What Endurance Athletes Can Teach Us About Building Wealth

(Ed. Note: This guest post is from Larry Weber, a regular participant in our community who is coaching me for an upcoming 178 mile, 24 hour, team relay running race.)

Endurance athletes as a group have a higher percentage of wealthy people than the general population.

What makes them different?

What can we learn from their unusual success that might help us duplicate it in our own lives?

I’ve coached endurance running champions for 30 years. My mission and passion in life is helping all runners reach their God given potential in running and life regardless of age or ability level—from the first time runner to the world class athlete.

Part of my life mission also includes helping people manage money well. I spent 16 years working in one of the largest public pension systems in the United States. Helping others reach their wealth and health potential is my quest in life.

In 30 years of coaching, I’ve noticed a strong correlation between endurance running and wealth building habits.  Endurance running and wealth building are both character driven activities that require goal setting, focus, commitment, perseverance, and good old fashioned hard work. It takes a lot of commitment and a deep sense of purpose to reach your potential in wealth building and endurance sports—especially running.

I’m not the only one who’s noticed the correlation between endurance running and wealth building.

The promoters of the highly popular Rock and Roll marathon series target endurance athletes because of their high incomes and commitment to physical fitness. The Competitor Group Inc. is the leader in securing the market share of some of the wealthiest people on the planet — endurance athletes.  They are banking on the wealth of endurance athletes to improve their bottom line.

So what are the specific traits that endurance and wealth champions share? I will examine these issues below with coaching instructions on how you can take action to apply them in your own life.

Trait # 1: Endurance and wealth champions commit to big goals. They don’t just talk about their goals. They set challenging goals and go after them with courage and determination. Self sacrifice and self discipline are more than words to the champion. They are a way of life. Champions overcome laziness and procrastination by setting meaningful and challenging goals.

Champions generally assess their goals differently from the crowd by asking questions like, “How bad do I really want this goal?” Is the goal worth the price I’ll have to pay physically, emotionally, and spiritually? Is this goal in alignment with my deepest values?

If the answers to these questions are yes, champions close off all distractions and find a way to win.  They keep running the race until they cross the finish line.

The best don’t give 50% to their goals. They don’t give 75%.  They give 100%.

How much time and effort are you giving to your most important wealth building goals?

Trait #2: Endurance and wealth champions don’t buy into instant success thinking. Instant success is part of fantasy-land promoted by charlatans who make their living by promising much and delivering little. Champions do the daily work required to reach the finish line.

Champions also accept that reaching a goal is 20% perspiration and 80% determination. Champions don’t waste time looking for instant success strategies like the masses.  They lace up their shoes each day and get out that door whether they feel like it or not. Champions are generally people who work harder, try harder, and refuse to quit.

Are you taking the path of least resistance to reach your wealth building goals? Do you need to eliminate instant success thinking from your life?

Trait #3 Endurance and wealth champions work with a world class coach. The most effective road to success is to find someone who has already mastered what you want to accomplish. Therefore, champions select a coach who has actually lived what they teach, preach, and coach.

The coach of a champion doesn’t just live in theory land. The coach lives in champion land. He or she has been there, done that, and now wants to help others do the same. The best coaches understand the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat because they’ve experienced both emotions.  They pass on what they know to help their students stay poised in the face of adversity and to celebrate in times of victory.

I’ve never met a champion who didn’t have a great coach.

Have you found a world class coach or mentor to help you reach the next level?

Trait #4 Endurance and wealth champions pace themselves to victory. Many people give up on their dreams a few steps from the finish line. Champions don’t. They pace themselves to win the race.

Champions know that the fastest runner does not always win the race. They’ve learned that slow and steady usually wins the race.

Champions use their energy wisely. Their smart “even” pacing brings them to the finish line in record time ahead of the pack. Champions pass other people near the finish line because they run hard and smart.

Are you pacing yourself effectively in the wealth building race?

Trait #5 Endurance and wealth champions pick themselves up when they fall. John Maxwell wrote a book several years ago called Failing Forward. The basic message of the book is to treat your mistakes as true learning experiences and to get back into the race as soon as possible.

I loved reading Maxwell’s book because of its emphasis on grace and accountability. Maxwell brings a nice balance between forgiving ourselves and finding ways to improve performance in the future. I also love the title of the book. Failing Forward means getting back on that horse again no matter how many times you’ve fallen.

Champions “fail forward” quickly and get back into the race. The champion knows there is no time for a pity party. Hesitation has no place in the champion’s mindset. Champions get back into the race with courage and determination.

Is it time for you to “fail forward” and get back into the wealth building race?

Trait #6 Endurance and wealth champions harness worry and fear. With all the bad news in the press about the state of the economy, it’s easy to worry and fear the worst. Worry is interest paid on trouble before it is due. It is a waste of time and the enemy of hope.

Champions learn to harness fear by developing a strong backbone – not a wishbone. They don’t “wish” for success, they work at success in spite of their fears.

Champions stay mentally and spiritually strong in the face of adversity in difficult and painful circumstances. They replace worry and fear with faith and determination. Faith cancels out fear. Champions run their race to win regardless of the obstacles that stand in their way.

Are you pushing through your fears in the pursuit of your wealth building goals?

Trait #7 Endurance and wealth champions go the extra mile. Champions consistently run the extra mile. Those few extra steps each day separate champions from the rest of the pack.

Champions are willing to do the little things that the masses are unwilling to do. They complete their daily workouts in all kinds of weather conditions. They run when they don’t “feel” like running.  Champions understand that short term pain produces long term gain.

Champions forgo a few pleasures today for greater rewards tomorrow. They train consistently to win the race regardless of the circumstances. Going the extra mile each day keeps champions out of the maze of mediocrity.

What extra steps do you need to take today to improve your chances in the wealth building race?

Crossing the finish line

In summary, the traits of endurance and wealth champions are remarkably similar.

The principles that lead to success in one arena apply equally well to the other. Both disciplines require smart goal setting, long term thinking, great coaching, self pacing, picking yourself up when you fall, conquering worry, and going the extra mile.

There are no short cuts to success. Self sacrifice and self discipline are more than words to endurance and wealth champions. They are a way of life.

The lesson is clear – expediency is not the solution. Get-rich-quick thinking, greed, and instant gratification hurt our country and must go the way of the dinosaur. As a society, we must get back to the basic principles of goal setting, hard work, self discipline, honesty, selflessness, and the other virtues that made our country great… and will grow your wealth.

It is no coincidence that endurance athletes are more financially successful than the general population. They have learned from their athletic success how delayed gratification, disciplined effort, fortitude, and faith are valuable tools that can help you reach your goals.

So keep on, keeping on. Run your wealth building race to win, and I’ll see you at the finish line!

Coach Weber

(Ed. Note: Larry started a great conversation I would like to continue in the comments below. We have a lot of athletes in our community. Please share your insights about how endurance athletes are like successful wealth builders. What ideas can you add to this discussion?)

About the Author: Larry C. Weber is a former nationally ranked distance runner and all time record holder of The Original Ultimate Runner Competition—a 10k, 400 meters, 100 meters, mile, and a marathon all run on the same day.  Larry scored higher than ultra marathon national record holders, national road racing champions, Olympic runners at 1500 and 5000 meters, and many other runners in setting the all time record in “The Ultimate Runner Competition”.

Larry has also coached runners of all ages and ability levels from beginning to world class for nearly 30 years. In addition, he served on the executive team of one of the largest public pension systems in the United States.  His personal goal during his pension career was to help all people reach financial freedom regardless of their income level.

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