5 Life-Changing Lessons From Martin Rooney

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5 Life-Changing Lessons From Martin Rooney


When I strolled into a large room just before 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning at the Perform Better Summit in Chicago, I saw a number of droopy-eyed trainers and strength coaches spaced out along the perimeter struggling to finish their morning coffee.

Just more than an hour later, that same group exited the room drenched in sweat, energized and ready to take on the world. We had just experienced one of the famous workouts put on by famed strength coach Martin Rooney.

But the workout wasn’t anything special – it involved basic sprints, high pulls and push-ups.

What stood out was the fact one man got a massive group of complete strangers cheering ecstatically for each other and forming bonds over one workout.

I was so inspired by the workout, I decided to attend his lecture later on that morning.

Rooney didn’t disappoint.

I left the room feeling as if I was on top of the world.

Here are five life-changing lessons I learned from Rooney:

1. Feel bad “with” someone, not “for” someone

In 2005, Rooney remembered feeling sorry for those in New Orleans who lost their houses as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

But seven years later, things hit Rooney a little closer to home. Hurricane Sandy wiped out a number of homes of his friends and family members.

It was then that Rooney truly understood the difference between sympathy and empathy.

He was truly empathetic toward those affected by Hurricane Sandy, as he felt bad “with” them instead of “for” them.

When you’re listening to the struggles of someone else, make sure you put yourself in that person’s shoes so you can actually feel his or her pain.

2. If you truly believe in others, they’ll do more than they thought possible

Rooney told a story of a teacher who taught a group of students she thought had incredibly high IQ scores. She had high expectations of these students, and as a result, these students were more successful than any other class in the school.

Then, the principal called the teacher into the room to ask the teacher what she had done to get such high scores out of the students. She remarked it was easy because all of the students had such high IQ scores.

The principal then told her the students’ “IQ” scores were in fact their locker numbers. These were actually students who hadn’t been getting very high grades.

If you truly believe in someone you’re coaching or mentoring, that person is capable of far more than he or she thinks.

3. A great coach lights a fire inside someone else

Do you remember the last five Heisman trophy winners? The last five winners of the Nobel Peace Prize? The last five winners of the best supporting actor at the Oscars?

No, you don’t.

But do you remember the five people who had the biggest impact on your life?


Rooney defined a coach as someone who has the ability to take someone where they want to go.

A great coach inspires that individual to great heights.

4. Your own enthusiasm will make others more enthusiastic

Have you ever been in a room with no energy?

Want to know how to bring up the energy?

Be more enthusiastic yourself.

During our Saturday morning workout, Rooney inherited a room full of sleepy trainers and coaches, but within minutes, he had the room buzzing because of his unbelievably high level of energy.

If you want to fire someone else up, you’ve got to get fired up yourself.

5. No amount of knowledge you have matters if you can’t express it clearly to others

You can be the smartest person in the world in a given subject matter, but if you can’t effectively relay that information to others, no amount of knowledge you have matters.

Your students or clients don’t care about how much you know. They care about the results you can deliver for them.

Instead of studying strictly textbooks, take a look at human psychology. Figure out what makes others tick.

If you do that, you’ll be a much better teacher or coach.

About Author


Luke’s vision is to help people around the world build muscle, burn fat, get stronger and become the best versions of themselves. He is a strength coach, powerlifter, and former full time journalist living with his wife in the Madison, WI area. Alongside a degree from The University of Wisconsin-Madison's school of journalism, Luke is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

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