My son is a wrestler. Not the John Cena type of wrestler, the Jordan Burroughs type. He’s a high school wrestler. I’ve learned more about business and entrepreneurship from watching him than in any of my MBA classes. Here are three lessons in discipline that I have learned from the sport of wrestling:
An amateur wrestler has discipline unlike few athletes, and for good reason. They endure painful practices and grueling matches with the singular goal of having their arm raised at the end of the match. In front of a gymnasium full of wrestlers, coaches and fans, they will be declared the victor or the loser. There are no participation awards, there are no do-overs, there are no ties. Win or lose, that’s it.
To succeed in business you need to define what winning looks like and focus on that singular goal. You might have to get uncomfortable and take risks to attain that goal, but when your hand gets raised, you’ll see that your discipline was worth it.
My son is a great kid, but he is not a naturally gifted wrestler. He’s something far more valuable than that: he’s hard-working. He’s been wrestling for many years now and has only recently enjoyed the thrill of victory. Those victories, however, were the direct result of offseason training. This past offseason he lifted more than ever, ran further than before, joined the top wrestling club in the area, competed in summer tournaments and even joined the cross country team so that his cardio would be on point. Why would he put himself through all of this? Why not quit wrestling and find another sport? Because he knows that hard work pays off.
In business, there are no overnight success stories. None. You’ve never read an article about one. You’ve never even heard of one. All you’ve heard about are hard-working business owners who finally attained some modicum of success and now have a name that is familiar to some. But trust me, they were patiently working hard for a long time before their “overnight” success. It was the “offseason” that led to their “sudden” success.
“High school student” and “self-discipline” are rarely found in the same sentence, unless you are talking about wrestling. My son wants to be a varsity wrestler at a specific weight class as a freshman and he knows what this means: counting calories, eliminating salt, skipping dessert, long workouts at home after practice, steering clear of Thanksgiving and Christmas meals all so that he can step on the scale and weigh less than a certain amount. And every week he does it. His weight is under control, he owns a varsity spot.
Do you know what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur? Read through the list of things that my son does in wrestling season and you will see that they are not normal behaviors for a high school student. Success as an entrepreneur means your life will look different than those around you: late nights, early mornings, studying your craft, practice, failure, constant learning, embracing the tough lessons. This is the short list. Go in to business for yourself, and you will see that the true list is longer, and in my opinion, completely worth it.
So do yourself a favor this winter and wander into your local high school on a Saturday morning. The discipline exhibited by those young people might just inspire you to new levels of discipline in your business life.
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