When I started my business in 1986 I was always on the look out for the secret to success. I don't remember who it was but somebody told me the key was to “stay in the game.” The person meant you should have enough money to last through the start up phase, but in the 26 years since I have found that staying in the game requires more than money. It requires being fit. Just like in the military, an entrepreneur must be physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy. I call this the Three Pillars of Fitness.
Think of it this way: if you are mentally and physically fit you are standing on two legs. That works fine during normal times, but if life gets very turbulent you will get knocked down. A two-legged structure is inherently unstable. Now think about a tripod. Once its three legs are properly spread it is extremely difficult to push it over. The platform supported by the legs may on occasion not be quite level, but its three legs are the utmost in stability. The same is true for us. Click on each heading for more about each leg.
As service members, we had to periodically pass a physical readiness test so staying physically fit was a part of our job. It may seem that once we are out of the military we need not worry about this anymore. But stamina is a crucial aspect of being successful in business. While we may not be going on long hikes or wearing body armor to do our work, we will be working long hours. Proper nutrition, exercise, and adequate sleep are the keys.
I recommend having a fitness program to keep on track. I use The President’s Challenge, which is the latest program from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. If you are interested in joining my Three Pillars of Fitness group let me know. One of the benefits of the group is I will pay for the medals you earn.
Business is mentally and emotionally demanding. You will deal with a lot of new issues and challenges. Failure will become part of your everyday existence. But just like physical training gives us greater stamina, so too can we train for the mental rigors of entrepreneurship. When I was ten years old I started reading biographies of famous, successful people and I have continued to do so for over four decades. There are many fantastic motivational trainers such as Zig Ziglar and sales trainers such as Tommy Hopkins. Over twenty years ago at Tommy’s Boot Camp I learned one of his mantras that I developed as follows: I never see failure as failure, but as the information I need to go on to succeed.
Mental fitness requires that we continually seek out the information we need to achieve success. We must challenge our assumptions. Remember, the definition of insanity is to repeatedly try the same thing while expecting a different result. A friend of mine recently introduced me to Michael Hyatt and I have found his ideas to be very stimulating. The good news it that there are numerous resources, including podcasts and recorded books many of which are free, on the Internet to help us get and stay mentally fit.
When our physical stamina is running low and our mental toughness has taken its twenty-fifth hit that day, nothing will get us through except our spirit. For some of us we will look to religion, having faith that G-d will show us the way through. Others will use meditation or other physical techniques that have a profound impact on the spirit. Still, others will grab their iPods and plug into music that recharges their souls. My point is not to suggest that you must use any particular method, only that like with physical and mental fitness, you train your spirit for the demands of entrepreneurship. Just like we have to work out at least three times a week to stay in shape, we have to have a regular plan to exercise our spirits.
I will return to this topic periodically, expanding on a particular pillar and giving resources for its development. In the meantime let me know if you found this subject valuable and what your thoughts are about it.