Stereotypes abound when it comes to the lifestyle of programmers and CTOs, including physical profile and outside interests. But in my experience, it’s breaking this mold that has propelled my success in the technology industry.
Aside from my job as an entrepreneur and CTO, I’m an avid powerlifter who helped pioneer the sport in Israel. To get started, I approached strangers at athletics competitions all over the country and tried to sell them on the idea of a sport they had never even heard of before. Sounds exactly like a hi-tech networking event, right? I quickly realized that my passion for powerlifting could actually inform and strengthen my abilities as an entrepreneur and CTO.
Here are five key principles that I learned through lifting weights that are essential for every executive looking for new ways to innovate their company.
1. Flex your mental toughness.
Powerlifting demands the willingness to push yourself to the very limit, consistently. Even a slight bit of laziness can be disastrous to your regimen. Knowing that skipping a day would hurt me in the long run helped me get out of bed each morning to train for my next milestone, even when my back screamed for a break.
Similarly, when I made the leap from programmer to entrepreneur, there were many challenges tempting me to shrink back into my comfort zone. The durability I had built up in the gym helped me overcome the initial roadblocks.
To even attempt lifting hundreds of pounds of steel requires courage. Similarly, building technology to tackle a long unsolved problem requires chutzpah. In both pursuits, there are dozens of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Being brazen enough to take on the challenge and follow through is half the battle.
Related: 15 Habits of Mentally Tough People
2. Put in the time and you’ll reap the benefits.
The longer you’re in it, the better you get. Interestingly, powerlifting is considered kind to older athletes. I could lift heavier weights when I was younger, but after years of powerlifting experience I’m in better shape for my age now than I was then. The longer you are in the game (within reason) the better you know your limitations, how far to push the boundaries and how to use years of accumulated knowledge to reach that next weight class.
The same can be said for innovation. In my current venture, my co- founder Toby and I sat and created a way to overcome a major obstacle we’ve both encountered for the last 20 years. Years ago we didn’t have the knowledge and experience necessary to conquer it. Young entrepreneurs love to think that they have all the answers, yet it is serial entrepreneurs and tech industry veterans who often create exciting companies and products. Putting in the time to fully understand every aspect of the sector you’re seeking to dominate will only make you smarter, more effective, and ultimately a more successful professional.
3. Stick to your game plan.
The intense foresight and planning required for even the most incremental gain is a critical difference between powerlifting and other athletics. Every sport requires intense training to make improvements but, in powerlifting, even the smallest advances are achieved by sticking to a training plan of several months with 100 percent dedication. True innovation in software development is similar -- every improvement in development and deployment is a product of intense planning, followed by much hard work. For both powerlifting and software development, the size of the change -- whether incremental or enormous -- is only realized through proper strategizing, strict execution and devotion to the goal.
4. Lean on your support system.
Powerlifting is physically and mentally draining. A team to motivate and support you is critical. My support system has always existed outside the gym. My family is my rock, doing much more than just buoying my spirits after a hard day in the office or a bad day lifting. In both these areas, months of work can disintegrate in a moment, leaving you no better off than when you started the process. They help me keep perspective -- a problem that anyone who has operated in the high-tech world or the world of competitive powerlifting can tell you is an issue.
At times like this, it’s crucial to get out of your own head -- talk to people who can act as a soundboard for ideas and a shoulder to lean on. Whether it’s bench pressing 500 lbs or tweaking a convoluted piece of code, you need a supportive team to get you over that last hurdle.
5. It’s never too late to go back to the drawing board.
It’s important to perfect the right methods before you get started. If you’re using the wrong form in powerlifting, you will be unable to move forward. You might even need a doctor. Powerlifters routinely evaluate their methods and assess their actions, a trait highly useful when creating a startup. The cost of faulty form in powerlifting is injury. In a startup a faulty assumption costs valuable and scarce resources.
There is no shame in admitting a technique just isn’t working and fixing it, just as admitting that one of your company policies isn’t productive is beneficial. Take a breath, and go back to the drawing board to spot any weaknesses and come up with a better way to accomplish your goals before getting back to work.
The weight rack and the office appear to be worlds apart, but are full of similar mechanisms of drive and inspiration. The traits possessed by practitioners of both give them the mental strength to achieve what many others would and could never dare to do.