As a CEO and founder, I’m constantly setting lofty goals and attempting to reach and connect with people on a global scale. (I won’t be satisfied until I rip 100 million people off the couch. Even then, I won’t be satisfied. You can always achieve more.) The reality is that, when you set the standard as high as I do, you’re going to have a myriad of highs and lows and ups and downs, in all shapes and sizes. But as I reflect on the year that was, I’m thrilled with what we’ve achieved and grateful to everyone who’s helped us achieve it.
It’s also been a wonderful year personally. I’ve traveled to unbelievable places, met inspirational people, and shared memorable experiences with my family. Nothing is more important than your kids, and I’ve been lucky enough to spend a great deal of time with them despite my hectic schedule. I’m truly thankful for that.
Without further ado, these are my top 10 lessons learned from 2019. Stay tuned for my 2020 Spartan Plan. Most of this year has prepared me for what’s now just days away.
1. The Lesson: Gender Bias Should Not Exist.
The Moment: My Daughter Moved a VAN!
What can I say? Girls are stronger than boys. Never underestimate anyone based on size or perceived ability.
2. The Lesson: Humility (and Humor)
The Moment: My Kids Replaced My Pitbulls With a Doodle and a Parrot
I used to have two pitbulls that went everywhere and did everything with me, and now I have a poodle — of all dogs — named Penny. We also got a parrot named Helen, who the kids love, but I haven’t forgiven her for the time she mimicked the fire alarm.
We are all animals, so why not live in a zoo?
3. The Lesson: Discipline Is Freedom
The Moment: Attending the Trifecta World Championship in Sparta
As if visiting Sparta, Greece wasn’t cool enough, I was honored to become an official citizen thanks to Mayor Petros Doukas. I also gained a greater understanding of why the Ancient Spartans trained so hard. It was for FREEDOM. I love that. To be tyrant-free and disease-free, you had to be tough. Think about it: The Spartans were tyrant-free because they had one of the strongest militaries the world has ever seen. They were disease-free because they treated their bodies like temples. As retired Navy SEAL Jocko Willink says, discipline equals freedom.
4. The Lesson: History Is Heavy
The Moment: Receiving an Ancient Spartan Kettlebell
One of the coolest perks of my job is getting some amazing gifts from the community. I made an Instagram story about all the cool stuff I get, and for which I’m always grateful for. This year I was sent a rock from ancient Spartan ruins with a handle smoldered onto it (see photo from #3). Now I’m always carrying history, along with anxiety that baggage claim will lose it. (Update: While this was being revised, it was lost on a flight from Hamburg. Stand by for how the story ends.)
5. The Lesson: Fail BIG
The Moment: Being Tested By Air Force Special Ops
While getting my ass kicked — I failed 18 of 19 tests — I was reminded that there is absolutely no substitute for training. You can cheat some things in life, but you can’t cheat this. Trust me. These guys are my heroes.
As a result I created an entire course on turning FEAR into FUEL in our new online education program, Spartan EDGE. Check. It. out.
6. The Lesson: Launch Your Dream Project
The Moment: Launching the Twickenham Spartan Stadion Race at the Spiritual Home of Rugby
If you haven’t heard of it, Twickenham is an unbelievable venue filled with incredible people in the heart of London. I look forward to growing our roots deeper in the United Kingdom and racing in the world’s most storied stadiums and greatest peaks, from Tahoe to Tibet.
7. The Lesson: We Cannot Grow Alone, We Need Strategic Partners
The Moment: Formally Partnering With the Legendary, Grueling Bike Race La Ruta
For those of you who don’t know, La Ruta is a 27-year-old mountain bike adventure from one Costa Rican coast to the other. Lance Armstrong did it, and he said it was the toughest race he ever did. It’s widely known as the hardest course in the world, and now we’re partners!
8. The Lesson: Learn From Legends
The Moment: Hanging With Actor Gerard Butler and Tennis Champion Novak Djokovic
I’ve met a ton of incredible people in my life, and these were two of my favorites. Djokovic, who very well might be the greatest male tennis player of all time, spent time with me DURING the U.S. Open in New York. I could sense right away that he’s one of the fiercest competitors in the world.
Make time for people and conversations that inspire you. All of the legends do.
9. The Lesson: Lean on Leaders
The Moment: When I Call Richard Baker at 5 a.m., He’s Working Out
Hudson’s Bay Company executive chairman Richard Baker is awesome, and I think we get along so well because there aren’t a lot of people who also wake up before 5:00 a.m. and want to talk business while working out.
Align with people who inspire you and find active ways to connect regularly.
10. The Lesson: Love, Honor and Respect Your Family
The Moment(s): Having a Beautiful Wife and Healthy Family
As you can see, I am very much about real people. But without my wife, there would be no Joe and there would be no De Sena family. They are the most important and always will be. My wife is about more than just beauty. She is smart, funny, a supermom, and my rock. I am truly grateful for her and our kids, and the lessons in patience, groundedness, and commitment that she represents every day.
Choose wisely, but having someone who has your back and shares the same values (and puts up with your craziness!) keeps you alive and well. Do not let business, travel, and petty details — or your own personality flaws — get between you and your best friends and family.
It helps if you like them too. Oh, and maybe get a parrot or a doodle.