What Jiu-Jitsu’s Teaching Me About Business And Life, Lesson #5: Don’t Tense Up Early, If You Do You’ll Run Out Of Gas


I’ve been told that white belts all make a common mistake:  tensing up early, trying to muscle things too much, not going with the flow enough, and as a result, gassing out.

Now I can’t speak for other white belts, I can only speak for myself, but without a doubt this observation is correct for me.  It is something that I am now very conscious of, and something I am working hard to change.

I get tense, I try to muscle, and I gas out

All people who begin learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu without a grappling background (especially if they are adults when they start) can relate to this apparent paradox:

You are in the middle of a fight, and it is hard and uncomfortable, and you are being told to relax.

It’s correct advice, I can see it, and experienced practitioners know it.  It’s like a game of physical chess.  You have to wait. You have to be strategic.  You have to play your moves correctly, and this often involves relaxing, taking your time and waiting, preserving your energy until the time is right for you to strike.

Many white belts (me especially) will get in and just try to hustle, try to muscle, and push hard from the beginning.  This is what makes us easy prey to more technical and experienced practitioners.  They know that by getting tense early, and use too much muscle, we will soon fatigue.  At the moment the fatigue starts to settle in we become very vulnerable.

It’s one of those things however that can’t just be “understood”.  It’s not enough to have a rational appreciation of this advice.  I have to transfer this learning on to the mat in order to be successful.  Like all good things however, this can only be done with time.  It is “slow learning” in that the body has to become conditioned to be comfortable in discomfort, and there are no shortcuts to this form of learning.

This principle:  take your time, don’t tense up too early or you’ll run out of gas, has amazing application to business.  Particularly those who start a business in direct sales.

I have seen this scenario play out many, many times in our business.  We recruit someone.  They are initially excited.  They “muscle early” meaning they throw themselves into their work (which is good, and which is something we encourage).  They really work hard, but they get too “emotionally” connected to the short term results that they are seeking, and if those results don’t come on the time line that they want, they “emotionally” gas out.

Specifically here is a scenario that has direct application to the “white belt gassing out early analogy” explained above:

A new consultant joins our organization.  They are excited and enthusiastic and so they blast out the product and the business opportunity to all their friends and family.  They get a little business, but not as much as they wanted.  Because they went so hard with their friends and family, and didn’t get the results they want, they are a little discouraged.  They are a little “gassed out” emotionally, and they start to question their ability to succeed.  So as the next month rolls out they don’t put in as much effort as before.  This pattern continues until their business is dead within a year. 

What they should have done is avoided the “white belt” mentality.  They went too tense, too quickly, and they gassed out.  They should have been more strategic, let it come, focus on fundamentals, technique and habits, and over time their business would have the results they want.

Those who are experienced, and successful, in our industry know that you can’t build a great business simply by “muscling” it early.   You have to take a strategic approach.  You have to build proper systems and develop good business habits.

So embrace the long road.  it is the only real road that exists anyway.  


2 comments on “What Jiu-Jitsu’s Teaching Me About Business And Life, Lesson #5: Don’t Tense Up Early, If You Do You’ll Run Out Of Gas”
  1. K & T says:

    Thanks for the advice, Ryan. My wife and I are new to Scentsy (in Australia, waiting for our starter kit to arrive) and have been reviewing your blog and youtube videos for a while.

    I just wanted to point out that the incentives provided by Scentsy at startup (Shooting Star and Scentsational Start) could be taken to encourage the “muscling up early” behaviour you’re describing here. I understand the value of setting goals and acting on them promptly, but I also feel like it’s possible for these to create unnecessary pressure at the outset.

    We’re completely new to this scene – independent business, direct sales, even scented products really – but excited about the opportunity for Kathryn to earn some money while maintaining her stay-at-home mum lifestyle. Keep up the encouraging work 🙂

  2. Thanks for the comment! That is exciting about your new business. I can see your point, and definitely some consultants could interpret it that way. We encourage our consultants to work hard all the time, especially at the front end to build momentum. The key above anything else is keeping your emotions contained. The only reason that an “incentive” would contribute to this is if a consultant has an disempowering view of failure – in that they set a goal to get Shooting Star or Scentsational start, but if they don’t get it then they get down on themselves. You ABSOLUTELY can’t think this way to be successful in this business. You have to be immune to failure. The reality is that you are GOING to fail from time to time, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t get your ultimate goal. It just means that you are going to have setbacks from time to time, just like a white belt gets tapped (and there is nothing they can do about it). However if you stick at it, failures are all educational. If you don’t worry about failure then you don’t emotionally gas out.

    In my life I’ve flipped this mentality (fear of failure) on its head and it has been wonderful. I could care less about failure. As as a result I set HUGE goals, and many times I don’t get them, but because I don’t care about failure I don’t gas out emotionally. I continue to build the systems and structures that make me successful.

    So really it is a combination of two things: 1) keeping your emotions in check (not emotionally gassing out when you don’t get exactly what you want when you want it) and 2) being immune to fear of failure (by doing this you don’t get down).

    That is the secret – you are a like an amateur scientist – deliberate and measured (so you don’t get down emotionally) and patient (in that you are willing to “fail” until you get it right).

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