Joe De Sena – Unleash Your Inner Spartan
What does it take to build a SPARTAN LEGACY — a successful life that withstands time and hardship?
The culture we live in celebrates comfort and avoids pain at all costs! This has led many of us to sacrifice true happiness and caused our children to be unaware of their potential.
Doing hard things doesn’t feel good while you’re doing them! It’s PAINFUL and forces us to get UNCOMFORTABLE. But doing the hard thing is also what turns you into the man or woman you’ve always wanted to become!
That’s why I’m so excited to bring you today’s guest, Joe De Sena. Joe is the CEO and founder of Spartan Race, the world’s leading obstacle race. He’s on a mission to help 100 million people get healthy and off the couch and has already helped over 7 MILLION people do just that. Today he’s sharing his wisdom and mindset principles with the #MAXOUT community!
Fitness is one of the areas in your life you have control over, and it is one of the greatest catalysts to transform every other area of your life! In this interview, Joe and I share how creating mental toughness through fitness can elevate other areas of your life. We will unpack the ancient Spartan’s secret to prolonged success and introduce you to the two kinds of people every company needs to hire.
If you’re ready to do hard work, transform your life, and learn from the master of building mental and physical toughness, keep reading.
PARENTS: We’re diving into THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION you need to ask yourself if you don’t want comfort to destroy your child’s future. So read carefully!
Who Is Joe De Sena?
Joe is an entrepreneur, three-time New York Times Bestselling author, extreme adventure sports athlete, host of the Spartan Up podcast, and family man. Day in and day out, he’s helping people live a better life physically and mentally. This twenty-first century Spartan came from humble beginnings, and the story of how he got to where he is today is super interesting.
Joe describes the neighborhood he grew up in as equivalent to the neighborhood in Goodfellas — ground zero. After his parents divorced, Joe’s mom met a yogi who put on an extreme race in Queens, New York. The race, Self-Transcendence Run, still exists today. It’s a 3,100 mile run around a one-mile loop in Queens. About eight people do it every year, and it takes 50-60 days.
Joe was first introduced to mental toughness by watching the participants of the Self-Transcendence Race. He also watched mental toughness play out in the lives of his hardworking parents. His mother began meditating and fasting for 30 days straight as she became more and more involved in the yogi lifestyle. And his dad was a savvy businessman in the air freight and trucking industry.
After building a multi-million dollar pool business in college and a successful career on Wall Street, Joe and his family moved to Pittsfield, Vermont, to operate a farm, bed and breakfast, and general store for hikers. It was here that his passion for adventure races and helping people become strong — both physically and mentally — grew. Thus the idea for Spartan was born.
Since then, the Spartan Race holds more than 270 events across more than 40 countries every year. Spartan has more than one million annual participants and has transformed more than seven million lives since it was founded in 2010. It’s safe to say that Joe is creating a Spartan legacy.
The #1 Success Tip Joe Learned From a Mob Boss
When you’re building a business, it’s easy to get distracted by all the details. But when it comes down to it, business is very simple. Not easy, but simple. Successful businesses exist because of a few solid principles. Several of these principles Joe learned from a mob boss.
When Joe was visiting his dad after his parent’s divorce, the neighbor offered Joe $35 to clean the pool at 8:00 AM on Saturday. As a young teen, Joe hadn’t quite wrapped his mind around the fact that this neighbor was part of an organized crime family. So, Joe showed up at 8:00 AM sharp that Saturday. The mob boss greeted him, and this is what Joe said happened:
“[The mob boss] said, ‘All right, I’m going to teach you a couple of lessons. First of all, you get here at 7:45 AM — being on time is late. Second of all, when you get here, you clean the pool — which I’m paying you for — but you also clean the lawn furniture, windows, and shed, even though I’m not paying you for that. You gotta make yourself invaluable. And then third, never ask for money. You provide value first, and don’t worry about it. You’ll get paid or you won’t, but you don’t have your hand out asking for money.’” – Joe De Sena
Since then, those three principles have guided Joe’s life in business, relationships, fitness, and so many other areas. Eventually, Joe secured a relationship with the mob boss. The mob boss put Joe in contact with about 700 people who trusted him and became his customers.
Don’t overcomplicate business. It’s difficult as it is. Instead, take the mob boss’s advice: Be on time. Make yourself invaluable. Trust that the money will come. Just to be clear, you probably shouldn’t use that advice to get into organized crime.
How to Raise Resilient Children
We’ve developed a culture that doesn’t enjoy doing hard things. This culture hurts us, but it really hurts our children. I talk a lot about how living a MAXED OUT life means you have to get uncomfortable and leave your comfort zone. But so often, we don’t help our kids develop the mental toughness they need to withstand discomfort. How are they supposed to live a MAXED OUT life if we don’t give them the most important tool to get there?
Even for me, a dad who believes in doing hard things and being uncomfortable in pursuit of what you want, it’s hard to watch my kids struggle. That’s why I loved the story Joe shared about having kids from the inner city at his farm. The joy, gratitude, and tenacity he said that these kids had no matter what they had to do was just incredible:
“They were always smiling. It didn’t matter if I said we’re doing a thousand burpees. They didn’t care. They were just happy to be on the farm. [If I said,] ‘We’re not eating today.’ They didn’t care. They were just happy to be there. It didn’t matter what I threw at them — you could not break these kids. You know, the White privileged kids, including my own, they’re soft. Whereas these kids, they just get after it, you know? … I just wish all parents would realize what a powerful tool it is to have a little grit and resilience.” – Joe De Sena
Grit and resilience are priceless, and they are only developed by doing hard things. Spartan Races are so big, and people go to Joe’s farm to do hard things because people end up feeling proud of themselves for pushing through. So, if you want to see your kids be happy and step into their full potential, let them do hard things.
My daughter is 16. She just got a job as a hostess on top of school and volleyball. People give her shit every night, and sometimes she cries. I’m there for her. I listen to her. But I don’t bail her out. I want her to deal with the conflict of working there. I want her to develop an indomitable spirit and awareness of her ability to get through anything!
Because you’re reading this, I know, like Joe and me, you want to raise kids who have an incredible work ethic, live up to their potential, and don’t shy away from hard things. It’s hard to watch our kids struggle, but it is necessary for their success. So, ask yourself, “How often am I getting my children to do hard things that are preparing them for a hard world and a hard life?”
The Difference Between Intrepreneurship and Entrepreneurship
To be an entrepreneur, you need this crazy dynamic where you take immediate monster-like action and possess tremendous patience as you wait for the result. Almost 90% of people do 90% of what’s required, but they don’t stick around long enough for the last 10% to kick in.
Joe’s dad put it this way, “Not everyone has the stomach for entrepreneurship.” While it took Joe a little while to understand what his dad meant, Joe has unpacked this idea to identify two different kinds of entrepreneurs. Personally, I think every company should have both of them: the intrepreneur and the entrepreneur.
Joe described the entrepreneurs as the people who can stomach the high risk and push through chaotic disappointment:
“As I got into [entrepreneurship] and started running my own business at a very young age, man, my stomach was in knots, 24-seven. Am I going to be able to make payroll? I can’t believe I just pissed that customer off. This marketing message I just paid for didn’t work. The truck broke down and I have 20 jobs to do today. Everything that can go wrong does go wrong. … And, by the way, [if] you get a girlfriend, she’s leaving you in about seven minutes because you don’t pay any attention to her because you’re running your business, right?” – Joe De Sena
Intrepreneurs, according to Joe, have vision and are willing to take risks, but they’re not quite ready to go all in. Here’s how he described them:
“Intrepreneurship allows you to do all [the entrepreneurship stuff] without as much frustration because the company you’re working for is providing a little bit of a safety net. They’re giving you some of the tools. … So if you don’t have the stomach to go to war … and you want like maybe a practice version, that’s intrepreneurship. You do [entreprenurship] within the confines of the company you work for. … which is fine, by the way, and doesn’t mean you’re any less of a person. I love people that work for us who act like entrepreneurs.” – Joe De Sena
Intrepreneurs are critical for companies because they go the extra mile. If you’re someone who has been thinking about starting a business but aren’t ready to take the leap, find a job in a related field. Either you’ll gain a greater understanding of what’s required or discover that you like being an integral part of a company and never need to have your stomach in knots every day.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur or intrepreneur, the world needs you. We need visionaries who will charge ahead and take on risk just like we need idea-people who will steward those visions with persistence and attention to detail.
How to Sustain Change
When I watch Tom Brady play, I’m blown away by his quality performance over the long haul. There’s something to be said for his longevity. I think Mike Holmes is a great quarterback, too, but it’s crazy to me that after three years in the league, we’re already having a conversation about how much longer he’s going to play.
I’ve seen this happen to entrepreneurs, too — the ones who are a flash in the pan or turn 40 and go broke again. I’ve watched people make changes and then regress. They’ve gotten sober — now they’re drinking again. They’ve lost weight and gained it back. So, one of the things I respect the most about Joe is his longevity. This man knows how to SUSTAIN SUCCESS.
Joe explained that sustained success comes down to commitment by sharing a story about ancient monks.
900 years ago, a group of monks from China sailed to Japan. They found what is now called Mount Hiei and built their monastery. If you wanted to become a monk in their temple of worship, you had to do this specific thing: Shave your head, throw on sandals, wear a particular robe, and walk a 25-mile trail for 100 days in a row.
After completing 2,500 miles in 100 days, the monks would greet you and say, “Okay, now we know you’re serious. You’ve got 800 more days to go. And now, I want you to carry a rope and a sword. If you decide to quit, hang, and disembowel yourself on the course.”
Crazy, right? But that’s COMMITMENT, and that’s how Joe said people sustain success and change. Joe also said it’s what makes watching someone like Tom Brady so exciting:
“It’s not just … about [Tom] Brady doing well. It’s [about] that level of commitment to keep doing well, to stay in there, to work on his body, whatever it is, right? That’s hard to do, [and] that’s why it’s exciting when you see somebody that just sticks it out.” – Joe De Sena
This is good stuff, guys! If you’re going to really change your life, you can’t fake it. It has to become who you are. You have to start the change. Set a standard of excellence for yourself and decide that this is who you are from now on. The more you act like the #MAXEDOUT version of yourself, the more you convince yourself that’s who you really are. And you become like Joe and myself — someone who has actually become the version of themselves they committed to being.
If you’re ready to create lasting change and sustained success in your life, ask yourself, “Am I living my life in accordance and congruence with the changes and successes I want to see in my life?”
#MAXOUT with Joe De Sena
Guys, I hope you were as inspired by Joe De Sena as I was! This dude seems like a tough guy, but he has a heart for people and has dedicated his life to helping them. Before you go, I want to share with you the piece of advice Joe said he would give his younger self:
“2,500 years ago, everybody believed in legacy, right? … But ancient Spartan’s said, ‘Let’s focus on doing a perfect job at what we do. A perfect legacy is just going to come.’ And, here we are 2,500 years later talking about Spartans. It works. If you go to Sparta, Greece, you don’t see big monuments built or scriptures or books written. They didn’t keep track of any of that stuff. They just kicked ass. And it worked. So I guess that would be my message to my younger self, ‘Don’t worry about making money, just focus on the here and now.” – Joe De Sena
There you have it. If you want to create a Spartan legacy with your life, be more focused on intentionally living this moment than you are about earning lots of money and achieving flashy accomplishments. Guys, honoring your commitments over the long haul matters!
Thank you for taking the time to read this today. Make sure you listen to Joe’s podcast, Spartan UP. Your life will be better for it, I promise! Follow Joe on Instagram, @realjoedesena, and check out his website to see when the next race is and what he’s up to on the farm!
Follow me on Instagram — if you haven’t done that already — so that you can participate in the two-minute drill. Every day I post at 7:30 AM pacific time, and you have two minutes to comment. If you do, you’re entered into a daily drawing. If you miss the first two minutes, comment on every post that week, and you’ll be entered into a weekly drawing. Winners get all kinds of cool stuff, including opportunities to meet my guests, receive coaching from me, fly in my jet, and #MAXOUT gear.
God bless you. Go #MAXOUT your week!