There’s a reason successful Spartans are often successful in the rest of their lives too — and it’s why you see CEOs and entrepreneurs crawling through mud. The things they learn out on the race course can help them excel in work too.
“The Spartan Race taught me that I can do hard things,” says Ryan Bennion, CEO of his own digital marketing acquisition agency. After he finished his first Spartan, he not only went on to do more racing but he also took what he learned about setting goals and identifying ways to train for those goals back to his business. “Since completing the Spartan Race, I have reached all of our sales goals, including our stretch goal.”
We figured who better to give business advice than the man who runs our business, Spartan founder and CEO Joe De Sena. So we asked him and a few other experts for the best Spartan business advice and principles we can take back to the boardroom to excel in the workplace this year.
Spartan Business Advice for a Successful 2020
1. Practice Relentless Organization & Preparation
If there’s one thing De Sena is all about it’s efficiency. You’ll never get a long email from him, and if he has to send more than two emails then he’ll pick up the phone instead. He heads to bed early and gets to work early. “On time is late,” he says. “Be at work at least one hour before your boss.”
He’s not just relentlessly organized for no reason. Preparation is what allows him to get more done. It also what gets you not just to the start line, but across the finish line too.
“You can’t start training for the Olympics the day before the event,” says Sean Glaze, a team building facilitator and leader. It’s something he frequently tells the people he trains. To succeed in a race and in the office, you have to set goals, figure out what needs to happen to achieve them, and then get it done.
2. Helping Others Helps You
Bennion signed up for his first Spartan solo and when he got to the tall wall he realized he couldn’t get over it on his own. That was when a guy he never met offered to give him a boost over. “I said, ‘But how will you get up?’ And he replied, ‘Someone else will help me, it’s what Spartans do.’”
It’s not an accident that teamwork is built into the Spartan DNA. Sure, you can finish all by yourself. (And if you’re racing for prize money, you have to.) But along the way, at some point, even those elites probably needed a little help.
Don’t forget that lesson when you get back to the office. “Help colleagues get their work done,” says De Sena. “Walk around the office and connect face-to-face with people everyday.” It builds a better team, a better culture, and a more successful business for everyone. Plus, when you need help some day, you’ll have plenty coworkers ready to give you a boost back.
3. Acknowledge When You Fail…And When It’s Your Fault
Unfortunately, just like in life, you will fail obstacles on the race course sometimes. It happens to even the best athletes — but then they learn from their failure.
“You have to be willing to be bad long enough to get better,” says Glaze. In the office that means you might make a lot of bad sales calls before you learn what it takes to make good ones. The key is accepting responsibility, learning, fixing the mistakes, and improving.
Accepting responsibility is the first step. “It’s my fault often and others know,” says De Sena, who recommends practicing what he calls radical transparency. When he takes ownership of his mistakes it also encourages his employees to take ownership of theirs. Then they know they’re ultimately responsible, whether they think something is their fault or not.
4. Prepare for the Unexpected
One of the guiding principles of Spartan is to expect the unexpected. You’re running along and then you hit different obstacles; sometimes you don’t even know what the obstacles will be. De Sena’s famous for changing the rules of the game after you’ve already started. Guess what? That’s how life works too.
“Unexpected things occur in the midst of expected things,” says Glaze, which requires you to find something inside you you didn’t know you had and encourage others to do the same. And that brings us to our last principle you can (and should!) take out into your career.
5. Never Say No
“Don’t worry about the horse; load the wagon,” says De Sena. Has the philosophy of never saying no ever backfired? Sure, he says, all the time. You can get stretched thin and overcommitted. But if you never try, then you’ll never know what you can do — which is sort of the whole point anyway.
“I found myself during the race thinking, ‘How much longer?’” says Bennion. But he kept finding little goals to push himself a little farther — the next obstacle or the next hill top — and when got to that next obstacle or next hill, then he gave it all he had.
Yes, it might be easier if he had never tried in the first place, if he had said no. And yes, he might have failed. But De Sena has a saying for that too: “A ship is safest in the harbor, but ships weren’t built to be safe.”