Originally published in Massage Bodywork magazine, March/April 2008. Copyright 2008. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.
Fresh out of the massage school box I was ready to convert everyone to the glory of massage therapy. It wasn't so much a strategy as it was trying to do everything at once. I reasoned that the sure antidote to an empty practice is activity. When they won't come in through your doors, you have to go get them.
I joined a runner's club and advertised my firm on T-shirts I wore as I exercised. I gave talks at health fairs, churches, clubs, and support groups and volunteered at a veterans' center. I gave out gift certificates and worked for a whack of charities. I was even--most disturbingly--friendly to strangers in elevators and trains. My massage chair was my pulpit to preach the gospel according to Henrik Ling. Though I prefer books to people, I networked with a breezy ease I persuasively faked. I spread brochures and business cards around like a farmer throws seed.
Through the frenzy of marketing, I finally materialized and became visible. I met nice people along the way; some became friends and many became clients.
Then there were the others. I have memorized my failures since I replay them so often: the colleague who tried to discourage me the week before I opened my clinic and the guy who made it clear I was wasting my time the day I did open it; the business man, a supposed tower of his community, making homophobic remarks at a fun run; the young woman who walked up to me at another charity run, asked if I would massage her, then burst out laughing and ran back to her friends. Apparently my career, my life, and my gift were hugely hilarious.
The more you put yourself out there, the more people you meet. Mostly that will be a great thing. Despite your best intentions and work, however, not everyone will be for you and you are not for everyone. We all want to save the world with the conscientious work of our hands (and elbows and feet). The enthusiasm that gives you the velocity to spread the good news can smear you across the proverbial windshield when you meet the grumps who are hostile to touch therapy, or maybe just hostile. They can wring that precious enthusiasm out of you.
Wise people tell us that when the world gives us lemons, we should make lemonade. That's wise people. This is just me. I say it feels great when you dump dumb persistence and stop banging your brain against a brick wall. Like many happy, energetic cowards before me, I advocate taking the path of least resistance. Try any strategy you want to build your practice. However, when it's not working, it's just not working. Or it's not worth it.
Move on as quickly as you can to people who get you and what you do. When you dread dealing with someone, when persistence feels like drunken denial, when going to work feels like taking poison, follow two magic words: "Give up."
When you go into the world to make it better, exercise the better part of valor. You have clients to see who really get you. They line up along the path of least resistance. Then you free up energy to help many more people to the summit of health, happiness, and ease. Robert Chute is a massage therapist and writer. He is a humble Sherpa on the path of least resistance. He can be contacted in his mountain cave at email@example.com.