What Entrepreneurship Has Taught Me

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This is a reprint of my original post, which appeared on Medium.

It was four years ago this week that the very first Compete Every Dayshirt was sold & shipped. Here’s what the journey has taught me.

It’s still overwhelming how wild this roller-coaster ride has been the past four years. I’ve first-hand witnessed victories & failures, all while trying to make some type of positive dent in this world. I’ve cried while feeling like I’ve failed with no way to come back, and I’ve danced like a fool when our team has come together to surpass my wildest expectations. It’s been an adventure like no other.

I started Compete with nothing more than this idea of Competing for your life, two boxes of t-shirts in the back of my car, and the crazy idea that together with enough people, this message could change the world. Over the last four years, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work with great teammates, meet incredible people, and see many inspiring people whose stories uplift. I can truly say I never could have imagined how quickly we’ve grown, or more importantly, how many people have enthusiastically joined the community because they embraced the message & live the Compete lifestyle. Just that very idea overwhelms me, and truly I am at a loss for the words to put into perspective how much it has meant to me.

It’s been a great four years, but we are by no means done yet. As I look back on what’s been done by our current & former teammates, and look ahead to what we are striving for, I’ve learned these eight things that I truly believe apply to business, sport, & life.

1. Maintain focus on why you started.
You will very quickly learn that no business operates without its share of waves (& sometimes, crashes). Business, sports, & life give you their fair share of days where you feel so beaten down, you question if you can continue.

I’ve stared at our balance sheet, wondering how in the world I could keep things going. I’ve felt so overwhelmed with pressure that I broke out in shingles (in my late 20’s! nonetheless). I’ve had stretches were I questioned if I was the right person for this job — or if someone out there had made a mistake assigning this journey to me. I had two things during those horrible stretches that anyone is bound to go through on their journey. The first was notes that I’d taped everywhere reminding me of why I chose to start CED. My bathroom mirror, car dashboard, journal, laptop cover. Everything had the same message, reminding of why I started Compete, and giving me just enough fuel to go forward, even if I was crawling that day. The second thing that kept me going during my worst mental stretches were the “iron” in my life.

2. Surround yourself with iron.
Jim Rohn says “you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with.” Surround yourself with those individuals who not always say “yes”, but will challenge you & inspire you to do more. These are the ones who will carry you when your head believes it lacks the strength to continue, and the ones who will humble you if that same head gets too big.

3. Don’t be afraid to take chances, even if you fail.
A runner can’t set a new personal record (PR) unless they push themselves beyond what they’ve done in the past. Sometimes, that results in breaking down before the finish line, while other times it results in an all-time best. One cannot know until he/she chooses to push forward outside of his/her comfort zone. We’ve tried a number of things at CED that have worked, and many more that have flopped. That said, you don’t know until you try. Each failure allows us to learn more about our business (and what I learn about myself), and then adapt accordingly to create what our customers want most. Life is too short to play inside the box of safety.

4. Write a story that’s about more than just you.
Life. Sports. Business. Create a legacy that is about more than just your own name’s fame. Make a positive impact on this world, leaving it better than when you came into it.

5. Persistence is key.
There’s a reason my personal blog, Compete for the Best Life, has the symbol of a pickaxe. There is no such thing as an “overnight success” in relationships, business, & life. Each day, one must be willing to put in the effort and metaphorically, swing their axe. Some days you find solely rocks, others might include a diamond. But all days require you put in the work and stay relentless in your approach regardless of what prize you may or may not find. A miner will swing from sun up to sun down with one purpose — finding gold. I take this same approach to my training, my business, my relationships and life.

I might not win today, but I’ll come back tomorrow and continue to do work. There is no quitting. There is no stopping short of victory. I compete until I win. And I hope you will do the same in your life’s journey.

6. Do not chase “shiny balls”. Maintain the course.
Focus on becoming great in your craft instead of average or good in many tasks. I’m guilty (I blame my ADHD) of chasing the next, new “shiny ball” instead of continuing to build out original projects. Initially this was my experimental phases of trying to find out what worked, but soon it became habitual, and instead of telling one consistent story, we were telling multiple ones. This can happen just as often when weight lifters bounce between various strength programs and fail to see major results or individuals who fail to stick with a solid nutritional plan and therefore, lack the weight loss/gain results they’re seeking.

7. Take action.

“90 percent perfect and shared with the world always changes more lives than 100 percent perfect and stuck in your head.” ― @JonAcuff

Your first work should always embarrass you looking back. Trust me, I’m embarrassed of some of our early work and designs. But the only way to get better is to create. And create. And create. Until you create something great. The process isn’t:

Create first thing = awesome.

It’s actually more like this:

Create crap. Create more crap. Create slightly less offensive crap. Create average. Create slightly better than average. Create good. Create better. Create great.

You can’t create great until you’re willing to create crap. And you sure as hell can’t create anything if all you do is talk about it. Take action.

8. Never ever, ever give up.
Compete Every Day. There will be good days, and surely there will be bad days. But you must continue on. Sometimes you change and adapt your project or goal, but you do not quit. Many days you walk, some you run, and others you’re crawling across the floor. But you don’t give up. Your goals will never be reached by quitting short of success. This applies to business, fitness, sports, & life. You don’t quit…

You Compete Every Day.

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