6 Things Entrepreneurship Can Teach You About Fitness

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As many loyal MFF readers know, these days I have two careers.

I continue my work guiding the unicorn rocketship and overseeing MFF’s continued growth. In this capacity, I coach several hours most week. I keep up with an aggressive schedule of continuing education on evolving training and nutrition best practices. I oversee MFF’s systems and standards and the ongoing training of the MFF team. And I meet with Ninjas on a regular basis to help them troubleshoot their fitness challenges.

However… I have second job.

Outside of my life at Mark Fisher Fitness, I spend my time traveling the world and speaking about “business things” under the proud banner of Business for Unicorns. I share tales of MFF’s unicorn-ish culture. I regale audiences with lessons culled from our successes and missteps. And I help entrepreneurs grow their business by mastering the soft skills necessary to improve their “bottom line results.”

Recently, I spoke at an event in NYC organized by my dear friend Kevin Dineen of Structure Personal Training. It was a stacked line-up of successful entrepreneurs from inside and outside of fitness.

One of the speakers was Jon Steinberg, the founder of Cheddar and former COO and president of Buzzfeed.

Jon’s a super sharp guy, and I took a lot away from his talk. But one of the things that stuck with me most was the way he compared fitness and entrepreneurship. Since this particular crowd was mostly fitness professionals, Jon pointed out that success in entrepreneurship had a lot of parallels to success in fitness.

And it occurred to me that this works both ways. Entrepreneurship can teach you a lot about fitness.

1. “Begin With The End In Mind.”

At Mark Fisher Fitness, we talk a lot about the “WHY” behind your fitness goals.

Kicking fitness ass isn’t easy. You’ve got to have a compelling reason to execute the behaviors required to achieve your goals.

Along the same lines, any successful business has to have a compelling mission to struggle through the inevitable challenges. What’s the reason the business exists? What is its purpose? Why does it matter? What does the world lose if it ceases to exist?

By all means, you’ll want some quantitative goals and metrics to shoot for. But beyond the numbers, there has to be something at stake. There has to be a reason for doing the hard things.

And a specific scale weight or a revenue goal won’t cut it over the long haul.

Contemporary psychology has taught us that human motivation is “multifactorial,” we do things for multiple reasons. Your WHY may evolve over time, and you may have a number of things motivating you.

But you’ve got to get clear on how fitness will impact your life if you want to keep at it when the going gets tough.

2. Showing Up Is THE Master Skill. Consistency Is King.

The nature of a fitness adventure or navigating the growth of a business will be rocky at times. It requires consistency above all else.

There will be some good days. If you’re lucky, there will be some great days. And there will also be many, many shitty days. That’s just life. The ones who succeed are the ones who keep their eye on the prize (see point #1).

By all means, if all of your days are bad, then you may want to look at your metrics to make sure you’re actually getting somewhere (see below). But you should expect hard days. You should expect more days than not, you won’t feel like doing the work. It’s hard and uncomfortable to push your limits.

Furthermore, both fitness and entrepreneurship tend to have “delayed” feedback loops. You rarely see the immediate value of your efforts. It’s often a mindfuck to be working so hard and seeing so (comparatively) little in the way of obvious results.

But the successful show up. They commit to the process.

3. You Will Always Have Challenges, Even If You Succeed. Just Better Challenges.

Over time, if you’re consistently working your plan, you’ll start to see progress. You’ll see improvements in strength and flexibility. You’ll see the scale move. You’ll notice you have more energy, and the technical requirements of a given exercise will feel less awkward.

But it’s not done.

You’re never done.

You’re never “finished.”

You just get better problems.

When I talk to successful long time Ninjas, it’s not that they don’t have problems. They just have better problems. They’re not always sure how to balance their desire to be their fittest self with their love of great meals out. They sometimes struggle because, on some level, they want both things, but they know life is a series of compromises.

We often strategize various ways for them to find their personally optimized balance of “Short Term You” (snacks!) and “Long Term You” (health!). This is a MUCH better problem than chronic high blood pressure or the doctor-ordered losing of 15 pounds that led them to MFF in the first place. Now we’re simply talking about tweaking the dials. It still requires work, and it’s still a challenge, but it’s a much, much better problem.

I would also note one other parallel. Ideally your problems get better over time, but they will also change. Your situation will change. You will move. You will get a new job. You will have a child. And as your circumstances change, your strategies will need to evolve.

You never “get it done.” And that’s ok.

4. Track Your Results

Both fitness and entrepreneurship are activities in pursuit of a goal. While your business’s mission may be something grand, and your fitness WHY may be a “feeling” of some kind, we can find some numbers to use as a proxy. This lets us track some data to see if we’re making progress towards our goal.

And it’s important to prepare yourself for the fact that this is never linear. Natural systems move in waves. Your weight loss won’t be linear, and you won’t set revenue records every single month.

But you do want to track the data and look at trends over time. This is important both to see the delayed positive feedback on the work you’re putting in AND to make certain your efforts are actually bearing fruit.

And the latter point is very important. If you’re tracking your progress based off some objective data and not seeing things move in the right direction over time, we need to be honest about the reality and change strategies if necessary.

5. You Need A Plan

“Prior planning prevents piss poor performance.”

In my “other” life of coaching entrepreneurs, one of my specialities is time management. And surprisingly, I’ve come to see how relevant it is to my first career in fitness. Effective planning is one of the biggest reasons people struggle with their fitness goals.

You need to make sure your training program is in line with your goals. You have to solve the “nutrition puzzle,” whether that’s committing time to cooking, finding healthy take-out options where you work and live, or hiring a chef or a meal delivery service. You’ll have to plan out a given week (and possibly month) to know when you’ll be training and eating. And you’ll need some back-up plans in place for when life inevitably happens.

If you’re constantly riffing and greeting each day reactively, you can expect subpar results.

6. You Will Not Succeed Alone

If you’re looking to create major impact with your business, you need a team. It’s hard to do truly epic shit all by yourself.

And fitness is the same. Just as in business, the best results will come from trusting and liking your “colleagues.”

One of the most consistent findings in the social science literature on behavioral change is that it is very hard to do it alone. You are deeply affected by your “social context,” the people you spend time with on a regular basis.

In regards to fitness, one element of this is negotiating your existing relationships. While this is highly individual, it’s important to get buy-in from your close family and friends and often your colleagues. You don’t need to proselytize and you certainly don’t need to ask other people to change their behavior. But you won’t be able to do this alone.

And of course, the most obvious parallel to business is finding people to work with you and join your “fitness team.” Just as in your professional life, you’re looking for someone (or a team of people) you like spending time with and whose competence you trust.

(If you like being around weird yet friendly unicorn people that are super serious about the fitness but don’t take themselves seriously, may I suggest checking out an unconventional gym named Mark Fisher Fitness? Just click the link below. *Mark bats his eyes alluringly*)

Schedule a Health and Hotness Strategy Session at Mark Fisher Fitness.

Worth It

Fitness and entrepreneurship have a lot in common.

They’re hard as hell. Succeeding at either requires more work and hustle than feels “fair.”

But ultimately, for all the struggle, they share one thing in common:

They are worth the effort.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Mark Fisher is the co-owner and Ninja Master of Mark Fisher Fitness, one of the most successful gyms in the history of the fitness industry. Within its first five years, MFF grew from a single personal trainer to a staff of over 35, more than 800 members, and two studios in Manhattan, earning it a spot in on the prestigious Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies in America. Mark also likes cursing, musical theater, and writing in third person. For more awkward self-talk, see markfisherhumanbeing.com

Cover image by Ian Rowan


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