A few times here on the blog, I’ve referenced “The Maureen Martone Rule.” (As in, “I haven’t dropped the f-bomb here since the inception of the Maureen Martone Rule”.) This story’s background proved to be one of the most important and defining moments in my life as a professional fitness coach, and one I’m happy to share here with you.
Some of you who have been reading the blog since the beginning (July 2008) may know a bit of the back-story. I had switched over to blog format from the CrossFit message boards, where all content was constantly monitored and censored. I wanted the blog mostly to track my own workouts, but I also liked to share funny stories and random musings. Trying to tell some of those stories on the message boards was frustrating, because the rules of posting limit both content and word usage. So I decided to move this party over to the free-for-all that is the internet… and I was determined to use the crap out of my freedom of expression.
I swore. A lot. My use of creative profanity was often excessive and gratuitous, but it didn’t seem to bother those of you who were, at the time, following along, and I was childishly excited to finally be able to speak my uncensored peace. I thought my colorful language added flair, and since I knew my in-person manner was professional and family-friendly, I figured my on-line alter-ego could afford to let loose a little. After all, we’re all grown-ups around here, right?
Fast forward to October 2008, when I met the Martone family (Jeff, Maureen, Kristina and Mike) at my first kettlebell certification. I spent a good deal of time with them that weekend, both socially and during the cert, and really enjoyed their company. Jeff and Maureen proved to be amazingly talented coaches, and when I asked them for some business advice during dinner, they were encouraging and supportive and not afraid to give it to me straight. I decided then and there to try to learn more from them in whatever form I could.
The very next weekend, I was working the gymnastics cert with Tucker at CrossFit Boston. Jeff and Mike Martone were also attending as participants, so we got to spend a lot more time together. Over dinner, I planted the seeds for an assistant coaching gig with Jeff, offering to come help him and Maureen at an upcoming local cert. I’m good at demonstrating, I love public speaking, and I’m professional and responsible – so I figured I had a good shot at scoring an assistant coaching spot.
And then Jeff mentioned that he’d been reading my blog.
I was flattered that he’d spent some time poking around on my site, and he was initially complimentary of the style, quality of writing and the community I was building. But then, without warning, he looked me straight in the eye and dropped the proverbial hammer. "You know what, Melissa? Gotta clean up the language if you want to come work a cert with me. It’s a family affair, y’know what I mean?"
I was shocked. I think I may have even blushed. I mean, sure, I swore on the blog, but I certainly didn't behave like that in person, especially not when working a certification. He could certainly see that from the weekend, as I worked the room helping Tucker coach, demonstrate and spot. I assured him my in-person coaching presentation was nothing but professional, but Jeff just shook his head. “I can see that, but if I just read your blog, I might have thought differently. I mean, my wife thinks you’re great, but I wouldn’t send Mo over there to read your stuff. She wouldn’t like that language at all.”
At that point, I was flat-out embarrassed. I liked Maureen an awful lot, and the thought of her reading my writing and being disappointed was an awful feeling… kind of like when you do something your Mom doesn’t approve of. And I was kicking myself, thinking that I may have lost my chance at participating in something amazing (assisting Jeff at a cert) because of the impressions I made via my blog. So I thanked Jeff for his candor, and went home to think long and hard about our conversation.
That conversation, and its implications for me as a coach, a mentor and a business professional within the fitness community, prompted a post called “A Public Apology to My Mom”. There was much discussion after that post, with people commenting things like, “It’s your blog, and if people are offended, too bad” to “I second the idea that you don’t have to swear to be edgy or funny.” I wondered at the time whether readership would drop, or whether I would have a hard time being as creative and entertaining without using profanity. But from that day forward, I was committed to reflecting a higher standard of professionalism in my writing.
It’s been over a year now. Readership continues to grow, affiliates continue to link… and when was the last time I dropped an f-bomb here? You’d have to dig way, way back, people, and I’m pretty sure I apologized for it up front. And now I’m proud to have a site that everyone – Maureen Martone included – can visit and reference.
The MMR is enforced as follows: If I write a questionable sentence or use a potentially offensive word, I say to myself, “Would I be comfortable with Maureen Martone reading this?” If the answer is no, I edit. So far, it’s worked beautifully – and although I haven’t spoken to Maureen in a few months, I have been working certs with Jeff. I asked him what he thought of the blog while coaching at North Shore CrossFit in August. His response? “I’ve been keeping tabs, Melissa. Good for you.” I’ve heard the same feedback from a few others, including Dallas’ Mum, who told him she’s glad I’ve cleaned up my act. You know what, Mrs. Hartwig? I am too.
Do you miss the colorful language around here? Did you even notice when it went away? Do you employ something similar to the MMR at your affiliate, or on your blog? Post thoughts to comments.
With the always classy Jeff and Maureen Martone