Behind the Scenes of Success

I’m one week away from my second Lake Placid Ironman. One more year of training under my belt. One more year of discipline, sacrifice, emotional and mental fitness, all in the pursuit of celebrating my fitness with one long ass day of swimming, biking, and running. It’s not really about the race. Yes, it is an incredible day. The energy is amazing. It’s a true test of your mental and physical endurance. But at the end of the day, it’s not about the sixteen hours and 50 minutes of competition (this year I’ll be sub 10 hours), it’s about the 365 days of purposeful practice and preparation.

You see, success happens behind the scenes. When I cross the finish line in Lake Placid, it’s because of my 3am wake-up calls, my carb cycling, my heart rate monitoring, my foam rolling, my swim lessons, and more. When my company lands on the Inc. 5000 for the second year in a row, it’s because of my team attending late-night town planning meetings, connecting with investors, putting together pitch decks, pricing projects, choosing interior finishes, and more. These awards, accolades, summits, and finish lines are achieved only by months and sometimes years of hard work, focus, grit and determination. We know overnight successes are a fallacy. It’s truly what happens behind the scenes that matters.

What’s going on behind the scenes of your life, your relationships, your fitness, or your business? If you want to achieve success, in any sense of the word, you’ve better be putting in the work. And not just when people are watching. It’s what you are doing when there isn’t an audience, when your boss isn’t looking over your shoulder, or when their isn’t a cell phone camera waiting to capture the moment, that really counts. It’s the difference between a pro and an amateur. The real victory happens before or after hours, before or after a game, when no one is watching. It’s when the pro athlete or the pro business leader is alone. Are they getting an extra work-out in? Are they pouring over the company’s numbers? Are they reading about how to scale? Success is not about natural skill or ability; it is all about hunger and resourcefulness. There are no participation trophies on the road to success.

When you are putting in the time, energy, and extreme focus to accomplish your goal it’s going to be messy. Think about your favorite TV show. You’ve got hundreds of cameras, a catering crew, props, trailers, cast members milling about, wires running everywhere. It’s a complete mess. But when you settle down to binge watch The Suits, it’s pure art. Behind the scenes of business or a fitness competition isn’t that different. Things are breaking, employees leave, your feet are bleeding, but it’s those moments of pain, that if you can endure them for long enough that ultimately leads to success.

Emotional fitness is your ability to stay focused on a singular task that leads to the greatest result over time. I’m really practicing my emotional fitness right now as I’m in the home stretch to Lake Placid. Think about emotional fitness like this: If you hold your hand over a flame, you’ll likely rip it away as soon as you feel the heat. You put your hand over the flame again, and again you rip your hand away. You do this over and over. You can’t take the heat. You can’t take the pain. But… as you develop emotional fitness, you are able to hold your hand over the flame for longer amounts of time. You are able to endure the pain, just a bit longer. As you do this, your baseline for pain increases and you’re able to take on even more the next time. Over time, overall, your life improves! But how many of you rip your hand away from the flame before you’ve really tested your limits? What are you ripping your hand away from? Ultimately, you’re moving away from lasting success. Hold the line longer today and then tomorrow. Incremental growth will lead to geometric growth.

And, as I said before, though it bears repeating, no one is going to see you test your limits. This is all going on behind the scenes. It’s those day long training sessions. Those late nights working on your blog. People are going to call you crazy. Let them. Be committed to running your own race and to hell with the naysayers. You may not be smarter or physically stronger, but you can beat people mentally. You can out-work and outlast the competition. It’s not going to be easy, but it will be worth it.

I’ve endured the past 365 days of training. I’ve endured the past 10 years of building 5 business with 40 employees and over 300 independent contractors. Now it’s time to execute, to deliver, to celebrate. But only for a minute. Then it’s back to the grind. Because that grind is the real success.


  1. Michael Mergell

    Amazing article. Totally resignates with me. The Grind is always going on, just occasionally someone is there to witness it. But its important to stay the course regardless of who is watching.

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