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If you’ve seen my videos and read my blog posts, you know that I’m demanding and passionate, and have extremely high expectations. But one thing I’m not, in my estimation, is harsh.

I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea — you should see the looks on my kids’ faces when I rip them out of bed on a Saturday morning for a 5 a.m. run — but there’s a sizable difference between being harsh and having high standards. Yes, I do have high standards, but it’s not because I’m an asshole or a bully or a monster without feelings. On the contrary, I have high standards because I care, not in spite of it. I see the courage, strength, and drive in you, and my goal is to make you see it in yourself.

I don’t apologize for my standards and you shouldn’t either, regardless of where you are in life or what you’re trying to achieve.

The Importance of Tough Love 

I am a firm believer that tough love works, both in your personal and professional lives. I recently received a text from an older veteran who voiced concerns about not being healthy enough for a Spartan race. He was worried that the challenge would be too great.

My advice was simple.

“You’re right, you can’t do it,” I told him.

His response: “Thank you, Joe. I needed that.”

Following our World Championships in Lake Tahoe, some called me “irresponsible” for letting our athletes go in cold water. Whoever felt that way deserved to stay home in their warm bathtub instead of competing in Tahoe. That may sound harsh, but it’s because I’m here to challenge you and help you become the best version of yourself. If I didn’t push you to the limit and didn’t make you prove me wrong, that would be harsh. When I say that you can’t do something, it’s because I want you to tell me that you can.

Tough Love Holds People Accountable and Keeps Them Honest

People are capable of far more than they know, and it’s that realization that keeps me pushing you to race and live the Spartan lifestyle. As an entrepreneur and businessman, I employ the same approach. I am constantly challenging my employees to think creatively to do what doesn’t seem doable, and find unique solutions to solve problems that seem unsolvable. 

When employees tell me they “don’t know,” I encourage them to go back and look again, perhaps from a different perspective, and brainstorm other ways to reach the end goal. You’d be amazed at how many “don’t knows” end up turning into huge wins for the company and the individual.

As I alluded to in the beginning of this piece, my standards are very high, but they’re also reasonable and realistic. That’s what separates being harsh from being motivational. 

What do you think? Is my style harsh, or is it the kick in the ass you need? How has Spartan helped you in your personal journey? I want to hear from you. Let’s talk on LinkedIn

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