I recently completed my fourth Ironman.  In the last two years I have swam, biked and ran in Ironman races in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Lake Placid, NY; Panama City, FL; and most recently Santa Rosa, CA.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Ironman is one of the most grueling endurance events one can do.  It is a triathlon competition that consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run. 
Only a small amount of people attempt them and even less finish before the 17 hour cutoff time.  To give you an idea of how few people complete Ironman races, it is estimated that less than 30,000 people a year will finish one.  In a typical year, more people will run a marathon than the number of people who have ever finished an Ironman race in the entire 30 plus year history of the event.
The Ironman race is not just a physical challenge.  Preparing for one requires several months and up to a full year’s worth of consistent and comprehensive training.  Additional to physical preparations, discipline and time management are equally crucial.  On the day of the race, your mental and emotional strength is arguably as important if not more so than your actual physical ability.  Getting to the starting line alone requires a ton of preparation.  But finishing the race, no matter your ability, will test you in ways you can and cannot expect.  Each time I have attempted the Ironman challenge I have had different challenges thrown at me and have walked away learning different lessons that not only apply to racing, but also which have greater implications that can be applied to business and life.  Here are the top five things I learned from Ironman Santa Rosa.

1. What Got You Here Won’t Always Get You There

My first Ironman race took nearly 14 hours to complete.  Less than a year later I improved my time to just under 11:30.  Four months after that I finished Ironman Florida a little over an hour faster, for a time of 10:27.  Going into my fourth one I definitely thought I would continue on this trend, so I was surprised when I didn’t finish until after nearly 12 hours.
Part of the explanation is no doubt attributable to having an “off day.”  While I had made remarkable improvements previously, this race made me realize the training that got me from 14 hours to 10.5 hours would not necessary elevate me to the next level.  This is often true in business, and particularly in real estate.  What got you from zero sales to $15 million might not get you to $50 million.  What takes you from $15 million to $50 million might not get you to $100 million.  Each level has its own set of unique challenges that require a specific approach to overcome. 
The good news in real estate is that the feedback loop is much shorter.  Months and months of preparation go into an Ironman distance race, and the event itself accounts for probably only one percent of the preparation time.  Luckily, in real estate however you get to see much more quickly what works and what doesn’t.  Take advantage of that and be open to the possibility that what got you to your current level might not get you to the next.

2. The Only Thing You Can Control Is Your State of Mind

During the Ironman race it is crucial to focus on the one and only thing you can control:  your state of mind.  So many other variables are beyond your control.  Maybe you get kicked in the swim.  A turnaround buoy could be placed too far.  Weather could be uncooperative.  You can drop a bottle of nutrition or get a flat tire during the biking.  You can wake up the morning of the race with a splitting headache.  Physically, and for reasons unknown to you, you can have an off day (as was the case for me).  The list of uncontrollable factors goes on and on, but the one thing you can control is your attitude.

The same is true in real estate.  Prospects can tell you know.  Buyers and sellers can get upset.  Appraisals can come in low.  Financing can fall apart.  —  Now, don’t get me wrong: you can still influence these types of problems and help sway them towards a positive outcome.  But the one and only thing you remain 100% in control of is your state of mind.  No matter what challenges you face, do not be a victim.  Instead, remain calm, remain positive and find a solution. 

3. A Great Support Team Will Take You Further Than Going Solo

Never stop training (even in the office)

A great support team is a necessity. Leading up to the race, my wife and family supported me during the long training hours I put in daily. During the race there were definitely times I felt like quitting. Knowing that I had family and friends out on the course supporting me helped me to keep moving forward. During training I had support from a lot of other people as well: a coach, a trusted bike mechanic and a chiropractor. All of these people contribute to my success.

No matter your level in real estate, you need to have support team around you. Beyond your immediate help, this also consists of support from key vendors like lenders, home inspectors, title companies and contractors. As your business grows, you will hire members directly to your team to further support you. Success in real estate is ultimately limited by how many great people in supporting casts you can build around yourself.

4. Setbacks Are Temporary Learning Opportunities

Show me a person without any setbacks and I will show you a person that has stopped growing. My goal for Ironman Santa Rosa was to go under 10 hours and have a shot at qualifying for the Ironman World Championships in Kona. It did not happen. I knew within the first hour on the bike ride that it would not happen that day, but I kept my focus on what I could do to have a successful day. When I got off the bike, I set my end goal to run a personal best in the marathon split. That succeeded in helping me run hard and finish, despite fading in the second half.

After the race I had a feeling of gratitude for what I had accomplished, but also a feeling of dissatisfaction. So I took the opportunity to look back at my training and see what I could have done differently, and then came up with a plan on how to improve in my progress towards my goal.

Take this same approach in your real estate business when things don’t go your way. Learn from why you did not get the listing or why you failed to book an appointment. Learn from why one of your contracts fell apart. Learn from why you had a month with no sales or bad profit numbers. Be grateful for the opportunities you have, but also be unsatisfied with less than stellar results. Learn how to do better the next time you are up.

5. Keep Moving Forward

Finishing an Ironman requires you to keep moving forward. If something goes wrong and your progress slows, the key is to not let it come to a grinding halt. Keep swimming, biking or putting one foot in front of the other no matter how slow it is or how tired you are. Don’t focus on how much further you have to go. Focus on the next step.

Micro-tasking is a great way to help achieve something you might think is overwhelmingly daunting. After setting a big goal, work backwards from your end result. Determine what needs to happen at each stage until ultimately you figure out the next action you need to take and then focus on that action. For example if your goal next year is to double your transactions, focus on the next marketing campaign you will start or the next hire you will make. Then do it and focus on the next required action. Breaking down your goals like this will make you more likely to focus on the next action required and accomplish it, rather than getting paralyzed by the size of the goal and not taking action.

Putting it All Together

Achieving big results requires you to perform at a high level with consistency. You do not know what part of thetask will test you the most so you need to continually bring your “A” game if you want to set yourself apart from others. Remember that what got you to your current position might not take you to the next level. No matter what challenge is thrown at you, stay focused on the one thing you can control: your state of mind.

Don’t limit yourself by neglecting to build a great support team around you. Do not let setbacks discourage you, but rather view them as temporary learning opportunities. No matter how big the task is, keep moving forward by taking it one step at a time. I am confident that if you keep these principles in mind you can take your real estate business to the next level and beyond.