more about functional medicine; I took a functional diagnostic nutrition program through Reed Davis down in Southern California. I learned massage work, Ti Chi, and have received countless other certifications—so many I can’t remember them all!
I enjoy finding the best practitioners in a given field and learning from them.
I have spent a lot of time educating myself—even if it is simply observing others throughout life. I am a teacher and a student of life and moving it forward.
APH CareerConnect: What job accommodations and assistive technology do you utilize?
Michael Finn: I am 52, so it’s changed over the years.
I lost my vision when I was two; my optic nerve was damaged, unfortunately, because the doctor gave me the wrong medication for what was really a vitamin B deficiency. But that’s okay—my vision loss has made me who I am today.
I learned braille as a child. In the third grade, closed-circuit TVs were the latest and greatest. I have had a closed-circuit TV ever since; the current one I got a decade ago was amazing because it was the very first one I had that was in color. I use it less and less because almost everything is available on the computer.
I use magnification and speech software on the computer. I also have special glasses with really powerful magnification on them for reading print when I need it.
I’ve had to adapt a lot of things. There are all these different calipers and measurement tools to measure range-of-motion of joints; I have figured out how to adapt them or to find tools with large printed numbers.
Back when I worked for others, I’d work with clients in different locations for optimal lighting. When I built my studio, I purchased paint in a particular color which is easy on my eyes—same with the color of carpeting and mats. It allows me to function for the entire day and not become visually fatigued.
I see everything in my life as being assistive technology. I choose everything that works best for me.
APH CareerConnect: What work/ personal values does owning a fitness and wellness business enable you to uphold?
Michael Finn: Just like everything else, this has changed over my life. Initially, it was that I was an athlete myself. I felt like I had to work so hard to figure out what really worked and didn’t for me. I wanted to take that guesswork out for others, which is why I got into it in the first place.
Now that has morphed into a bigger picture of health and fitness being about the enjoyment of living your life so that you can actually do the things you dream about and want to accomplish or experience.
It allows me to experience being an athlete and being a coach of others to help them reach their dreams. I can also be a supportive member of my own family and contribute to moving the world forward into being happy and fit physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I can work toward this on a day-to-day basis.
APH CareerConnect: What advice would you give to others who are blind or visually impaired and seeking employment?
Michael Finn: The number one key—never give up! In reality, everyone has a challenge, while for some it’s obvious, like our blindness or low vision. The key is that it just makes you do things differently than 99% of the population. It doesn’t mean you can’t do what you want to do. It doesn’t mean you can’t reach your dream. You may do it differently, but that’s the beauty of it.
It’s going to be challenging to get to the point of living your dream. Keep pressing and moving forward. Try different things to see what works and what doesn’t work. Find where you need support like assistive technology or hiring someone to help you with particular circumstances, or receiving education in a particular field.
Some people have been told their entire life they can’t do something, and they let themselves quit. It’s a choice. You have to make the choices that lead you down the path you want to go down.
Secondly, stay focused on where you want to be. Enjoy the journey and process of getting there. I didn’t get to where I am today overnight. It started when I was fourteen! There were lots of detours and all sorts of other situations which prepared me to be ready to dive into my current role.
Along your journey you’ll realize there are certain things you don’t like and that you don’t want to do; that’s perfectly fine. Work your way around them or find someone to help do those things. The key is you experience them and move forward.
I kept throwing goals out there and working hard to accomplish them. I don’t give up.