10 business lessons you'll learn at the gym

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Thinking of skipping your workout? Don't. Your good habits make you stronger physically, mentally, emotionally, and intellectually.

I've been a hard core fitness enthusiast for 34 years, since I saw Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in The Terminator. My commitment to physical fitness has been one of the most important factors in my success as a leader and entrepreneur. It's my single most important habit to keep me in top condition so that I have the stamina and mental fortitude to withstand the challenges of business growth.

I firmly believe my superior fitness level also helped my body knock out two cancer scares several years ago, and has been instrumental in helping me manage episodes of depression throughout my entrepreneurial journey.

There are many parallels between business-building and body-building. In both endeavors, we fight against daily obsolescence and atrophy. We constantly have to push harder, maintain discipline, and mix things up to stay strong.

Here are ten lessons I've learned along my fitness journey. And even though I recently activated my AARP membership, I intend to continue pushing my physical limits for a very long time.

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Transformation is painful. It's so much easier to stay where you are. To move forward, you must mentally steel yourself for pain. The short-term pain is worth the long-term gain. If you want to remain in business, you need to embrace the idea of change.

When you're going through hell, keep going. When your business is suffering, you have two choices: quit or keep going. The pain will eventually stop. The result will be a stronger company, that may not resemble the initial company, but it will be better.

Your biggest competitor is yourself. I'm way too busy focusing on my own conditioning to even think about my fellow gym rats. In business, if we fixate too much on our competitors, we waste valuable energy that we can be expending on improving ourselves.

People are usually too preoccupied with themselves to pay attention to you. Conversely, people probably aren't paying that much attention to you either. They have their own challenges to overcome. So don't invest too much energy into wondering what others think of you.

There is strength in numbers. Like-minded people make you better. One thing that motivates me to crawl out of bed at 5 AM is knowing that a cycling or strength training class will be filled with 20 other people who are also committed to excellence. For entrepreneurs, there is also strength in numbers. Our support groups are essential. Our employees are not our peers. We get strength, motivation, and inspiration from others that understand the unique drivers that entrepreneurs feel every day.

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Growth happens outside your comfort zone. I hit a plateau in the gym a few months ago, even though I was training almost every day. I mixed up my entire workout to shock my system. That system shock is exactly what drives change and growth. In your business, when was the last time you went after an opportunity that would push you to the brink of a new level? It is these situations that create adrenaline surges, and make us excited to move forward.

Your choice of fuel drives your progress. The fuel we give our bodies before, during, and after our workouts influences our energy levels, and how quickly our muscles recover. Also, if we starve our bodies, our workouts and results are compromised. In our companies, what we feed our organizations will determine results. How do we fuel our cultures? How do we create an environment that fosters growth, creativity, improvement, risk, and learning? The more intentional we can be with how we supplement our people, the better our results will be.

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“Pour Your Heart into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time” by Howard Schultz (CEO of Starbucks)

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“Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman” by Yvon Chouinard (Founder and former CEO of Patagonia)

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“Business @ the Speed of Thought: Succeeding in the Digital Economy” by Bill Gates (Co-founder and former CEO of Microsoft)

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“The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder of Opsware and Andreessen Horowitz)

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“Winning: The Ultimate Business How-To-Book” by Jack Welch (Former CEO of General Electric)

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“#GIRLBOSS” by Sophia Amoruso (Founder of Nasty Gal)

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“My Years with General Motors” by Alfred Sloan (Former CEO of General Motors)

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“Sam Walton: Made in America” by Sam Walton (Founder of WalMart)

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“Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose” by Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos)

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“Direct From Dell: Strategies that Revolutionized an Industry” by  (Founder and CEO of Dell)

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Self-discipline is the key to lasting change. Incremental progress occurs with short-term changes. Lasting progress occurs with permanent changes. Every business is swimming against the tide of obsolescence every day. You are either evolving or receding. To continue improving, we need to stick to our commitments. The hardest part of life is showing up.

Your mindset is your biggest ally or biggest enemy. "I can't do this class. It's too hard. I'm too old." OR "I'm absolutely ready for this challenge. My strongest self is directly ahead of me." Which message will contribute to my success? Or my failure? What messages are you telling yourself every day? It is the single most important message you will hear. In business or in the gym, what is your mindset? The good news is that you have 100% control over the message.

Keep your Core strong. In physical conditioning, the most important muscle group is your core, which consists of your abdominal and back muscles. They support the growth and development of your other muscle groups.

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Businesses also require a strong "core." The three elements are your core value system, your mission, and your vision. What do you stand for? Why do you exist? Where are you going? When we stay true to these foundational elements, the rest of the business can move forward. When we lose sight of them and they weaken, the results cascade throughout the organization.

I hope these lessons have inspired you to amp up your workouts too. Now drop and give me 20!

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