Kieon Dorsey is living proof of what can be accomplished through sheer will and hard work. To find his way, he had to walk away from a well-paid and hard-earned professional career—after being the first in his family to graduate from college. Instead of following the money, he followed his gut, and took a leap into the unfamiliar world of fitness training.
But it worked out—very well, in fact. Today, he is an in-demand personal trainer with a growing client list that includes everyone from locals looking to shape up to sports stars and celebrities. And no wonder—his list of creds includes:
- RSP-sponsored athlete
- Master trainer and fitness director of Sportscenter Athletic Club in High Point, North Carolina
- Creator of the "No Struggle No Progress" fitness brand
Dorsey knows how to put an athlete through his or her paces, but he also knows how to get inside their head. Talk to the 33-year-old for any length of time, and you just might have a sudden urge to go lift a weight, do a killer set of burpees, run until your lungs give out—or all of the above.
We were so impressed by his motivation magic that we decided to offer it to you. Here are Dorsey's five foundational lessons, each born out of a step along his journey. Just get your running shoes and lifting gloves ready. You might want to lace or strap up by the time you reach the end of number five.
Lesson 1: Show Up
On Instagram (@Kieon), Dorsey shares his daily dose of motivation and encouragement.
"I have a couple of things I tend to say every day on Instagram," he says. "One thing I say to people is to 'Get Yo Ass Up'—up from sleep, from the mundane, from the negative, the disappointment, the discouragement you may be going through."
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound athlete also uses the hashtag #showedup, because no matter how he feels, no matter what the weather is like or what happened yesterday, he continues to execute on all the important things in his life.
When Dorsey was playing college basketball, he thought success was a matter of talent. He has since learned that, as basketball great Kevin Durant like to recite, "Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard."
Dorsey now makes hard work the centerpiece of his career, never shirking the small stuff or cutting corners.
"Your goals don't care how you feel at any given moment," he says. "Of course, you're tired. Of course, you don't always want to be doing what needs to be done. But you've got to keep going, keep showing up, keep putting in your time."
Lesson 2: To Grow, Punch Above Your Weight
Dorsey has been playing competitive basketball since he was old enough to dribble a ball.
"I was playing against 10-year-olds when I was 7, always going up against stronger, more physical guys in my neighborhood," he recalls. "No matter how many times I lost to bigger, better competitors, I kept coming back."
This desire to fight against the odds continues to this day.
"If I feel like I'm the smartest or the strongest person in the room, I'm probably in the wrong room,'" Dorsey says. "I want to be in a room full of people who can push me mentally, stretch my mind. If you want to keep growing physically, mentally, and emotionally, you've got to seek out people who can challenge you."
Lesson 3: Be Passionate. Go Beyond What's Expected
Dorsey put a great deal of effort into earning his engineering degree, but when it came time to commit to the profession, he chose a different path.
"I looked around at the other engineers and felt like they were just going through the motions," he says. "That bothered me because I don't think you can be great at something unless you have passion for it."
That passion translates into dedication to your craft. In his first job as a fitness professional, he'd see other trainers who were completelyout of shape and talked on the phone while their clients trained. That didn't make any sense to him.
"It's tough to tell someone to do some squats when you don't look like you could do one yourself," Dorsey says. "And it's not just a physical thing; it's your dedication to clients, too. The person who comes in for training after work wants the same experience that your noon client got. If you're passionate about what you're doing, you'll give every single person more than what they ask for or expect, and it will come back to you."
Some people are okay with being average. Dorsey isn't one of them.
"I think you should always strive to be great," he says.
Lesson 4: Do What Has the Biggest Impact
It was not just the passion he felt for fitness that led him to his decision to leave behind engineering.
"In the end, I realized that my ability to reach people through fitness would have a bigger impact on their lives than anything else I could ever do as an engineer," he says.
Part of that is the sheer amount of energy he's able to bring to the work.
"My special talent is my ability to bring a lot of enthusiasm to help my clients change their lives," he says. "If you can't feel that kind of excitement for what you're doing, maybe it's time to try something else."
Dorsey admits that investing the time and energy it can take to find that one special thing you do well can be risky. But, if you find a way to make it happen, it can change your life.
"Find that one thing," he says. "Put your own personal spin on it, work hard, invest yourself fully, and you can end up feeling happier and more fulfilled."
That feeling of fulfillment is more "success" than many people ever achieve—and it just might lead to financial success, too.
Lesson 5: Go Through It to Get to It
As Dorsey sees it, we all face challenges of one kind or another. If you keep pushing through the resistance, you develop resilience that helps you overcome the immediate challenge. It also makes you better able to get past the next one. In fact, that's what his fitness program is all about.
"My program started in the gym, but it applies everywhere," Dorsey says. "Your job, your finances, your fitness goals, your life goals. It's all about developing the resilience to keep going. The only way you can learn how to deal with certain things in life is to experience them. Sometimes you've got to go through it to get to it."
Dorsey is inspired by his clients' ability to persist.
"My clients include mothers going through divorces, people fighting obesity, people who were ready to give up," he says. "One of my clients survived cancer—twice. When he first came to me, he weighed 115 pounds. Now he's at 185 and looks like a machine. He's proof that a strong, resilient mind leads to a strong, resilient body."