At 42 years old, what possessed me to get my first tattoo? A matching tattoo with my 27-year-old employee no less. Am I, as my mom fears, having a mid-life crisis? Well it all started like this…
It was 2:00 on a Friday afternoon. We’d finished teaching morning classes. I’m honestly not sure how it came up, but our gym manager Kelli, who has other tattoos, mentioned she was thinking of getting a tattoo one day of the “Get Moving” guy from our The Little Gym ad campaigns. Basically a line drawing of a guy running. And I said something like, “Why? That’s not a even a cute graphic! If you want to get a The Little Gym tattoo, you should get- ‘Serious Fun’ (our The Little Gym tagline)” So we commence joking around about this prospect. She’s like, oh, great idea, and we can add some of the stars and bubbles! We start talking fonts and options. At this point, there were three of us in the conversation. Me, Kelli, and my business partner Corey. Kelli pulls a program up on the screen and starts designing the tattoo idea. We’re all in agreement that it would be pretty cool. Kelli says, “Let’s do it.” And she picks up the phone to call her tattoo guy. At which point Corey says, “I’m out.” He later explained Kelli and I were a little more spontaneous then he’s comfortable being… So at 5:30 that night, Kelli and I went to her tattoo guy and got matching tattoos.
At this point, you might be siding with my mom about me having a mid-life crisis. But here are my reasons, spontaneous as they were, for why I went along with Kelli and branded myself for life:
1. Serious Fun is not just a tagline. It’s a life philosophy.
When I bought into The Little Gym Franchise in 2007, the official tag line or motto of The Little Gym was “Motor Skill Development made Fun builds Confidence that leads to a lifetime of Success.” First of all, that is way too long to tattoo on my forearm. But more importantly, when corporate did focus groups with parents, they realized that even the most loyal customers of the franchise had no idea what that statement meant, and they didn’t bring their children to the gyms for that purpose anyway. They brought them there primarily because their kids had fun. And the parents recognized there were things going on in the classes that were beneficial- but primarily they wanted their children to have fun. And so a new tag line was born- Serious Fun. That’s it. Now when someone asks what we do at The Little Gym we say we have Serious Fun. First of all, that is MUCH easier to teach a teenage staff member to say, and secondly, it put the focus exactly where it should be- on the fun. Do we build confidence? sure. Do we work on motor skill development? sure. We also work on turn-taking and following directions, and balance and flexibility and core strength. But mostly we have fun. And not just the kids. We expect the staff to have fun too. It's in their job descriptions. And I promise you, work, whether volunteer or vocational, is so much richer and more fulfilling when it is joyful. And things don't have to always be either or. Serious or fun. I've watched serious learning happen daily over the past decade. All while having so much fun.
2. It's time for me to move on...
As much as I have LOVED owning and operating my The Little Gym for the last 10 years, it will be time for me to move on soon. This month, I am turning over the gym completely to my current business partner Corey Hernandez. And although he might not be ready yet for the tattoo, he is more than ready to lead the Serious Fun. Corey and I have been friends since 1999. He helped us move the furniture into the gym. Literally. Then after he and his wife Ivy had their son Landon 6 years ago, they started bringing him to classes twice a week. So he has been a long time supporter and friend to me and the gym. He officially came on board as my business partner in January of 2015. And I have every confidence I am leaving the gym in fantastic hands.
I will still be teaching through the end of the Season in May 2017. So I'm not quite ready to walk out the door. But when I do go, I'll have my new tattoo as a constant reminder of all the Serious Fun I had with my students and my staff. And speaking of my staff, that brings me to the final reason I got the tattoo.
3. Kelli asked me.
Kelli started working at The Little Gym part-time over five years ago on her 22nd birthday. I've watched her grow and flourish over the last five years. And I couldn't be more proud of the job she's doing now as our General Manager. She is more than capable (and eager!) to help Corey run the gym for years to come. She embraces the philosophy of the program and works to make sure each family feels welcome in our gym. And she feels so invested in our business, she wanted to get a tattoo representing it. How could I not join her?
And honestly, I love the idea that I am now branded and joined for life with my final gym director. Because as proud as I am of all the work I've done at The Little Gym over the years, I am the most proud of my mentoring of my staff members. I opened The Little Gym to make a difference in the lives of children and their families in our community. And I imagine I did some. But it's hard to quantify and measure those kind of long term differences. But what I am absolutely certain about, is the difference working at The Little Gym made to many of my young staff members. I have tears in my eyes even now as I type this just thinking about all the incredible young adults who shared their gifts with me and my business. And I know that many of them, like Kelli, feel working at The Little Gym changed their lives for the better. Some of them in quite significant ways. And that has been the most unexpected, best ever benefit of owning and operating my The Little Gym.
And so now my literal bond with Kelli will serve as reminder of the metaphorical one I will always share with all my former staff members. And I hope each of us, wherever we are in the world, will remember and draw on the lessons of Serious Fun we learned at The Little Gym. And carry on in that same spirit always.
You can join us in our Serious Fun revolution. You just have to love life and work with a joyful heart. The tattoo is optional...