The Importance Of Mental Toughness

Roughly 10 years ago, I had the opportunity to watch George Foreman speak regarding his entrepreneurial journey while making the George Foreman Grill the single most successful kitchen appliance ever sold and one of the most successful brands ever built as well as his rise and fall and rise again as heavyweight champion of the world. It was a presentation to remember, full of wisdom and inspiration, which is why I brought him to speak at a Producers Club meeting and featured him on the cover of MSP Success.

One of the things George said that stuck with me is that he could easily teach just about anyone how to throw a respectable punch, but what he couldn’t teach someone was how to have the mental toughness to take a punch and stay in the fight — especially after getting 10 or 20 of them in a row that have left someone blind from their eyes swelling shut, blood dripping down their face, front teeth knocked out, and ears ringing so loud they can’t hear anything else.

So it goes in business, too. The ability to stand back up after taking a serious blow and get back in the fight, knowing there’s more “beat down” coming your way, requires a level of mental toughness that most people don’t have — and entrepreneurs get punched in the face a LOT.

We don’t play badminton in crisp white-collar shirts on a lovely spring day, sipping chilled Perrier and shouting, “I do say, by Jove, what a clever parry!” to our opponents. We play old-school, down ’n’ dirty, full-contact street hockey with homemade equipment and little-to-no padding or protections. The kids we hang with don’t fight fair and often are bigger and nastier than us, quick to clock us in the head with a forearm shiver when the ref isn’t looking and trip us with their stick. Not all conflict in business can be settled amicably, not all predators discourage easily, not all bullies will back down, and not all “punches” can be foreseen and dodged. They come out of nowhere and clean your clock, and you either accept that and remain determined to stay on course — or you don’t.

Having mental toughness means having the guts to make a tough call: to say what needs to be said even when you know it’ll pick a fight and be an unpopular idea. To stand up for yourself and your interests despite social pressure. To fire that “nice” but grossly underperforming employee. To not tolerate bad behavior from a client. (Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines founder, was correct — the customer is NOT always right.)

Mental toughness is getting yourself to wake up early every day, slap a stupid smile on your face, and muster enthusiasm and energy when you’re totally and completely drained — trying to find fuel in an empty tank. To overcome your own bulls–t and push past your fears and the desire to take an easier path or just procrastinate. To get yourself to do things you know will get results despite the fact you’ll be hammered with shaming, disapproval, resentment, criticism, and conflict.

None of this is fun, and it’s certainly not easy to brush off. But when faced with the need to make tough decisions, do it fast. Use the swift sword and do whatever is necessary to preserve your company and your agenda so that the damage is limited to a little criticism or unhappiness in the short term rather than bleeding profits, losing opportunities and clients, incurring lawsuits, and having to deal with other expensive, unproductive problems in the long run that leave a big gaping hole in your bank account. Squeamishness in any manner is weakness, and it’s YOU who will pay the price.

As Jordan Peterson would say, “Stand up straight with your shoulders back.” Accept the terrible responsibility of being an entrepreneur and all that comes with it. In doing so, and in developing the mental toughness required, you will transform your potential into opportunities and wealth, making order out of chaos and controlling your destiny. 

Do you want more leads, more clients, more profits now but don’t know where to start? Click here and watch a quick video about the three biggest problems IT Service Businesses face and how to solve them.