When you fly 300,000 miles per year, you do one of three things on a plane: work, sleep or watch movies. I don't sleep on planes, so for me, it's all about working and then watching a movie. As I caught up on John Wick 2 on my flight this morning from Marrakech to Lisbon, I realized something:
All professional assassins (at least as portrayed by Hollywood) share five traits that keep them alive. Those same five traits can improve your life as an entrepreneur.
Lesson 1: Assassins are prepared for any and every eventuality.
Great assassins, without question, are always prepared. Of course, no one can prepare for being double-crossed by a trusted partner, like what Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) did to James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) in Goldeneye, but by-and-large preparation separates a good assassin from a dead assassin. Movies dedicate serious film minutes to the characters preparing for any eventuality. It's no wonder that companies pay a ton of money to be featured in the "getting ready" scenes between Q and James Bond.
As an entrepreneur, this means doing your homework scrupulously before any meeting you take, making sure you have an answer to any question (and, if you don't, getting back to the asker as soon as you do,) and always being early. And, yes, even little things, like always having an extra pen.
Lesson 2: Assassins always practice great tech hygiene.
Having the latest tech is great, but more important is keeping the tech you currently have in top condition. Sure, it might be nice to have access to the absolute latest in technology, like John Wick does when he arrives in Rome, but you won't need to drop $1,000 on a new unlocked iPhone 8 if you keep your iPhone 6 in good condition, keep it clean (inside and out,) make sure you're not hogging file space for unnecessary things, etc.
The first question Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) asked Marie (Franke Potente) when they agreed to drive across Europe together in The Bourne Identity was if she kept her old car in good repair. Did she change the oil, rotates the tires, etc? She did and later, when the going got tough, Bourne was able to drive them both to safety using a car that most definitely wasn't designed for evasive maneuvers.
Sure, new tech is cool, but you know what's cooler? Giving yourself another week of financial runway because your current iWhatever still works great, and you don't waste money upgrading simply because you can.
Lesson 3: Assassins prioritize self-care and take pride in their appearance.
Whether it's Jason Bourne (The Bourne Identity) working out religiously, Chev Chelios (Crank) being strong enough to survive an entire day with poison (The Beijing Cocktail) in his system, or even James Bond imperceptibly fixing his tie after being shot at, assassins know that to operate your best, you need to look and feel your best. Show me a fat, out of shape assassin who eats crap food, and I'll show you a movie that never became a franchise.
I don't care how many times you've been an entrepreneur, you will always be your own longest relationship, as well as your most important commitment. Working 60 hours straight without sleep isn't a badge of honor, it's a mark of stupidity, and a sign to me as an investor that you might be a potential liability to your company. Get enough sleep, try to exercise daily, limit your alcohol intake and go easy on the pizza deliveries.
Added bonus: Studies show that attractive, healthy CEOs tend to boost their company bottom line, as well.
Lesson 4: Assassins understand the difference between business and personal reactions.
While almost every great movie assassin has a personal story behind why they do what they do (Martin Blank in Grosse Pointe Blank is a loner who was recruited out of the army, John Wick's wife and dog were killed, etc.) they always try to maintain a balance between personal and professional.
In other words, their personal reasons might be driving what they do, but their professionalism shows through first and foremost. They never make bad decisions out of anger, they follow their plan and they're constantly checking themselves to see if they're missing anything. Their skills, professionalism and training guide them in completing their task, even if their motive is personal.
The best entrepreneurs, just like the best assassins, know that while a personal desire to do great things drives them, the professional side is the one that needs to be in charge and make the big decisions. Never be blinded by anger, jealousy or social media trolls.
Related: 8 Ways to Stay Calm During a Crisis
Lesson 5: Only partner with who you can trust with your life.
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible) has the IMF, Leon (Jean Reno in The Professional) had Mathilda, even The Expendables have each other. They know that "guts will get you so far, then they'll get you killed." (Harry, Speed) The point is, all good assassins have at least one person they can rely on. Rarely is an assassin strictly, 100 percent on his or her own, no matter how much of a lonely life it appears they lead.
Entrepreneurship is a lonely road. Without a team you can fall back on, even if just for them to tell you you're not going completely crazy, you'll fail, guaranteed. Find a group. Find a mastermind. Find a person or a group of people on whom you can rely, who will help you when you need it.
In the end, the best assassins and the best entrepreneurs know that preparation, adaptability and responsiveness, coupled with self-preservation and someone in your corner, are the keys to survival, whether you're killing people, or killing an old way of thinking with a brand new startup.