60 seconds are left on the timer. He is winning. Just 2 points ahead. He is exhausted. Sweat drips down his face. His heart is beating as fast as it can, pumping blood and oxygen to keep his body moving. He executes the game plan. He jumps guard to lock down the fight, establish full control and manage points of advantage to finally win his long time dream: the black belt world championships.
It did not work as planned though. He was a split second late and the result was a guard pass that gave his opponent three points. The fight was over. He lost 2 vs. 3. Just one point advantage. His world fell apart.
A young entrepreneur is days away from the launch of his first internet product. Everything is lining up perfectly. He was able to raise funds to finance his idea up to this point and maybe for a few more months. There is a ton of anticipation for the launch of this product. He has prepared so well for this moment. The day of the launch arrives. Then the hour. Then the minute. Ready, set, go!
First minute, no sale. First hour, no sale. First day, the launch simply did not work. Despite the countless hours preparing for it, something broke in the system, you cannot really tell what it is. He put so much into it, but the results were far from what was needed to keep the business running. Shutting down seems to be an imminent only option.
What does a martial arts fighter have to do with an entrepreneur? A whole lot.
Dozens of successful entrepreneurs and business executives train in martial arts, such as Tim Ferriss, author of the The 4-Hour Work Week, Joris Merks-Benjaminsen, Head of Research at Google Benelux, and Bob Rosin, the VP & GM of Business Development in Microsoft’s Skype division. These men claim that the skills and philosophies they learned in their martial arts training helped them to become better business leaders and thinkers.
Embrace the struggles:
In martial arts, as well as in business, one thing is certain: there will be setbacks. You will hit the wall even when you know you have done everything possible to win. Our failures hurt, but they also represent very unique opportunities to learn, grow and do better next time. As a martial artist and as an entrepreneur we must have an unbreakable spirit and always get back to our feet, staying in the game despite the outcome. There is no losing as long as we don’t quit.
Think fast to get back on your feet:
A brutal punch can come out of nowhere in a fight and knock the win out of you. Even if you stumble and fall, you have a chance to get back on your feet and regain control. In the reverse situation, if you’re analyzing opportunities as they present themselves, you’ll be able to determine the best moment to strike. Negative situations occur daily for entrepreneurs and fighters, but the key to success is how well and fast you respond to crises.
Discipline on the mat and on the job:
Giving up isn’t an option in martial arts and it shouldn’t be an option in business either. Starting something new takes a courage and a mindset that says no to failure. You have to push yourself to make things work; you have to make sacrifices. That kind of discipline is learned, it is not innate. Martial arts training is hard work, but when done consistently, without fail, it teaches you to keep going even when the fight is taking everything out of you. With that mindset, the act of starting and running a business becomes less of a chore and more of a challenge that can be defeated.
Fighting for emotional control:
A job is inherently stressful. Building something from the ground up is stressful on a whole other level. Entrepreneurs are emotionally invested in their ventures, and for good reason. They have most likely poured everything they had into starting their business. When things go wrong or sideways in a business venture, it’s easy to be overcome with emotions: anger, fear, and confusion can lead to poor decisions detrimental to success. In martial arts, the ability to control your emotions is often the deciding factor in whether you will win or lose a match. Consider this story from Jeff Yasuda, the founder and CEO of Feed.fm, who explains why he lost a match and what it taught him about business:
While I was incredibly pissed off, I must admit that it made perfect sense as I wiped away mucous and blood from my nose. “When you lose control of your emotions, you just lose. Period,” the instructor explained. I’ve found that getting out-of-control upset when things go wrong in the startup world just creates more problems. Sure, there are tons of disappointments, rejections, and professionally embarrassing episodes along the entrepreneurial path, but having emotional outbursts creates a bad culture and makes it tougher for everyone to pick up the pieces and start again.
Martial arts is all about the act of constant learning and then taking what you’ve learned and putting it immediately into action. Can the same be said about entrepreneurship? Absolutely. It’s not easy to go off beaten paths and create something new for yourself and for the world, but with discipline, emotional control, and quick thinking, you’ll win the fight of your life and have something to be very proud of.