How to Succeed in Business by Really Trying

How to Succeed in Business by Really Trying

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Growing a business is not easy. I know, as I’ve started more than I can remember: I’ve sold fireworks, cleaned pools, been a contractor, built a firm on Wall Street, and founded the world’s largest endurance running series. Each time, starting at zero. When I’ve been successful—I’ve had failures—what were the keys to that success? They’re fairly straightforward, but not always easy to implement. Here are my secrets on how to succeed in business.

How to Succeed in Business 101

1. Know Your Destination

If you don’t know where you want to go, you’ll never get there. I suggest treating your business like a race, with your target being the finish line and a clear plan to get there. I think of this as finding true north. You then program this into you and your company’s “GPS,” which helps you stay on a productive path as you travel the road toward success. Ask yourself the tough questions early on and set your destination.

2. Suit Up and Show Up

Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” This is a principle I live by, and it’s as true with business as with ultrarunning. If I don’t get out there and get started, nothing is going to happen. On days when reaching true north seems especially daunting—and believe me, it happens a lot—I simply focus on the next step. Dealing with the next task gets me one step closer to my goal and gives me a sense of accomplishment that reenergizes me and recharges my enthusiasm. Eventually, step-by-step becomes mile-by-mile, and before I know it, I’m there.

Related: Get the Hell Out of Your Comfort Zone

3. Embrace Your Mistakes

Nobody does life perfectly, and nobody does business perfectly. We all make mistakes all the time. The difference between the people who reach their goals and those who don’t? Recognizing, accepting, and learning from their mistakes. My first business was selling fireworks at a 90 percent markup when I was 8 years old. It was highly profitable, but illegal, and it got me kicked out of school. And trust me, I’ve made plenty of mistakes since then. But every time I screwed up, I learned from my error and corrected my course.

4. Love the Process

The real joy isn’t finishing the race, or even winning the race. It’s in all the hard work that gets you there. Business is the same way. Yes, I want to reach my goals, but loving the process is just as important because reaching the goal is only about 1 percent. The other 99 percent will grind me down if I’m not enjoying myself. I learned that from my Wall Street days, when it was really hard to stay motivated. I’ve learned a different lesson with Spartan, where loving the process keeps me more engaged and helps me keep going when I’m faced with setbacks, annoyances, and even outright failures.

Related: How to Get Ready for a Spartan Race

My last bit of advice: No matter what happens, stay hopeful. This is an ultrarunning lesson that translates to business. Running 100 miles in sub-zero temperatures or the blazing heat of the desert is kind of insane, but so is running your own company. Sometimes, it seems like everything is stacked against you, and you get really tired, and you’re worried that your entire world might collapse at any moment. It’s actually a very primal sensation. You either persevere or perish.

Trust me when I say this: If you stay optimistic, you’ll persevere and eventually succeed.

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