5 Things Fitness Taught Me About Business

Building a business is a lot like building a body. To do it right, it takes a lot of time, knowledge, effort, and discipline. There are no “overnight successes,” just like there are no magic pills or exercises to get in shape. I didn’t realize it at the time, but working to become a Nationally Ranked Physique Athlete would teach me a hell of a lot about starting a business.

Growing up, two things were very evident in my life:

1. I loved superheroes.

and

2. I hated people telling me what to do.

So naturally, as I aged, those powerful likes and dislikes grew into life goals. I knew that “when I grew up” I wanted to be a Superhero, and I wanted to be my own boss. I guess not having people telling you what to do kind of comes as a side effect of being a Superhero, but you get the point.

As I aged and the childhood naivety faded, I learned that having super powers probably wasn’t in my future. However, that didn’t stop me from wanting to look like one of my superhero idols. And as I took jobs ranging from a bus-boy and cashier at a restaurant, to engineering jobs during and after college, I always knew I needed to eventually be my own boss. I’ve always been a hard, diligent worker, but I knew I’d never work as hard for someone else than I would for myself.

Looking good and being my own boss became my 2 major life goals. And the most important one as a teenager was, of course, looking good, so I started there. Being my own boss could wait until I was an adult, and that was a lifetime away! But little did I know how much the world of fitness would teach me about the world of business. Below are 5 things that being involved in fitness and achieving Goal 1 taught me about succeeding in business and on my way to achieving Goal 2.

1. Set Realistic Goals & Develop a Plan

No one just wings it — Neither in fitness, nor in business. Setting realistic goals, and making plans to achieve those goals is paramount to success.

My first fitness goal was to have abs by summer when I was 13. Someone once lit the fire under my ass by telling me “girls like guys with abs.” I don’t recall who that was, but whoever it was, thank you! Those 5 words gave me the incentive to set the goal to have abs by summer, and create a plan to do 300 crunches every night before bed in order to achieve that goal. I was a skinny kid, so I didn’t have too much work cut out for me, but lone behold, by that summer, I had a pretty good set of defined abs.

When I began to compete in bodybuilding and powerlifting, I learned that setting goals for competition day (amount of weight I wanted to lift, or percentage of body fat I wanted to drop to) were crucial for then developing workout and diet plans needed to achieve those goals. Without following those plans, I would have never been able to achieve the goals I set.

Planning is key.

The same goes for business. Regardless of how much you think you know about the industry you’re entering, putting goals and plans on paper help tremendously in terms of identifying areas of improvement and allowing yourself and mentors to play devil’s advocate to help you improve those goals and plans. Not to mention, if you plan on raising any kind of funding either from lenders or investors, they will all want to know your goals as well as your plan to achieve them. Having started a few businesses, I’ve found that taking the time to put together well-thought-out plans has been a strong foundation of success for me.

2. Follow the Plan!

What is a good plan if you don’t follow it?

When I was competing in bodybuilding, I had extremely detailed workout and diet plans — so detailed that I created Excel spreadsheets listing the exact amounts and types of foods I would eat, and the times I would eat them. Yes, I weighed and measured every ounce of my food. But having a great plan on paper is only good if you follow that plan. I had great plans on paper, but if I had decided to deviate from the plan and have some pizza or ice cream here and there instead of my planned meals, I would not have been able to achieve my physique goals for each competition. Early on in my fitness career I did splurge on food, or skip out on cardio once in a while — and in those instances, when I stepped on stage on competition day and did not win, I knew that I did not give as much effort as I could and should have. You get out what you put in.

Thankfully, when starting my businesses, I had already learned those lessons, so I knew better than to deviate from my plans. I crafted great business plans that earned me some nice prize money, funding, and a hell of a lot of compliments. You may be thinking, “but what if I need to deviate from the plan?” Yes, it is sometimes necessary to change your plans (especially in the business world), and that is fine! No one said your plans have to be set in stone — So make good plans for your goals & change them as your goals change. But make sure you write them down and stick with them! Plans require action!

3. Setbacks & Failure Can & Will Happen

We’re human, and we certainly aren’t perfect. Don’t expect to be any different.

I’ve encountered a few injuries and illnesses that set me back on my fitness goals — some of which forced me to back out of competitions. Let me tell you, that is very frustrating. When you work your ass off and stay on plan for months, only to have something stupid like a flu bug or a tweaked muscle force you to put all that hard work on hold or prevent you from displaying it, it sucks. Failure also happens. You’re not going to win every show or competition. But that’s life. How you rebound from setbacks and failures is the true measure of your desire and persistence. Being smart enough to know whether to try and push through a setback or to take a step back and properly recover is extremely important. And being smart and patient enough to view failures as learning experiences and use them to grow personally and propel yourself forward is even more important.

Not only can setbacks happen, they WILL happen. I’ve learned that setbacks occur more often in business than they do in fitness, but how we respond and rebound from them is internal to each of us as persons. You aren’t going to get every sale, or snatch up all the market share. You can try all you’d like to plan for setbacks, but there will always be some that will smack you right in the mouth when you least expect it. Be smart and strong enough to carefully analyze each setback and failure and determine the best measures for going forward. Sometimes these situations force us to change business models, pricing strategies, marketing efforts, and sometimes they force businesses to perform a hard pivot and take a completely different business direction. Regardless, you need to be confident enough in yourself and your team to be able to meet setbacks and failures head-on and with patience to determine a path forward. Setbacks don’t mean the world is ending, but they will sometimes test you on whether you’re cut out for this. Some may cripple your business, but don’t let them cripple you. Remember, in business, you can fail a million times, but you only need to be right once!

4. Sacrifice is Necessary

When we see successful people, we only see their public triumphs. What we don’t see are all the personal sacrifices made to achieve that success.

When competing in fitness, fitness is your life. That being said, a lot of sacrifices must be made to achieve your goals. Competing in fitness involves extremely strict eating, a lot of cooking, a lot of time spent in the gym, not a lot of sleeping, and a restricted social life. While my friends were out partying, getting drunk, eating pizza at 3 a.m., and sleeping their hangovers off until noon, I was cooking and eating the same foods every day, waking up at 4 a.m. to make sure I got my cardio in before work, and doing double sessions in the gym. If you don’t think I’d rather have been out being a normal 20-something with my friends having a good time, you’d be crazy. I’ve even lost girlfriends because of competing. But my goals were more important than all of that. Being able to take my body and willpower to its limits and compete against the best physiques in the world was more important than having a great social life, so I was willing to make those sacrifices to meet my goals. At the end of the day, it comes down to what is more important, and how bad you want it.

The same goes for business. I started all my businesses in my 20’s, the same timeframe that those same friends were out enjoying themselves every weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I took a few weekends here and there to partake myself — you do need to live a little, but more often than not, I learned that time is better spent focusing on business goals. Slamming car bombs at the bar isn’t going to make anyone a millionaire (if you can prove me wrong on this, please email me details), so giving up those types of activities is quite easy for me. If I was able to do it for a good physique, doing it for money and a comfortable future is a piece of cake. Again, it comes down to what’s more important, and how bad you want it.

5. Tunnel Vision, Self-Motivation, and Persistence

All 3 of these characteristics are necessary to be successful in both fitness and in business. You need to have tunnel vision on your end goal, you must be able to self-motivate, and above all else, you must be persistent. There’s no shortcut to any place worth going. That applies to building a better physique as much as it does to building a successful business.

I can make this list much longer, but I think the moral of the story is that the traits and qualities that make a person successful are the same, not only between fitness and business, but in anything that is worth doing.

Most people learn about how to be successful in business through school, books, and experience, but the truth is you can learn valuable business lessons everywhere if you just think about it and use some imagination! Lucky for me, I was fortunate enough to learn some valuable business lessons doing something I love — and looking good in the process!

I still remain hopefully optimistic on those super powers coming though!

To your Strength, Health, and Success!

What persistence (and a fake tan) looks like.
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