Posted by: Mark Sorenson | June 26, 2009

Mental Toughness

This post is dedicated to myself.

As I have read and listened to entrepreneurs talk about what it takes to be successful at starting a business, one theme comes up very often. You have to do some hard work. Hard work requires mental toughness and mental toughness requires mental preparation.

In my mind there are two types of mental toughness that one can achieve. Both require mental preparation, but only one will get you through really though times. The kind of tough times like the ones we are in right now with a recession. The first is what I call short-term toughness. Short-term toughness is like what marathon runners have. They train weeks and months in advance before they race. They stretch their capacity to run faster, longer, so that when that race day comes, they will be prepared. They will start the race fresh and vibrant, but eventually they will hit “the wall.” This is when a runners legs start to feel like jello. They feel like they can’t run anymore. This is when their mental toughness kicks in. Those that have it do not quit, walk, or even slow down. They keep on running. They mentally push through just a few more miles, and then a few more miles more until they reach the finish line. Then they take two weeks to let their body recover.

That to me is short-term mental toughness. For marathon runners, the light at the end of the tunnel is only a few miles away. They only need to be mentally tough for a short period of time before the misery is over. Many entrepreneurs have short-term mental toughness. They start working on their business or idea like a marathon runner who starts a race, but soon they hit “the wall.” Things get though. Their idea gets stale. They get discouraged and many continue to push through even still. But there comes a time when they realize that there really isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel. The rocks in the road only get bigger. The grind sets in. The challenges and barriers to entry seem more and more daunting, and short-term mental toughness won’t be enough to get through. Just like a marathon runner can only be tough for 26 miles and not for two days or two weeks or two months or years.

Successful entrepreneurs need to have long-term mental toughness. This is also achieved through mental preparation, but when it becomes apparent that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, individuals who have long-term mental toughness find a way to perpetuate their mental toughness so that it never runs out. They roll with the punches, take some hits, and keep on swinging. They dig deep within themselves, look at the core of who they are and persist. They do the things they don’t want to do. They take their fears and insecurities, swallow them and work harder. They make no excuses and keep going. That is long-term mental toughness. That is what separates the men from the boys. That is the fire that will never die and is what ultimately brings about success.

That is what I need right now. That is what I am working on.

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