I’ve practiced judo for more than 27 years. What separates a white belt from a black belt is that the black belt shows up every day for practice. They show up every day even when they don’t want to. They show up on the good and the bad days. They don’t make excuses. They show up for themselves and others because they made a commitment. They work at their dreams every day.
Athletics is such a good paradigm for business. Think about all of the famous entrepreneurs—Arianna Huffington, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Bill Gates—they all showed up every single day. Through recessions and setbacks and failed ideas and even more failed ideas. They continued showing up.
Passion is the spark; discipline is the fuel. Together, they make a recipe for perseverance. It’s this combination that not only made these entrepreneurs successful, but unforgettable.
Discipline comes first. The discipline portion has a pretty short learning curve—some argue as few as 27 days. But once you’ve learned the discipline portion, you can trust that any time you want to make something happen in the future, you know what it takes to show up every single day. When passion and motivation wane, discipline pulls through to keep you going.
Now, there is an important caveat here: You have to ask yourself if what you’re doing is worth showing up for. The passion behind your endeavor has to move the needle in some way. If you don’t feel like you’re changing the game or making an impact, the spark of your idea will fade. But when you can feel and see the impact you could make, and you combine that with passion and discipline, it will be one of the most exciting things you do in your life.
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So what if you can’t feel the passion anymore? What if the needle is at a standstill and you feel stagnant? This is the time to rest, to take time off, to decide what’s next. Maybe it means the business has veered from its true purpose. Maybe you’ve lost sight of your vision because you’re bogged down by unnecessary tasks that don’t move you or your business forward. Maybe you need to walk away completely. All of these paths are part of entrepreneurship and part of building perseverance.
It’s painful and uncertain, but often necessary. Out of the ashes of failed ventures, greater ideas are born. But it can’t happen without the rest and space to let those ideas come to light. Covet the time needed to let your brain mull through bottom-drawer ideas and sort the potentials from the duds.
When the 2008 housing market crash threatened to bury eXp Realty, we had to innovate and adapt. The eXp family of companies you know today—including SUCCESS—is the result of riding out the ebbs and flows, of dusting yourself off and starting again. It’s a natural and necessary part of entrepreneurship.
Think about all the evolutions of Amazon. Ordering daily necessities such as groceries and dog food is an afterthought today, but once upon a time, it was an unthinkable concept. In the first five or even 10 evolutions, it probably still seemed unthinkable. Between each of those evolutions (and all the failed ideas that accompanied them), was the space to evolve, the passion to dream bigger, and the discipline to see it through.
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This entrepreneur life isn’t for everyone. If you need a steady paycheck, if you have young children to feed or a mortgage that needs paying, this might not be the right time for you to go all in, and that’s OK. Part of smart entrepreneurship is knowing when to walk away from something that isn’t serving you. When the time is right, you can get right back to hustling and making things happen. You’ll figure out ways to get investors and get the bills paid.
Michael Jordan, Cristiano Ronaldo, Serena Williams… the world’s greatest athletes stand out not because of their inherent talent (though they certainly possess that), but for their determination and their willingness to show up every single day.
In business and sports, and in life too, the truly successful make up a tiny percentage—1/100th of 1%.
Here’s the deal: You don’t know how this whole entrepreneurship thing is going to work out. But you do it anyway. The sooner you can get into business and get things going, the more likely you are to persevere and be successful. It won’t be easy. Do it anyway.
CEO of SUCCESS Enterprises
Founder, Chairman and CEO of eXp World Holdings
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2021 issue of SUCCESS magazine.