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How Jennifer Pattee found her 'aha' moment at work

Jennifer Pattee
Jennifer Pattee
Michelle Pattee

I recently started working out with an outdoor fitness company called Basic Training. Now, let me be clear here and say that I am NOT a boot camp kind of girl. My idea of working out almost always has me barefoot. Which means I’m either doing yoga or dancing or just frolicking.

But I met the owner of Basic Training, Jennifer Pattee, and she blew me away and totally inspired me so I signed up and absolutely loved it. It brought out a younger, fiercely competitive version of me. And while my body said to me, “what the?!” when I started, my mind told it to “shut up and keep going” because I didn’t want to embarrass myself. Being competitive has its perks and that’s one of them.

Anyhow, as I was doing sit ups on the grass and looking up at the blue sky and listening to Jenn motivate us, I got this idea to do an interview series on “Finding your aha moment at work”. I just couldn’t help but think that Jenn was so born to do this. It came so naturally to her and she was really good at it. I loved that. And I wanted to know what her background was and how she got to doing work that she loves.

So, below starts the first of my interview series about “Finding your aha moment at work”. I will be profiling people who left a soul-sucking job and found work that they were made for.

p.s. Save the date for June 9th – FREE Lemonade Event (When work hands you lemons…) at The Republic from 6-8pm where we’ll be showing the critically acclaimed and incredibly inspiring documentary “Lemonade” and I’ll be talking about how to leverage your network and find work you were made for.

Tell me about what you do for work.

I own an outdoor fitness company called Basic Training. I help people get into shape by training outdoors. We run, jump, sprint, shuffle, push, pull, stretch, crunch, and wrestle. Among other things. I try to make exercise something to look forward to. Bringing it outdoors helps. We also workout in a way that gets results for most people more effectively than a gym.

What type of work were you doing prior to what you are doing now?

Graphic Designer for Apple. I also worked for the Federal government and the nonprofit sector.

What kinds of frustrations did you have with your previous job?

In college I studied politics because I wanted to have a positive impact in the world. I wasn’t sure exactly where or how. I liked working for organizations that were geared toward social change, but I was frustrated at how slow the Federal government worked and how disorganized the nonprofit sector was.
I discovered design, and became excited about using it as a vehicle for social change, but being in an office and commuting to Cupertino was not a good setup for me. One day I rode my bike in from San Francisco and it dawned on me that I was not supposed to be spending 90% of my life indoors. 
 

Eventually my body started sending me louder signals. I developed a repetitive stress injury to my wrist that my doctor said would require surgery. It seemed too cyborg to me to cut into my body so I could click a mouse more efficiently. So I threw myself into the great unknown and decided to find a new path. It was heartbreaking at the time.
How did you come to discover this was what you were meant to do?

I had no idea at the time that I would make a great leader, and I never wanted to run my own business. But I had this opportunity to start leading classes because I had been taking them for so long – it’s how I kept my sanity and stayed fit while I worked at my corporate job.

After I taught my first class I thought it went horribly, but I also loved every moment of it. Being outside, working closely with people, helping them be healthy, strong, empowered and having an immediate impact– all of it appealed to me. I also loved that it was finished in an hour–it was so efficient.

I stepped up my own training, which essentially meant I could go to classes all over the city and write it off as an education expense. Then I really threw myself into my teaching — the transformations in my clients were stunning.

I also helped grow the company I was working for. At a time when other gyms were going bankrupt, the fitness company I was promoting was booming based on the materials I designed.

When I branched out to do my own thing, it was scary but everyone who knew me said it was the right thing to do. The economy wasn’t great and I didn’t have a lot of capital, but I went for it. It helped that I had overwhelming support of my family, friends and clients.

What fears did you have to overcome to take the leap?

Falling on my face. Defaulting on my mortgage. No one signing up. Failing on all fronts.

What do you love most about what you do?

I love everything about it.

Watching people go from couch potatoes to athletes is incredibly gratifying.

I think running is a gift and so many people say they “hate” it or “can’t” do it. We’ve taught so many people how to run. They send me the nicest Christmas cards to this day.

Helping people heal from injuries is really cool too. People write-off entire body parts like their knees or shoulders because they had an injury once, never got it checked out by the right person, and assumed they would never get full function again. We’ve helped a lot people get their body back, in more ways than one.

I also love it when someone comes to us because they want to lose 10 pounds, and end up changing their entire life. Gaining confidence, making new friends, getting into a relationship, running a marathon, changing jobs. It’s awesome to watch people grow. And to think that simply showing up every day to run, jump, sprint, climb stairs, etc could help them get the things they want from their lives.

If you were to give advice to people thinking about changing careers, what would it be?

Don’t wait for someone to give you permission. Or call me and I will tell you “it’s ok, you can do it.” (Or call Suzannah and she will tell you.) Life is too short to be in a job you don’t leap out of bed for every single day. Your talents are desperately needed elsewhere. Figure out where that is.

It’s ok if the journey scared you a little bit. Everyone is scared at first.
 

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