Raw Lessons from a Male Model

After about ten months now I’m tired of reflecting. There’s only so much a person can reflect on, and then they must move on. But sometimes moving on requires one to share what they’ve learned.

Hi, my name is TJ Anderson, and it’s time to tell you a story. I spent the first four months of 2014 as a model in Miami. (see photo) It sounds harmless, but this 25 year old dude from Iowa was in for a culture shock when he landed in South Beach. As a health coach and fitness trainer from Des Moines, IA, I thought this would be an easy opportunity for me to make some money and build my personal brand. (Wow, that sounds super douchey, but it’s true.) The funny thing was I couldn’t have been further from the truth. This post will highlight a few areas where I set unrealistic expectations…and then I will share what I learned from those. Enjoy!

First, the money. The money from modeling didn’t flow- at least not to me. I made a total of $500 or so directly from modeling over a total of 4 months. Sigh. Laugh. Scoff. Repeat. (Thank God this wasn’t my only revenue channel.) It’s pretty ridiculous when you think about it. I was expecting to make $3–4K at a minimum over those four months, and here’s why:

My ego was built up. Over and over I would hear comments like:

“TJ, you have such a great look, you’ll kill it!”


“TJ, you look like Matt Damon, except prettier, how could you not be successful in modeling?!”

Long story short, my money plan failed. Income fell. Debt rose. And the budding entrepreneur in me started sprinting after a goal with no direction. The funny thing was I thought I knew where I was going. Well, I didn’t. I knew where I wanted to be, but the problem was I didn’t know how to get there. I didn’t…ask for directions.

Have you ever wanted something so bad you didn’t do the smart thing…and ask for help?

If I would have asked for proper directions from people I like love and respect, I would have learned that the money from modeling would take time and patience. Two things I had not planned for.

Back to my story. So, the second area I was wanting to focus on- the personal brand. Remember, I thought modeling could be a vehicle for me to spread the message of healthy living to the world. (Yes, you can laugh. It’s kind of cliche.)

But seriously. I thought I could help share my story of how I transformed my body through specific “healthy” changes to my diet and fitness routines. And I thought this could take my virtual health coaching business to the next level. While this did start to happen a little bit, there was something else going on at the same time.

I started to feel like I was developing an online reputation that the average person couldn’t relate to. The pictures with gorgeous women and videos of beach parties made it seem like I was on Spring Break. And I was, but this Spring Break started in the winter and lasted an extra couple months.

Honestly, my values were starting to slip. I partied to hard and my body paid for it. I was on this vicious cycle of trying to achieve the perfect body while also partying my a** off. Here I thought I wouldn’t get caught up in the glamour of modeling, the perfection mindset, and all the ego that swims through the streets of South Beach, Florida. I was wrong.

Has that ever happened to you? Where you thought so hard about not doing something that that very focus of the not doing caused you to do it anyway? It sounds silly, but it’s so true.

All in all Miami was one hell of a ride for me and I wouldn’t change it for the world. In fact, I made some amazing friendships and memories with people both in and outside of the modeling industry. (See photos above.) Honestly, I’m grateful for the awareness that I had in Miami. What I’m sharing with you today I got clear on while I was down there. It was in March, about 2 or 3 months in to my trip, when I realized something was off. That’s about the time I shared the most real, raw, open and honest facebook post I had ever written at the time.

I’ll never forget one of my good friends, Mike Hrostoski, shared in reply to this post. It touched my heart, and made this sense of tension all but disappear. Perhaps it will do the same for you. After reading my post, this is what Mike shared:

“Good for you to experience a lifestyle that none of us will. Good for you to take a huge risk. Good for you to dive headfirst into an industry that a lot of people have judgment against. Good for you for partying your face off with beautiful people. And good for you for not getting completely sucked in and staying a beautiful person on the inside too. We can either judge the “stupid shit” we did when we were kids or just realize that it was EXACTLY what we needed in that moment.

There it is, friends.

What do you need to reflect on? What have you learned from? I know we’re only 2 months into 2015, and we’re so focused on making this the best year yet, but what if we’re not ready to focus on the future? What if we still need to share something we’ve been reflecting on recently?

If this sounds like you, this is your chance to share whatever you want to share. If you have something specifically you’re reflecting on, share with yourself, with your friends, and with your family. And these questions might help:

  1. What did you learn about yourself in this experience?
  2. Do you feel like sharing? Would that help you? If so, what do you feel like sharing and to whom do you feel like sharing?
  3. Now go and share!

These guiding questions will keep us moving forward with full awareness, limitless growth, and relentless joy- three elusive principles we must cling to in this life.

While I may not have accomplished what I planned to accomplish in Miami, the life lessons that came from it where priceless.

The thoughts of failure were everywhere to be found. I placed so much value on being “good enough” as a model. And these last 8 months I’ve been reflecting, growing, and healing my relationship with myself and what I put myself through. And now, I’m excited to share I’m done reflecting, and my starting to share.

See, there’s a difference between sharing and reflecting. Reflecting brings this sense of awareness and growth, and sharing brings this feeling of freedom and truth. At least for me. And I wish the same for you.

This article also appears on Medium and is published here with the permission of the author