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I grew up in a broken house, with parents living in different states. I needed direction, but beyond that I needed consistency. And wherever I was, I found this consistency in mixed martial arts (MMA).
Related: 5 Tips to Integrate Adaptability into Your Business Model
Martial arts, in fact, helped me develop the consistency and resolve to get what I wanted from life, including starting my very first business – which for me started at the age of 12 years.
Mixed martial arts helped me learn to kick
In fact, starting a business and competing in MMA are surprisingly similar. First of all, they’re both tough as hell: whether you’re launching a startup or beating someone’s snot in the cage, you need commitment, ambition and drive. And you need discipline: discipline is not a natural ability; it is an acquired skill acquired through countless repetitions of not taking the easy way.
Starting my own businesses certainly required discipline. Without funding or outside support, I wanted to stop several times. But, from MMA training, I developed a discipline and a personality where it is not in my nature to give up. Once you cross a combat camp, “blood, sweat and tears” is no longer a simple saying.
Here are three valuable lessons that MMA taught me about starting a business that every entrepreneur should know:
1. Do not leave any holes in your game.
To qualify to participate in an MMA fight, you must be “full”. In the world of combat, this means that no matter where the fight goes, you are willing and able to do whatever it takes.
My combat history is muay thai, so I fight standing up and exchange strikes with my opponent, Thai style. And, if the action goes to the ground, I have a plan to get back on my feet.
This emergency plan is called Brazilian jiujitsu, a style that allows me to fight effectively from the ground rather than on my feet and helps me get better positioning to force a submission rather than strike a blow.
Likewise, if you take the reins as the new business owner, you must be able to roll with the punches. A Gallup study estimates that around 50% of new businesses fail within five years, for reasons ranging from the evolution of their markets to low-skilled executives.
Whether you move your product or tasks, be able to adjust yourself on the fly. When you start a business, at some point, you will be redirected to the ground. Make sure you get an answer when the battle plan – or even the business landscape – changes.
2. Get used to the discomfort.
A business, like a fight, will push you beyond your comfort zone. Whether you fire, negotiate, handle customer complaints, maintain quality control – or whatever your task – you will end up venturing into unfamiliar territory.
The mental strength required to transform into a combat machine is more complex than recreating some Rocky training set-up – this means understanding that it is possible that nothing is going in your way and that you will have to suffer severe blows. But prepare for a fight and a swing to win anyway.
If you are able to endure the discomfort, you have already half the battle won. Use this tolerance to push your business into unfamiliar areas. You may end up thriving.
Related: Why should you embrace the discomfort? Opportunity, of course.
3. Configure your team.
Although MMA fighters are alone in a cage, a team of highly specialized professionals – from massage therapists to training partners – is essential for their success in the ring.
A survey of Clear Company employers found that 75% of managers surveyed cited teamwork and collaboration as “very important”. you strong where you are weak.
Surround yourself with like-minded teammates, but don’t hesitate to hire someone with the opposite opinion. The more intelligent and knowledgeable your team, the more bases your business can cover.
Related: The secret to building a successful startup? Find the right team.
The lessons I learned from participating in MMA can properly prepare you for the ups and downs of starting a business.
The main lesson I learned? When failure is not an option, you better know how to fight.