In baseball, I never found it difficult to play well while I was healthy. While my body felt good on a warm California day in late Spring when the wind was blowing lightly out to right field.
But those days were rare. Almost every day I’d show up with my back hurting, or with a torn labrum, or with a sprained ankle, or with the flu, or it might have been so cold you could barely feel the seams on the ball.
And that was true for everyone. The best players were not the ones who could play well in good conditions, they were the ones who could play well in all conditions. It takes mental fortitude on those days to play well.
The best players could be in pain, could be playing in snow, could be facing Randy Johnson in his prime, and figure out a way to fight off an 0–2 slider to get to the next pitch until Randy left one up in the zone.
And the best entrepreneurs can do this too. There are macro events that affect everyone, and these are hard to deal with, but everyone else is faced with them too — so they are manageable. These are things like recessions, like tight fundraising environments, or tight recruiting environments. You can think of these things like you think about “bad weather.” It’s harder to play, but it’s harder for everyone and those with the most mental fortitude will do best.
One step further is the entrepreneur who, when a very personal event is happening, can still speak with an employee with full conviction, full attention, and make the right decision.
In the seven to ten years to build a company, you will:
- Have the flu during a meeting
- Have a family member pass away
- Not be able to pay rent
- Be broken up with
- Get sued
- Crippling Depression
- A friend will get in a lot of trouble and need you
- Wonder if anyone even needs what you’re selling
- Have an employee quit and say it’s because of “you.”
- Not sleep for days
And you will have to show up on the days that these things are happening and still perform.
Often it’s the smaller things that add up most easily. We are good at reacting to the big things, proactively dealing with them, and making sure we’re okay to move forward. But it’s the small stabs in the side that drag us down slowly because we ignore them.
And it’s the entrepreneurs who can wake up each day, and fight those personal battles, and then get to their desk and completely dial-in to the next spreadsheet, the next decision, the next product release, the next meeting, or whatever is happening at that exact moment.
Entrepreneurs often talk about their health routines, their yoga classes, the music they listen to, or whatever they can possibly do to keep their mind focused, increase their endurance and build routine.
The best entrepreneurs are relentlessly good at this, they find a way to keep showing up. To keep winning.
Mark Prior had a ton of talent, and so did Kerry Wood. What a rotation that could have been for the Cubs. But they couldn’t keep fighting, they couldn’t get over injuries. And in ten years no one will remember them, not even the kid who worshipped his signed Mark Prior rookie card purchased back in 2002.
But people will still remember the names of Cal Ripken and Lou Gehrig. Because they showed up every day. No matter what. And won.