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Why Being an Entrepreneur Is a Lot Like Being a Combat Sports Fighter

Being an entrepreneur is a lot like being a fighter and it takes fortitude, determination and a little bit of passion to be an ace
Why Being an Entrepreneur Is a Lot Like Being a Combat Sports Fighter
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Co-founder, SFL
7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Both entrepreneurs and fighters are valiant enough to risk it all and step into the cage. Hence at the end of the day, entrepreneurship is all about the fight

In fact, starting a new business and competing in a combat sport are strikingly similar. First, they're both tough as hell: Whether you're launching a startup or beating the snot out of someone in the cage, you need commitment, ambition and drive. Mantras like discipline, focus and resolve are constantly used in parallel between the cage and the boardroom.

Combat sports helped me to develop the consistency and resolve to get what I wanted out of life, including launching and running India's very first and only franchise based format leagues for MMA and Boxing- Super Fight League and Super Boxing League in a single year.

The lessons I learned participating in combat sports can properly prepare you for the ups and downs of starting a business. The main lesson I learned? When failure isn't an option, you'd better know how to fight.

Practice Makes Perfect

In combat sports, intense preparation and training are required which are critical to one's success in the sport. When the pressure is on and you're either stepping into the ring or walking into the boardroom, success depends largely on the effort you put into getting there. You need to exert every ounce of energy you have into practising and over-preparing. Not every deal or match will be easy, but just how easy they are will depend on how hard you've prepared. It's always clear whether someone is coming to the game prepared or under-prepared. Preparation is where the game is won or lost.

Belief is Integral

You must have complete faith and confidence in your dreams and abilities. Just like a fighter, push yourself to bust through the boundaries. Having the confidence that you've prepared appropriately and that you're capable of beating anyone due to your preparation is critical to a fighter's success. The same is true in business. Knowing that you and your team are prepared, having confidence in each other's abilities to complete the task at hand, and remaining fluid to recognize and make changes when things don't go as originally planned is critical. It is critical to believe in your preparation, your skills, your solution and the team around you.

Discipline Is a No-Brainer

Discipline isn't a natural ability, it's acquired through countless repetitions of not taking the easy way out. Once you go through a fight camp, "blood, sweat and tears" is no longer just an empty saying. It's important to be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses and use that knowledge to take a thoughtful approach to everything you do and channel the adrenaline rush. For instance, knowing when to strike and when to defend, or having the ability to apply forward pressure and "close the distance" when you really want to give up - and being able to control your impulses and choose the right path are important skills in the ring that can be applied to business every day." I've come to the realization that successfully honing in on a craft is not rocket science; discipline is a muscle. Flex it.

Refinement Drives Opportunities

Most people confuse combat sports as blood sports. But actually, they are a game of finesse and creating an approach to maximize an opportunity to score. A good fighter knows that they must manoeuvre themselves into a scoring position by creating angles with their opponent which requires swift and smooth movements. As a business leader, I have always found that the most successful initiatives are the ones where I've subtly opened the team up to the project, allowing them to take ownership of any challenges with the understanding that they are supported and set-up to succeed, creating a pathway for them to excel. It turns out brute force is rarely effective in combat sports or business.

Devise a Master Battle Plan

A good fighter studies his opponents and takes note of his weaknesses. He then practices exploiting the areas he deems most vulnerable. In the same way, as a business owner, one must strategize to take advantage of your competitors' weaknesses. You know you have created a good game plan when others think you are crazy for trying to accomplish your goals. Hire experts who understand all aspects of running a successful business, and listen to their advice to meet with your goals. You will have other businesses that are competing with you on a consistent basis and spreading rumours that aren't true, all in an effort to reduce your success. Although it goes against your natural instinct, you should consider it a good thing when you start getting that kind of hate, as you are considered a threat. Feed of that energy and make yourself even better. Larger players have more resources, they can hit harder, and they can typically outfight you if you play their game. However, if you can go where they do not, using agility, courage, and perception, you often find that you have an opportunity to play your game. Size and strength are assets, but there is always an opportunity for disruption when you move off the line

Ditch the Hype

It is often said that a team is neither as good as they look in a win or as bad as they look in a loss. This is true in combat sports and also in the real world. Therefore, never take your own press literally, whether it is good or bad. If you listen to those who are singing your praises, you will begin slacking off in regards to your obsession to succeed. This ironically will cause failure.

Obsession Leads to Mastery

Fighters strive daily to improve their combat technique and fitness goals for their overall conditioning. Although fighters embody physical obsession, a business owner must be obsessed with improving oneself. Make sure you are leading the pack in terms of industry knowledge and latest techniques. This will take a bit of obsession but will pay off in the end.

Defeat Is Not the Answer

To qualify to compete in combat sports one needs to be "complete" which means that no matter where the fight goes you're willing to do whatever it takes. Similarly, if you're starting off with a new business venture, you have to be able to roll with the punches and keep in mind that most new businesses don't break even in the first five years. Make sure you have an answer when the battle plan or the business landscape shifts. One of the profound lessons from training across multiple martial arts styles is that fluidity and control are more important than specific technical points. Leadership is similar.

Bid Adieu to The Comfort Zone

A new business venture like a fight will push you beyond your comfort zone into unfamiliar territory. The indispensable mental robustness required to turn yourself into a fighting machine is understanding that it's likely that nothing will go as planned and you may have to take a vicious beating. But prepare for a fight and swing to win anyway. If you're able to withstand discomfort, you already have the battle half-won. Use that tolerance to push your business into unchartered areas. You may thrive in the end.

Identify Your Entourage

Although fighters are in a cage by themselves, a team of highly specialized professionals from massage therapists to sparring partners is essential for them to succeed in the ring. In business, you need a team similar to a combat sports outfit one comprised of people who can see things you can't and make you strong where you are weak. Surround yourself with like-minded teammates, but don't be hesitant to hire someone with an opposing view. The more street smart, opinionated people that comprise your team, the more bases your business can cover.

On that note, being an entrepreneur is a lot like being a fighter. It takes fortitude, determination and a little bit of passion to be an ace!

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