Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson

entrepreneur ali tyson
Entrepreneurs are pretty confident people. In fact, they are some of the most confident people you will ever encounter. Their confidence is right up there with presidents, pilots, pro athletes and other high adrenaline professionals. This confidence enables them to overcome incredible obstacles that seem impossible to the average onlooker.

What the general public does not witness is the emotional roller coaster of beginning entrepreneurs and  veteran entrepreneurs alike. Only their closest confidants get to witness this side show.
Think of the stories of Mike Tyson crying in the locker room before his fights. Or of Muhammad Ali being absolutely terrified of Sonny Liston. The same Sonny Liston who quit on the stool in the first fight and was knocked out in the rematch. Whereas most people allow themselves to be paralyzed by fear, the likes of a Tyson, Ali and the everyday entrepreneur are propelled into action because of it.

So how does one march forward in the face of fear and uncertainty?

Remember Your Training

Despite their fears, Tyson and Ali were superb athletes and they knew it. They went through years of grueling, punishing training long before the general public knew their names. As an entrepreneur, you are no different. Okay, so you don't have veteran trainers like Angelo Dundee and Cus D'amato in your corner but you certainly have trained for this day. Whether it is the particular craft you specialize in, the books you have read or experience from past negotiations, you are probably far more prepared than you give yourself credit for. Which brings me to the next tip.

Remember Your Successes

As an entrepreneur it is very likely that you have a number of successes under your belt. As they say, this is not your first time at the rodeo. Prior to facing Sonny Liston, Ali had a number of successes, including winning the gold medal in the olympics. Prior to becoming the youngest heavyweight champion in history, Mike Tyson left a long string of battered opponents in his path.

When we remind ourselves of our prior accomplishments and how daunting the situation seemed at the time, we realize we can face down current obstacles as well. What obstacle did you face down and overcome in the past that seemed impossible at the time? Think about that as you focus your attention on solving the current one.

Focus on the Solution

Cry all you want in the locker room but make it brief. Once the ring walk begins, your focus must be on one thing and one thing only. Solving the problem. Placing one's attention on possible solutions instead of the problem itself works wonders. Most people focus their attention on all of the horrible things that may happen as a result of the thing they fear. When in reality the worst case scenarios they imagine often never occur. The more they let their imaginations run wild, the more paralyzed they become. 

When you intently focus your attention on the solution, magic happens. Any entrepreneur who has been there will attest to this. First, you start to realize that there are a host of real solutions to the problem. I am not saying the choices will always be easy but it is far better than having no answers at all. Second, because your mind is so busy working out solutions, the dooms day scenarios fade in the background. Third, when focusing your attention and imagination on solutions, you will usually find one. 

Greatness Requires Adversity

Adversity is the price we must pay for greatness. Every great champion faced adversity and difficulty before achieving true greatness. It is the overcoming of adversity that makes them great. This is true for legendary athletes and legendary entrepreneurs. Both Ali and Tyson suffered humiliating defeats before regaining their heavy weight titles.

What about you? What situations have you faced that seemed impossible at the time where you ultimately triumphed? I share a number of them in my new book on entrepreneurship. It is meant to both inspire and instruct. For passion and inspiration alone won't cut it. Neither will experience and training. It is experience and training coupled with inspiration and passion that makes the entrepreneur move mountains.

Godspeed and I look forward to seeing you in the Players Lounge.

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