I began training in the martial arts about 42 years ago when my father took me down to the local Taekwondo school in Winnipeg. I remember being enamored by Bruce Lee movies, his speed, and charisma gave him a superhero status among Asians and Westerners. Reflecting over my career the martial arts became more than just a physical activity. It helped cultivate my ability to deal with challenges, set-backs and disappointments. I don’t think I would be where I am today without martial arts. Not only has it kept me in peak physical shape (I’m 48 years old), but it has kept me grounded. In times when difficult decisions needed to be made, martial arts was always there to provide me with the deepest inner spirit to find the answers I sought. I believe all entrepreneurs are deep thinkers, they invite challenge and enjoy exploring all angles in business. At times, especially for start-ups the pace and stress can be overwhelming especially for those who haven’t developed the mental toughness to deal with adversity.
My father was an entrepreneur and risk taker. Early in his career he gambled, losing more than he won leading him to declared bankruptcy in 1979 when I was only 10 years old. I remember my father asking me for change for the bus. It is hard to imagine a grown man asking his kid to empty his piggy bank; his pride and self-worth must have taken a tremendous beating.
For many years, our family bordered on depending on social assistance. Fortunately for us we had family members who were able to help us out when we were penniless. My father took on jobs such as doorman, and delivery driver for KFC to provide essentials for the family. Despite all these setbacks, he had the courage to start over again as entrepreneur. In 1980, he launched his food supplier business out of the tiny basement of our home. In the first six years we struggled to make money. There were many lessons I learned during this period. One was his early morning rituals consisted of getting up at 5am to practice martial arts at the local K-mart parking lot. It was his way of staying healthy, clearing his mind to focus on the business decisions to be made for the day.
Today he is 75 years old and semi-retired. The business that started out of our tiny home became a multi-million dollar business. Through it all he credits martial arts for giving him the strength needed to overcome the many challenges he faced over the years.
I followed my father’s footsteps in making martial arts most notably Brazilian jiu-jitsu a major part of my life. Like my father I truly feel it has saved my life and gave me the strength to make important life altering choices. There are many celebrities who have found strength from Brazilian jiu-jitsu American chef and TV personality Anthony Bourdain, film director Guy Ritchie, and actor Ashton Kutcher.
I encourage every entrepreneur regardless of age to give Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes a try, and here are my reasons:
1. Personal Growth Mindset
When rolling (sparring) one must be humble enough to change their attitude from a win at all cost mentality to a learning self-discovery perspective. A rolling session to me is like playing a casual tennis game with a friend. You volley back and forth occasionally hitting the ball into places which forces your partner to work for the points. It is not an all-out war. This time should be used to analyze your mechanics, your opponent’s tendencies, how you react to change, and to create new solutions.
This mindset is important for entrepreneurs as they need to be able to accept advice and open to learning new things. Certain changes in the marketplace can have a big effect on your bottom line. A savvy entrepreneur stays on top of the latest trends in their industry to make sure they stay profitable.
2. Tap Soon and Tap Often
In Brazilian jiu-jitsu there are no punches and is often referred to as the gentle art. When an opponent wants to give up they tap out thus reducing any risk of injury. This teaches the students to learn to accept defeat and learn what went wrong. By re-evaluating what can be improved the student becomes even better in the art.
The same concept can be applied to the entrepreneur. He or she will have disappointments along the way to success. Obstacles, roadblocks will test their will to continue or fold the business. A entrepreneur must be willing at times to put aside their pride to ask others for help. This comes from truly being honest with your weaknesses. Is it marketing, finances, social media, or operations? Look to people who can help you overcome these weaknesses.
3. Be Grateful
Showing gratitude is so important when it comes to your mental health. It not only helps you minimize your stress but helps you gain perspective on what is truly important in this world. Your so-called major personal problems in life all the sudden don’t seem that bad anymore. Too often Brazilian jiu-jitsu students take it to personally when they get tapped out, they become angry, and even stew about it for hours or days. Not only does this waste your precious energy; energy that can be directed to other useful things. It also raises your stress hormone levels such as cortisol which impacts your health.
In business, we can be consumed with things that may have gone wrong. Perhaps it was an unhappy client, a computer system crash, a delivery that did not arrive on time, or a cash crunch. The practice of Brazilian jiu-jitsu helps you gain perspective on what is important in life.
There you go, I hope you enjoyed this article! Now go out there and give BJJ a try! If you have any comments or questions about this wonderful art, please feel free to comment below or email me.