How Clarence Hairston Uses Authenticity To Better Serve His Clients

Jonathan Ronzio

March 02, 2021

Clarence Hairston (AKA the Tempo personal trainer dubbed Lil Bizzy) joined the Air Force at 21. And after 5 years, he left with pretty much zero plans, other than “don’t go broke.”

But as he struggled to find his footing (including his own sexuality), he realized success had a lot more to do with authenticity than with earning lots of money. And he spent a lot of the next few years trying to figure out who he actually was. 

Today, Clarence is openly gay and doesn’t shy away from the experience that got him where he is. In many ways, he credits his time after the military for everything he’s learned about living authentically and showing up for those around him. And he uses these experiences to better serve his clients. 

Here’s how:

1. Reframe your mindset around goals  

It’s easy to get lost in long-term goals that feel unobtainable. I always like to tell my team that if you want to make it up a flight of stairs, you don’t look at the landing. 

You concentrate on the step that your foot needs to hit first, then the next, and then the next. And eventually, you make it to the top because you don’t focus on how much you have to climb to get there.  

Similarly, instead of setting out to make massive waves, Clarence suggests totally resetting how you’re looking at goals. Meaning, celebrate the small milestones you hit daily. Not just the big wins. 

For example, a lot of us spent several months of 2020 stuck inside, binge-watching Tiger King. So, why shouldn’t we celebrate getting off the couch and taking the first tiny step toward getting active? If you wait until you hit your fitness goal, it might be a while – and you might fall off. 

It’s the same in the business world. Often, we only get to see the end results of the projects people are working on. So, we miss the daily wins and challenges that come with the project. 

But by taking time in your daily syncs to call out these smaller accomplishments, you create momentum around each of the projects in motion. And once that momentum is going, the smaller goals become easier to hit, and the lofty project feels manageable. Because you are always checking off something and seeing constant progress.

2. Make space for yourself

When Clarence was first getting into the personal training game, he realized how critical recovery is to success. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to move fast and stay at a sprint – especially when we’re catching up on lost time. But that’s not sustainable. 

“I’ve seen so many good instructors and coaches burn out that way,” Clarence says. And the business world is no different – especially now. 

In 2020, there was a massive shift toward working remotely. And roughly 62% of Americans worked from home at some point in 2020. Because of this, the boundaries between work and home blurred – and burnout is on the rise. 

But burnout isn’t just being tired from work. It’s a physiological state of physical and emotional exhaustion. And it leaves you sick more often, leads to avoidable mistakes, and (if bad enough) forces you to look for a new job.

So, how can you avoid burnout – especially if you’re still going to be working from home? 

You're allowed to have hard boundaries at work.

According to Clarence, prioritize setting boundaries between your personal and professional lives. Meaning, when it’s working hours, focus all your attention on work. But the moment the clock hits 5 pm, shut it off. And really enforce that you’re done working for the day. 

If those boundaries start to blur again (chances are good that they will), speak up. Let your manager know how you’re feeling or say no to projects that aren’t the top priority. 

Plus, if you’re a people leader, encourage your team to do the same. You can even ask point-blank if they’re feeling burnout. If they are, do something about it.

3. Communicate what you need

“This may sound crazy,” Clarence explains, “but communicate with yourself. Like you don’t feel good. What’s making you not feel good. What can we do to make this better?” 

In other words, treat yourself like you treat your friends, your mom, your partner. And ask yourself how you’re doing and what you need. Whatever the answer, go out of your way to provide that for yourself.

By keeping a running dialogue with yourself, you’ll start to identify where you have room to expand and where you need to scale back. And you’ll better gauge where you can take on a new project and really thrive. 

And when you don’t have the capacity. That way, you can better manage your own time and provide the best results possible – without encroaching burnout. 

Just be sure that you’re communicating your needs to the other people in your life, too (coworkers, family, and friends included). That way, you can actually get it. 

By communicating that you need help before dropping the ball, you save everyone a lot of hassle. And if we’re being real, people are more understanding now than ever about work-life balance. But if you don’t say anything, people are going to assume you’re fine – even if you’re not.

4. When you hit a wall, pivot

It seems so simple – but when you hit a wall and can’t move forward, don’t stop. Pivot! And I’m not just talking about when you want to get a couch up a flight of stairs.

An ode to Ross Geller's best line: "pivot!"

“If you’re unhappy with where you are, all you have to do is move, left or right,” Clarence said. Meaning, whatever you do, don’t just sit around waiting for your circumstances to change. Change them yourself and approach the same goal from another angle. 

For example, if someone is maxing out their strength training, he switches their focus to mobility or flexibility. This way, they don’t just push through the pain and frustration until they quit. 

Instead, he has his clients work on complementary skills to help them achieve that goal when they go back to it. 

Similarly, if you’re maxing out on a business skillset, step to the side and start honing another skill instead. 
For example, if you feel like you’re plateauing as a leader, start working on being more empathetic. By working on this related skill, you’ll keep leveling-up your leadership skills – rather than getting stagnant.

5. Share your authenticity

Clarence focuses a lot on embracing vulnerability with his clients. And he uses his personal experiences to open up these lines of communication. 

“When I came out [as gay],” he says, “for the first time, I was able to be myself.” And he quickly found that people really loved the person he really was – not just the person he was pretending to be. 

“In a world of social media, people know what’s real and what’s fake,” he notes. And people are attracted to those who embrace their authentic selves because it gives them something to relate to. So that’s what he does.

By being vulnerable first with his clients, he opens the door for them to reciprocate. People bring a lot of their personal stress into their workouts. And rather than rushing past it, he uses those stressors to deepen his relationships and better support his clients. 

Similarly, we often feel pressured to shut our authentic selves off in the workplace – for the sake of “professionalism.” But this does a disservice to ourselves and those around us. 

So, rather than pretending to be something that you’re not, what is one thing you can do today to share your most authentic self with your team? And if you feel uncomfortable doing so, what’s standing in your way?

6. Allow yourself to be wrong

For Clarence, he’s a big advocate that it’s okay to learn new information and change your mind. Not just professionally, but in your personal life as well. 

Early on, when he was fresh out of the military and trying to find his space, he tried keeping up with what he thought he needed to be. And in the process, he was burning himself out.

“I was making myself miserable by trying to be all of these things that were impossible,” he says. 

But when he took a step back and let himself really be happy with where he was in the moment, his path began to clear up. Focusing on giving himself permission to change his mind allowed him to remove the pressure and be the best version of himself day after day. 

We don't make mistakes - we just have happy accidents.

So, he challenges you to celebrate mistakes as opportunities to learn – both in and out of the workplace. And to give yourself permission to change your minds as you get new information. 

Often, people get caught up in working as quickly and efficiently as possible. And while neither of those things is bad, you can limit your own growth if you don’t stop to digest new ideas and challenge what’s happening.

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