The most important skill for entrepreneurs
What is the most important skill an entrepreneur can have? I believe its grit.
Easlo is one of my favorite follows on Twitter. He is a digital creator who, at 19, grow his business to multiple six figures selling Notion templates.
Just this week, he asked what the most important skill was for entrepreneurs.
At the moment, I couldn’t decide between mental fortitude and Marketing.
I know my answer now, it’s grit.
The drive to not quit.
I’ve been working at building businesses for over ten years. That’s a decade of my life. Some have been complete failures. Others have had moderate levels of success.
My current business is growing quickly. The number of opportunities I have seen just in the last week is 10x the growth of anything I have done in the past.
That success has come because I refused to quit.
I wanted to share with you an excerpt from a book I am working on.
It’s titled, “He Who Gets Tired First Losses,” and comes from one of my mantras when I was a mixed martial artist.
Lessons from Marathon
Imagine what it must have felt like. You and your fellow soldiers have just defeated the Persian army. You are likely covered in blood, sweat, and tears and are exhausted beyond belief. Your commanding officer walks up to you and commands you to rush home to share the news of the victory. So, off you go, either barefoot or in light sandals, not cushy tennis shoes, running the 25+ miles from Marathon back to the Greek capital of Athens. Upon delivering the news of how 10,000 Greeks defeated a Persian army of around 110,000, the runner fell to the ground and died.
That legend is how our modern world came to the concept of a foot race that was 26.2 miles long, a marathon.
How did the marathon distance become 26.2 miles if the legend revolves around a 25-mile run from Marathon to Athens? According to History, when the Olympic games were in London in 1908, Queen Alexandra wanted the race to start from the lawn of Windsor Castle so her children could watch. The distance from there to the finish line was 26.2 miles, and it stuck. Two history lessons for the price of one. How lucky are you! Now, back to running insane distances.
The first organized marathon showed up as part of the Olympics in 1896. Leaning on History.com again, it seems that only about 50% of the runners finished the race. The rest had to quit from exhaustion. He who gets tired first loses. The winner of that race was a shepherd from Greece who decided never to run another marathon race. Think about that story. You are the winner of the first Olympic marathon ever, and you never bother to compete in another race.
You might think, “What a smart shepherd! Marathon runners are loons!”. Up until about five years ago, I would have agreed with you.
I have always been known as a “cardio machine.” But running was never part of that equation until I met my wife. She had regularly participated in foot races across all various distances, including 5Ks, 10Ks, and half marathons, and was always telling me about how fun they were. About a week before one of her half marathons, I decided to tag along for one of her last long training runs. It was about 8 miles long. On that run, I experienced my first “runner’s high.” So, I decided to run the race with her the following week. That was my first of many races.
I ran my first and only full marathon in 2017. My time goal was under 5 hours. I finished the marathon in 4 hours and 58 minutes. The fact that I even finished the race is a story about grit.
Most runners who complete a marathon will tell you that the training, not the actual event, is the worst part. I can’t agree with that sentiment. I miss the training piece of getting ready for a race.
A few factors made the training up to the race so pleasant. First off, I had a really strong motivator. The race was scheduled for early April. My training regimen started in December. At that time, my father was very, very sick with cancer. Watching how he fought through the pain became something for me to rally around. If a particular training run got difficult, usually the longer runs as I scaled up my mileage, I simply reminded myself that the run was far easier than fighting cancer. I even imagined my father running alongside me. After each training run, I would text him that we ran so many miles.
In January, my father wound up in the hospital. His doctor’s determined that surgery was necessary. I can remember being in the room when they discussed the surgery. I thought it was a terrible idea and questioned if he would come out of the surgery. The doctors felt that it had to be done. My father simply agreed with them. He did come out of the surgery, but something wasn’t right. I spent the better part of a week at the hospital, sitting with him when I could, to relieve my mother. Over the next few days, it was clear that the cancer had taken its toll, and his body turned septic. My mother and I were told nothing else could be done. His fight was over.
Two months later, I ran the marathon. Or, should I say, we ran the marathon.
Now, I can tell you that I was so focused and motivated that the race went as easily as my training runs had. But it didn’t. Heading into the 15th mile, I was way ahead of my planned pace and averaging less than nine minutes per mile, which was a full minute below my goal of ten-minute miles. Then all the training runs caught up with me.
One of the cool features of big races is that there is a way for your family to watch your progress via GPS tracking on an app. I’ll never forget finishing the race and my wife asking what happened around mile fifteen. I told her I had almost quit.
At mile fifteen, my left foot went haywire. I would later find out that I had developed a fracture in my foot due to the constant pounding of my training regimen. I had to alternate between running and walking for the next ten miles to keep the pain manageable. But, at mile twenty-five, with less than a mile and one-half to go, I found another gear.
Three things happened that allowed me to push through the pain. First, I remembered that my father had dealt with the pain of cancer for years. I knew if he could fight through that pain, I could fight through one mile of foot pain. Second, I reminded myself of my mantra, “He who gets tired first loses.” And there was one more motivator.
The Knoxville Marathon, at that time, had its finish line at the fifty-yard line of the University of Tennessee’s football stadium. My father loved the Volunteers so that stadium held many memories for me. So, I ran like the wind. My pace had fallen from a nine-minute mile to around a thirteen-minute mile. But not on that last mile or so of the race. If you watch my wife's video, I am literally sprinting past other runners to the finish line. What was my pace from the twenty-fifth-mile marker to the finish line? Less than a 7:30 per mile pace.
My marathon wasn’t life and death. I wasn’t racing back to proclaim a great military victory. Just the same, it was a pivotal point in my life at that time. Even to this day, if I am on a run and getting tired, I think about my father running alongside me. Or my brother, who we lost in 2021 to the coronavirus. I don’t get to run as much as I’d like to; thirty-plus years of high-impact sports means my body is pretty banged up. But to this day, my father and brother accompany me when I run. Somewhere during each run, I’ll get a bit tired; when I do, I’ll tap into their memories for the push I need. If my body, and my doctors, would let me, I'd run more marathons. I love the feeling of testing my boundaries and pushing through them.
The truth is that most people never really find themselves pushed to their limits. Situations where their choices and actions matter, and their ability to push through something difficult or scary test their ability to persevere. I believe that is why some people enjoy weightlifting, running, triathlons, and tests of their physical prowess. Others enjoy putting themselves under mental duress or through mental challenges to test themselves.
Even fewer people have experienced true life-and-death situations. The closest many people will ever get to such a moment is losing a job or someone we love, as I have. In those situations, I’ve learned that people tend to do one of two things: rise to the occasion or let it diminish them. They are running for their, or from, life. Sometimes for the rest of their life.
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