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December 12, 2018

5 Ways Spartan Racing Prepared Me to Be a CEO

by Adam Famularo

Five years ago I was an executive with a large enterprise IT company. I was in my late 30’s and working upwards of 70 hours a week  … with an amazing wife and three young daughters at home. But, a simple routine physical changed my life.  During the physical, I learned that I was on a fast-track to heart disease with high cholesterol and overweight. I knew I needed a lifestyle change – fast and without medicine. But how? I didn’t have the time. I was crazy busy.

I set out to find motivation. But where? I’m goal-oriented – so I knew I needed a goal and a good team of people around me.

I discovered Spartan racing. If you’re not familiar, Spartan is more than a running race. It’s the world’s largest obstacle and endurance race. The Spartan website states that “we believe you can’t have a strong body without a strong mind, that you can’t grow without pressure, that obstacles help shift our frame of reference and make us more resilient.”

I signed-up immediately, found a great team of guys and started racing. Over the past five years and 20+ Spartan Races later, I’ve lost 25 lbs, lowered my cholesterol by 80 points, and became a CEO of a data governance company.

The elements of the Spartan creed – strong mind, pressure, obstacles, resilience – are truly a perfect metaphor for business. Here’s how Spartan Racing prepared me to be a CEO:

1.    Set Goals: Spartan Racing helps put you on a path. It requires you to change your lifestyle – from what you eat and drink to how you build training into your already very busy business life. Without a plan and without setting goals, it would be impossible for me to have achieved what I have. The same can be said in business. If you don’t know what you are trying to achieve – and you have no plan to get there – the odds are, you won’t. Have a plan. Vince Lombardi said it best, if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else. Plus people want to follow a leader who has a plan. If its all just smoke and mirrors and you cannot set people on a path to tangible achievement, there’s really nothing to follow.

2.    Train: It’s grueling. You need to continuously train and educate yourself. You need to put in the time and build up endurance. They don’t publish a book to tell you how to do it, you just need to be able to adjust accordingly, pivot, and tackle the hard challenges. Without question, you will encounter obstacles and you need to be able to get over, under, or around them. Great leaders don’t just show up…they prepare. And that preparation allows them to see around corners and not just master the expected. Because its mastery of the unexpected that makes the difference between a good business and a great one.

3.    Team: No matter how much you prepare, there is nothing that can replace surrounding yourself with the right team. In both work and Spartan, I have found a strong, consistent, dependable team of people. We help each other complete the obstacles and drive to the finish line – even when it feels like that finish is nowhere in sight. Additionally, when you and your team push outside of your comfort zone, you grow, and the more high performance the team becomes. You build tremendous loyalty. And, at the end of the day, we are accountable to each other and would never think of letting each other down.

4.    Grit: Keep pressing on! Even when you fall down, face first, in the mud, you keep moving forward. Whether it’s hot or cold, you dig deep. You leverage the experience and the skills you’ve learned from your training and dig deep to cross the finish line. No matter what that finish line is in business or Spartan … you find a way to get there, you rely on your team, you find the grit in your soul. There is no winning without the ability to push beyond the bounds of what you thought possible. But this is where all other disciplines come into play. You’ve got to keep your eye on the goal, make sure you train for what you can see and what you can’t, and surround yourself with a team of loyal, high-achieving people with the will and spirit to never give up.

5.    Balance: For years we’ve all heard work-life balance, but let’s face it, it’s hard. As a CEO, work can become your life. But, life requires a careful balance that includes focused time with your family, work, fitness and friends. Preparing for Spartan has helped me find balance. Too much focus on any one thing can have a negative impact on the other. It’s important to find time in the day to make sure you spend quality time with your family and workouts, while driving your business forward. This requires a very structured lifestyle with a constant feel for balance.

Adam Famularo, Entrepreneur and CEO, erwin, Inc.

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