Laura Petrolino

Lessons in Business Success from the World of Bodybuilding

By: Laura Petrolino | August 8, 2016 | 
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Lessons in Business Success from the World of BodybuildingAt two weeks out from my next competition, it looks like it’s time for another analogy about how the sport of bodybuilding teaches me lessons about business success (and, for that matter, life success).

YAY…let’s pump it up.

For those of you who missed the previous posts, here they are:

(This is required #PetroPower reading material.)

Mental Fortitude vs. Physical Talent

Each prep I go through I learn something new about myself.

About where my limits exist.

Which are real and which are self-imposed.

And how far I can push all of them.

I’ve been an athlete my entire life and learned something from every sport I’ve participated in, and in every sport, no doubt the mental game is the hardest part.

Gini Dietrich and I have discussed before that the only reason either of us are moderately athletically inclined is not because we are naturally talented, but simply because we are extremely driven and too stubborn to quit.

Someone asked me the other day what you need to excel in bodybuilding and I said:

  • An amazing coach;
  • A strong will;
  • An incredible passion and drive;
  • Patience; and
  • A spirit so stubborn you absolutely cannot and will not quit.

That’s pretty much it. After that the rest is just logistics.

When you look at business success—whether in communications or any other field—much of the same elements  remain the same.

The Importance of Mentors and Coaches

You need great mentors and coaches. People who are smart—both strategically and emotionally, skilled, observant, and can provide a much needed outside perspective.

Any great leader will tell you they are very grateful for the coaches they had along the way to help them build their path (and subsequent business success).

The secret to a successful coaching relationship is a combo of a few basic ingredients:

  • Someone who will be completely honest,
  • understand your goals,
  • isn’t afraid to tell you what you need to hear, even if it’s not what you WANT to hear,
  • believes in you,
  • you can trust.

It’s hard to give over control and trust someone else with something that is important to you—whether that be your physique or your business (will all the control freaks in the room raise their hands   —raises hands—).

But it’s crucial.

A good coach will often also ask you do things that are uncomfortable; things you don’t want to do or are out of your comfort zone.

Which makes that trust factor even more important.

You also must be coachable.

The best coach in the world can only take you so far if you aren’t willing to change.

The coaching relationship is two ways and if you aren’t getting the results you want from your coach, take a step back and ask yourself if you are holding up your end of the bargain.

Often you’ll find you aren’t.

Only the Strong Will Survive

You need a strong will.

Things will not always go your way.

That’s the one fact in life.

I repeat: Things will not always go your way.

You might outline the best business plan in the world and things still won’t go according to it.

So you need to have a will strong enough to keep going. Rebound quickly, but intelligently (learn from your setbacks), and pivot when needed.

Because as Ralph Waldo Emerson said (in one of my favorite quotes):

Every wall is a door.

And a strong-willed person will keep finding the doors.

Business Success Requires Passion

Likewise, you need passion and drive.

You need to want it so badly that internally you are solid, even when externally things shift and fluctuate.

You need to intrinsically be passionate enough to deal with the daily grind—which isn’t glamorous and can be inconvenient.

Are you passionate enough about your goals to deal with that tedious, daily action?

In bodybuilding you compete maybe once or twice a year (you need long off-seasons to keep your metabolism healthy and improve your physique…these are equally, if not more, important than your “prep” phase of preparing for a show).

You have a total of less than 10 minutes or so actually up on stage. The rest of the time you work hard in relative silence.

It’s not glamorous.

  • My shins are constantly beat up and have scar tissue from deadlifting.
  • My hands are torn up with callouses.
  • I have painful bruises pretty much everywhere.
  • I don’t think I go a day without being sore.

Ask any athlete and they will tell you the same. But I love it. I love the grind as much as the glory, because success lies in both.

Patience is a Virtue

It really is.

And for many of us (looks sheepishly at self) it’s a very challenging one.

But for every “overnight success,” there are five billion businesses and athletes who work silently for years.

Success takes time, whether that be business success or athletic success.

My biggest challenge in bodybuilding is growth. I’m tiny. If you’ve met me, you know how tiny I am. So of course, being one not afraid of challenges, I picked a sport that might be the most ill-suited for me possible.

Growth takes time. It takes patience. There is no magic bullet or secret pill, other than time and work. The same can be said for business growth. It just takes time, work, and (default to above), consistent action (or as I like to call it, “the grind”).

If you try to take a shortcut, you’ll never reach your full potential and end up (often dangerously) short-changing yourself in the end.

Stubborn as a Mule

And now, my favorite….stubbornness.

Possibly my best and worst quality (which I’m a big believer ALL of our best qualities are also our worst).

But stubbornness, like strength of will, is important for sport and business success.

When people ask me how I deal with the constant mental and physical demands of prep, I tell them very simply—I’m too stubborn to let it beat me.

I’m more stubborn than the pain or inconvenience. I’m more stubborn than the hunger or exhaustion. I’m just…well…stubborn.

And this trait combines with all those mentioned above to make me successful.

Sports Lessons in Business Success

Many of our crazies are involved in one athletic endeavor or another. So now it’s your turn!

What lessons has your sport taught you about business success?

About Laura Petrolino


Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.