It’s an endless cycle.
We set goals and resolutions for ourselves. We tell ourselves that this time, this time we are going to stick to those 6 am runs. We are going to start eating better, working harder, and finally start climbing our mountain. We are totally going to become a productivity machine that is made of pure grit and dedication so we can become the best entrepreneur we can be. A few days later, we lose motivation or slip up. And then before we know it, our goal is shelved untill next year (rinse and repeat).
But what if this time, things could be different?
What if this year, you managed to stick to your goals and achieve everything you wanted to? What if you managed to have that grit, that determination, that ability to wake up every morning one step closer to where you want to be in life?
After all, science says that failure doesn’t come from the wrong choice of goals, failure is actually found in the path you take to reach those goals. You need to change the way you chase your goals, and the way you choose to chase your goals all comes down to mental toughness. After all, that’s what separates a great entrepreneur from a good one: you need to be made of grit to be great.
So, how do you make that leap from good to great? Simple. You start winning the day (the Spartan way).
Meet Joe De Sena
If there’s one person who knows about grit, it’s Joe De Sena.
After making his millions on the stock market, De Sena moved to Pittsfield, Vermont to operate an organic farm, a bed and breakfast, and a general store for hikers. It was here that he found his passion for ultramarathons, adventure races, and endurance events. His racing resume is the stuff of legend – over 50 ultra-events overall and 14 Ironman events in one year alone.
Here, under the beautiful backdrop of Pittsfield, De Sena created what the BBC once dubbed the “obstacle race from hell”: The Spartan Race.
De Sena has now made it his life’s goal to tear 100 million people off their couches by creating the “Spartan lifestyle”: a mindset that favors grit, commitment, consistency, and the Spartan warrior attitude.
If anyone knows how to get the most out of their day and finally smash those goals once and for all, it’s him. And that’s why Foundr is proud to say that our newest course instructor is none other than the Spartan-man himself, De Sena.
We sat down with De Sena to find out his secret to kicking ass in business, and how to become an elite entrepreneur before breakfast.
As De Sena says, “business is war, and I’m going to help you prepare for it… no matter what the day, you need to have your battle plan.”
Why You Need To Win The Day
So, you might be asking yourself why you even need to attempt to “win the day”.
You’re an entrepreneur, you don’t have time for this kinda stuff. You’re busy writing emails and drafting projects, and the idea of winning the day seems like something completely unrelated to hustling.
But in actual fact, winning the day isn’t the end goal. When you set up to win the day, you’re building grit and mental toughness, and it’s these skills that will propel you forwards in life.
De Sena has this to say:
“Entrepreneurs have a moving finish line – in fact, there is no finish line. You will continue to have these problems and continue to practice these things. They don’t go away. This is life.”
This is where entrepreneurs find themselves floundering and eventually throwing up their arms to say “I give up!” When they cross one hurdle and find another, they think they’ve done something wrong. The second hurdle shouldn’t be there, you worked hard on the first leap, so where’s the finish line? Where’s your trophy?
“Entrepreneurs get trapped in their own heads,” says De Sena. “And if you’re in your own head, you’re behind enemy lines.”
This is why you’re well-intentioned resolutions and goals fail every time: you’re looking at the picture of a cake and trying to judge how much flour you need to measure out to replicate it. Without the recipe and the right steps, you’re not going to be baking a cake anytime soon.
The Secret Recipe To Success
De Sena has created and honed the “secret recipe” to success: the mindset blueprint that will take your life from zero to hero.
This blueprint will take you through a series of tests, and it’s these tests that are going to help not only your mindset and attitude to life exponentially but also your business.
De Sena cannot stress this more: “This is what business school should be teaching”.
With this blueprint in place, you’ll begin to notice that you’re changing for the better. Suddenly, you’ve got more:
- Positive mood
- Perspective shift
This blueprint is what will help you win the day. And, when you win the day, you go on to win the week. Then the year. And then: you win at business.
“To win at business,” says De Sena. “You gotta treat yourself like an Olympian.”
Olympians don’t just practice once a week. They don’t do an intensive 3-day training course in 100m sprints and then go on to win gold. If it was that easy to be the best, everyone would be signing up for a weekend intensive and coming home with gold. Good days and bad days, they show up for training, whatever the weather.
This is where entrepreneurs often slip up. They let one bad day derail all their future goals.
When it comes to not winning the day, we’ve all been there before.
It’s that sinking feeling when we climb into bed. That little voice whispering that if only we were mentally tough enough we could’ve done better work. If we had the discipline, we would’ve done better.
“When we have a day where we didn’t win,” says De Sena, “we often fall into a downward spiral.”
De Sena is here to show you how winning your days, even just winning some of your days is what will get you back on track to achieving your goals.
How To Eat An Elephant
“Somebody said to me years ago: how do you eat an elephant?” says De Sena. “Well, you eat an elephant one bite at a time.”
Don’t worry, De Sena is not advocating breaking into a zoo to eat the elephants anytime soon.
What he is a big advocate for is focussing on the first step on the ladder rather than the top of the roof. Stop looking at the top of the ladder and spiraling yourself downwards because you can’t yet reach that top rung.
Nadia Goodman of Ted says that we have the tendency to “fixate on that magical ending when we’ve reached the goal and everything is better…” and that instead “we have to inch toward them, one choice at a time”.
That’s why the Blueprint is so crucial. It is the key to helping you to nail down your first ideal day.
“Focus on winning one day, and then before you know it you’ve nailed your week and then your year,” he says.
One bite at a time, one day at a time.
READ MORE: How To Be A Better Public Speaker
Joe’s Blueprint For Winning Every Day
1. Reflect And Plan
Winning the day starts the night before.
Before going to sleep, jot down a quick list of the things you have to do tomorrow. Make this list as long as you want, as short as you want, but make sure you list everything.
A study by professors Baumeister and Masicampo from Wake Forest University showed that “while tasks we haven’t done distract us, just making a plan to get them done can free us from this anxiety.”
De Sena says that it doesn’t matter how late it is in the night, doesn’t matter how tired he is, he always makes his list.
Referencing a study by Dr. Gail Matthews in a 2015 study by the Dominican University of California, De Sena says that:
There is a “42% likelihood of achieving your goals if they’re written down”, which is incredible. Just think about that: your goals are made 42% more achievable just if you write them down in a to-do list.
If jotting down every task for the morning ahead seems too stressful, an easier way to begin making these lists is to answer the following:
- What can I improve on tomorrow?
- What did I achieve today?
- Did I face any blockers?
- What are my top 3 priorities for tomorrow?
Use a Note app on your phone, scribble the answers down on a scrap of paper, even write them on your hand (if you’re sure they won’t rub off during the night). Just get tomorrow’s battle plan nailed down before you sleep.
READ MORE: How To Create The Perfect Founding Team
2. Nourish Your Body
De Sena says you need to “nourish your body to nourish your mind”.
Think of your body and being like your engine. You gotta get that engine running at maximum efficiency to perform at an elite level. The blueprint to nourishing your body is to:
We’re not your parents giving you an early bedtime, but we are going to emphatically remind you that you need to get to bed on time.
De Sena says “early to bed early to rise makes us wealthy and wise.”
De Sena is in good company with this one.
There’s a reason why successful people wake up before the sun.
By waking up early, you’ll be giving your body the time to wake up before you start your workday.
BusinessInsider says that if you roll out of bed every morning at 8:30 am and start working at 9 am, you’re not giving yourself the chance to be alert. “Getting up early gives your body a chance to reach peak wakefulness naturally (which means you won’t have to depend on that triple shot of espresso to do your thinking for you).”
Studies have shown that night owls are often suffering from some form of sleep disorder. Their bad habits take over, and soon they can’t identify with anything other than waking up minutes before they have to be at work. You probably know of, or you probably are one of those people who constantly tell others how you “couldn’t imagine getting up early for work!” or that your brain “doesn’t start functioning until after your 11th coffee!”
The good news is that none of that behavior is biological, it’s all habit. And habits can be broken to give way to new and healthier habits.
The easiest way to break this cycle is to start thinking like a Spartan, and waking up to your early alarm. No snooze, no excuses, nothing. The way to get that elite early-bird sleep pattern is not by going to bed early, it’s by waking up early. And then staying awake that entire day (no napping!).
Come nightfall, you’ll naturally fall asleep earlier.
Drink a lot of Water
After you’ve climbed out of bed, immediately drink 2 big glasses of room temperature water (not including your coffee or tea) which De Sena notes will lead to an increase in brainpower.
In an interview, renowned nutritionist and the author of “The One One One Diet” Rania Batayneh, MPH, supports this concept of a water brainpower boost.
“One of the biggest indicators of lethargy or low energy is that you are dehydrated,” Batayneh says.
“After a long period without anything to eat or drink, the first thing you consume in the morning can be a shock to the body. If that first thing is…water, it will get the body working and can boost your alertness and low energy levels,” she says.
Remember: you can’t conquer the day if you’re dehydrated.
Hydration is one of those essential habits that people tend to skip over. If you’re someone who struggles to hydrate consistently, these 2 glasses in the morning will help set the table for a life-long hydration habit. Aside from mental clarity, water has these added benefits for the body:
Break a Small Sweat
“If the body is not healthy and not performing optimally, then the brain is not performing optimally.”
De Sena says that the key to success is to sweat in the morning and to think of it as earning your breakfast.
Start off your day with 10-15 minutes of any kind of exercise. This can be anything from some push-ups, yoga, a quick HIIT session, or even just a brisk walk around the block. Any exercise is fine, says De Sena, as long as you break a sweat and your heart-rate goes up.
Even if you plan to do a bigger workout later in the day, it’s those 10-15 minute sweat sessions in the morning that will help you win that day.
Studies have found that after just a 10-minute workout, your brainpower is boosted for a short time. In this study, researchers found that participants that rode a stationary bike at a moderate pace for 10 minutes managed to answer questions 50 milliseconds faster than they did before exercising.
That’s a neat 14% increase in cognitive performance, and all it takes is a little morning sweat.
Take an Ice-Cold Shower
After your workout, you’re going to have an ice-cold shower.
If the thought of having an ice-cold shower has you shuddering with disgust, you’re not alone. De Sena knows that this is the least pleasant part of the blueprint:
“Ice-cold shower: it’s going to suck. You’re going to kick and scream. But you gotta do it”.
From a scientific standpoint, a cold shower in the morning will help your blood to draw away from the skin and rush towards the brain and other vital organs. It also activates the sympathetic nervous system and increases beta-endorphins and noradrenaline in the brain.
In layman’s terms, a cold shower puts minor stress on your body. Minor stress is essential for human health, whereas excessive stress is not.
An ice-cold shower in the morning is going to be pretty brutal, but as De Sena says, “it’s gonna kick start your day”.
3. Prioritize & Execute
Take The Top 3
Now that you’ve got that cold-shower out of the way, you’re going to get started on your priority list. Those top 3 priorities that you listed out the night before are going to be your sole focus. Tackle those top 3 priorities, and then later tackle the smaller tasks.
De Sena uses this analogy to help you understand why you need to tackle the big stuff first. While you’re invigorated from your early morning workout and cold shower, tackle the big things you don’t want to do.
“If you’re looking to fill a bucket with as many rocks as you can, you put the big rocks in, and then you fill in the voids with the little rocks.”
De Sena uses himself as an example. Something he doesn’t enjoy doing is anything to do with finances (“It’s like nails on a blackboard for me”).
So, what does he do? He tackles it first thing in the morning after he gets out of the shower.
Attack those three priorities, and the rest of the day will be a breeze.
4. How To Become Consistent (Or Get Back on Track)
Assume your priorities are essential and non-negotiable
Remember: the key to success is consistency.
The one thing that ultimately helps elevate all your efforts and smash goals using this blueprint is consistency. Taking what you’ve done on day one, and repeating it day after day until it becomes second nature.
The way to hit that level of seamless consistency De Sena says is to assume that everything is a must-do.
This is where that Spartan mindset comes in. You need to start telling yourself that the list is non-negotiable. When there’s no room to wiggle, there’s no give.
“We are trying to build world-class businesses…we need to start training like world-class athletes”.
For example, if you made a promise to yourself to start the day by reading 10-pages of a self-help book, you cannot start dropping back to 8 pages a day or even skipping some reading days. It’s these little allowances that will inevitably lead to a downward slide.
If you start allowing your priorities to become negotiable, they quickly become optional.
Imagine the Outcomes of Different Consistency Levels
This one requires a little moment of reflection and imagination, but it will help you to decide how you want your future to look.
Start by taking stock of your current levels of consistency.
Using your current levels of commitment to your goal as an example, how close do your future goals look?
Let’s say you want to learn Mandarin so you can communicate better with international manufacturers, so you commit to 30 minutes of practice every morning. How well can you see yourself confidently chatting with someone if you decided to only practice for 20 minutes a day? What about 5 minutes? What about if you barely did any practice at all? You’d spend most of the calls in silence, probably silently cursing yourself for not learning how to say “how are you?” in Mandarin.
De Sena is a good example of someone who doesn’t just do half-ass commitments. You can’t be someone who inconsistently goes for morning runs, and then just assume an ultramarathon is on the cards. De Sena succeeded in all his races and competitions because he set himself up for success by being highly consistent.
Keep consistent by reminding yourself that the effort put in now will equal a more guaranteed success in the future.
READ MORE: 3 Ways to Express Gratitude to Your Team
The Olympic Mindset Hack: Commit to Doing Small Portions
The Olympic mindset hack is an easy one: when you don’t feel like doing what you’re supposed to be doing, commit to a small portion of it instead. You’ll often find that once you start doing the task, you’ll slowly find the motivation to keep going and suddenly you’ve completed the whole thing.
Every morning, De Sena does his ritual of 300 burpees.
“When I don’t feel like doing my 300 burpees, I say ‘alright, I’m just going to do 10 burpees’. And then those 10 burpees lead to 20, and into 30. And before I know it, I’ve done my 300”.
The great advantage of committing to small portions is that even if that motivation doesn’t kick in, at least you can say you’ve done something.
De Sena says that “something is better than nothing… if you only do 40%, 60%, then that’s better than nothing.”
Even if you only make it 10% of the way, the worst thing you can possibly do is tell yourself that because you didn’t hit 100%, you should give up.
Entrepeneur.com has a great analogy for when it comes to slip-ups or failure: “there are 260 workdays a year. Consider a car salesperson who sells four or five cars a month. At 48 sales a year, she “fails” the other 212 days. Similarly, a realtor may sell two houses a month, or 24 in a year, which means he “fails” more than 90 percent of the time.”
When it comes to winning the day, week, month, or year, you’ll find that it’s easier to continue a winning streak than it is to get out of a rut or start again.
Take that 10% achievement, and tell yourself that tomorrow you’ll double it.
Start winning tomorrow by starting today.
Joe De Sena is living proof that commitment, grit, and an Olympic mindset starts with the right battle plan. After all, business is war, and to win in war you need a plan.
By adopting the Mindset blueprint into your everyday routine, you’re already setting yourself up for success. Start by jotting down tomorrow’s to-do list the night before to obliterate any chance for anxiety or forgetfulness to take over. When you write it down, you’re making a commitment to yourself that is like a legally binding contract, especially when it comes to your crucial top three tasks.
Get out of bed early, whether that’s before the birds or the sun, and get your blood pumping with some exercise and a cold shower. The top 3 tasks you set for yourself the night before will be easier to smash out first thing in the morning, and once they’re out of the way you can focus on the smaller pebbles in your bucket.
As De Sena says, “if you’re on a hike and you find yourself going off track, do you lie down and give up? Do you start walking in a completely new direction? No! You put one foot in front of the other, and you keep going. Doesn’t matter how fast or slow you go, the most important part is that you keep on walking”.
So, does winning the day like a Spartan mean you have to go from zero to 300 burpees before breakfast? For De Sena, that’s exactly what a winning morning looks like. But for you, it means taking one step at a time, every day, the same way, until you get where you need to go.
Don’t worry about eating the elephant in one go. Instead, fix your mindset: one day at a time, one bite at a time.