Today I read an article in the New York Times about how elite athletes are able to constantly challenge themselves. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/19/health/nutrition/19best.html?ref=general&src=me&pagewanted=allI held three national kickboxing titles and one local boxing title, so technically speaking I can say that I was an elite athlete. Reading the article I found my thought process as a fighter the same as a elite runners. The same applies to successful entrepreneurs and business people. It's a article worth reading. Becoming a champion fighter is easy. There is only one major ingredient. Work. You need to put in the hours. Working on technique and stamina often enough puts you in the top ten in your weight class. Working harder than the average competitor puts you in the top five and working harder than anyone else makes you number one. Building a successful business is easy also. There is only one major ingredient. Work. Working often enough puts you in the top ten of your product category. Working harder than the average competitor puts you in the top five of your product class and working harder than any other company is willing to, makes you number one. Working hard is hard to do.
It's hard because you must force yourself to endure the pain of learning and pushing your physical or mental abilities beyond its previous limits, constantly. In both instances you will suffer injuries and losses on the road to success. You have to really want to win to endure all the pain. Paul Graham says it best:
There is a conservation law at work here: if you want to make a million dollars, you have to endure a million dollars' worth of pain. For example, one way to make a million dollars would be to work for the Post Office your whole life, and save every penny of your salary. Imagine the stress of working for the Post Office for fifty years. In a startup you compress all this stress into three or four years. You do tend to get a certain bulk discount if you buy the economy-size pain, but you can't evade the fundamental conservation law. If starting a startup were easy, everyone would do it. http://www.paulgraham.com/wealth.html
Most people can endure a little pain, but the constant long term struggle is what a champion and a successful entrepreneur MUST accept. If you don't feel pain in the process, you are not working hard enough. You are not pushing yourself to your limit. Most people are not willing to accept this, so that eliminates a lot of competitors. Making your job of becoming champion easier.Once you are in the top five you are competiting with hard working opponents. People who take this little niche seriously and are training just as much as you do. Luck helps, sometimes your opponent slips, sometimes their personal life gets in the way of training and on the single day your paths cross they aren't at peak performance and you win. But those cases are rare, as rare as the startup that becomes a instant success in 12 months. They happen, but its not the norm. Competitions are won by those who work the hardest and endure the pain.