I often tell my students that not everyone is their client, that they are not everyone’s therapist. As part of my ongoing adventures in learning to market, I am experiencing this very profoundly.
Yesterday, I volunteered at the Chicago Marathon — a big, boisterous fun day of post-event massage and lots of energy. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire day, but is also know that pretty much none of the people I worked on were “my” clients.
I worked in the medical tent, mostly providing cramp relief for dehydrated and/or undertrained athletes. About two hours after the start, we started to get patients in. As expected, the first hour or so was filled with people who had pulled out without finishing the race due to injury or other complications. Early on, I worked with Drake*, a young man who had completed an endurance event the week before, but pulled out of the marathon around mile 19 because of pain in his knees and ankles. He said it was normal for him to have pain in those areas because of a chronic health condition, but that is was also normal for him to exercise outdoors for several hours a day.
I was gently working around Drake’s knee, trying to identify any muscular issues. I found an area of restriction, and Drake insisted that I could “go harder. ” I said to him: “Yeah. I could go harder. But last week you finished this ultra event, and you just ran 19 miles today, so your muscles need recovery, and I’m not going to go harder.” Drake seemed disappointed, but he didn’t insist. Whether it was because I convinced him with logic, or because he was born in the year I graduated high school, I can’t be sure.
Either way, it was clear that Drake’s view of massage (hard, rough, painful) had nothing to do with mine. He was not, and will never be my client. Earlier in my career, I might have tried to be his therapist and sacrificed my professional judgment for my client’s preferences. Now, I know better. I’m not going to go harder.
*– name and identifying details have been changed