The Real Work is Done in the Dojo! (Or the Office)

Bit of training at the gym, not bad for an old fella.

This is the time of year when you think about what you did and didn’t do in the last year, and start thinking what you will do in the coming year. Hopefully this will help…


I fought in full-contact Karate tournaments for ten years, and I coached & helped coach other fighters for at least five years. One of the first things that you learn is that the real work is done in the dojo or the gym. The real work is the preparation. -All else being equal, the winner of any given bout will be the fighter who has done more prep work.

This is the same for any sport, and for business too.

Preparation for sport can be broken into:

  • Physical Conditioning
  • Technique
  • Mental Conditioning

You need to work on all areas. Leaving out any one of these three areas will create a vulnerability on the day, which will either cause you to fail or can be leveraged by the competition to ensure you fail.

And the same can be said of business. Although I would probably break business prep down into:

  • Product and Industry knowledge
  • Core Skills
  • Mental Conditioning (discipline)

All of these are important, ignoring or slacking on any one of these can lead to you not reaching your goals or potential this year. In a minute I want to go through these in a little more detail but first I want to mention a bit about the Master Skill of Planning.

Tim Ferriss in his book The 4 Hour Body, talks about how elite athletes will plan a 12 week (or more) training schedule in detail. They know how many reps of what weight they will do each day for the next 3 months, and what time they will do it and in which order. Then they have the discipline to follow through and make that happen, without deviation or excuses. That’s what makes them Elite Atheletes. All the truly successful business people I have met do the same thing in their field of endeavour.

So this is the challenge:

Put a little time aside in the break before you start your New Year. Get clear on the outcome you want and put together a detailed plan to get you there.

No, it won’t be easy. No, the likelyihood is you won’t hit all your targets the first time you do this. Yes, you probably will get much, much further ahead doing this than not doing this. Yes, Elite athletes were once just beginner athletes, and I bet their first attempts at planning for events were pretty crap too!

So to begin with realise that you will need to adjust your plan as you go along. Let me give you a rather painful example…
I was fighting in the New Zealand National tournament. I had a legendary coach, Ron Discombe, who had put me through sheer hell in the previous 3 months. But I had come through that fitter and stronger than I had ever been, and my tournament fighting technique had vastly improved. My first fight was scheduled to be the first of the day. -These were knockout tournaments, where the winner goes through to the next round until there is only one person left. If you lose you are out of the tournament, and off to the grandstand to watch.

Conditioning Demonstration at a Seminar in Spain a couple of years after that fight. -I am about to get thumped in the stomach

I was fighting a veteran tournament fighter, Shane Barrett, who had quite a bit of success in our lightweight division. After the fight was over Coach Ron said it was the best he had ever seen me fight, I

soaked up the early pressure just as he had taught, and I had put the pressure on Shane and driven him back, and was commanding the fight.

…I should have felt good about that, but the truth is I felt awful. The fight only lasted about 15 seconds!
I was dropped by a wicked punch to my floating rib which totally winded me. My teenage sister gleefully took photos of the event and I have a great sequence of me dropping and then being attended to by medical staff. -I was lying on the canvas far longer than I had been standing on it!

The point is that this highlighted a major weakness in my prep. From then on I added a significant amount of side sit ups, and other varied ab work, and I also adjusted my stance and technique to cover those ribs. The result, I was never again dropped from that sort of blow in the remainder of my career.

If you are in sales, (all business people are in sales to some extent), and your presentation is derailed by an objection you had never come across before, then this is something to be added to your prep work to ensure that you nail it for future presentations. Yes, you will feel bad at not making the sale, just as I felt bad dropping in the first fight of the tournament after just 15 seconds. But make sure that you haven’t lost that sale for nothing. Note what it was that derailed it, and add it to your prep work to figure out and practice a solution.

So what are my recommendations for business prep work?

Product & Industry Knowledge

You simply need to know your product inside & out. You should know who uses it (your customers), why they use it, what they used before and, if possible, why they switched. You should know the competitor products, their strengths & their weaknesses who uses them and why. You should know the general state of the industry that you are in, whos who, whats happening, and where the money is flowing. You should be aware of trends, new entrants, new products, and new categories.

Core Skills

As Stephen Covey puts it: “You need to sharpen the saw.” It is no good sawing away with all your might if the saw is blunt! Make sure that you are continually evaluating and improving your skill set. Evaluating is a key point. It isn’t enough just to take courses or read general books on your role in business. You need to evaluate properly where your weakest areas are, understand how they are affecting your performance and how your results would improve if they were corrected or strengthened. For example there is no point a salesman reading books on sales in general or on closing if his issue is building rapport.

Mental Conditioning (discipline)

All of us have times when we are upbeat and unstoppable, and all of us have times where we just don’t think anything is possible and we wonder if it is even worth continuing.
-Its called: “Being Human!”

A big part of mental conditioning is to create strategies for dealing with the down times, and leveraging up times to the max. It is also about creating a disciplined approach so that whatever mood you are in, you are following your plan. This is done inch by inch, hour by hour, task by task. Every step forward takes you further and builds on the previous step. Consistent, disciplined progress is the ultimate panacea to all mental anguish or stress.


I hope this has been useful for you. The truth is that it has been useful for me, because now I have to take my own advice. I have put together a fairly detailed plan for the next 3 months, and now I have to stick to it!

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About Chris Hanlon

Chris has worked in or owned small businesses most of his life, before lured into the corporate world where he spent over a decade. However his passion for small business has remained, and taken life in The Profit Wizard blog, his published book, and some coaching he does for a variety of businesses. You can follow Chris on Twitter @TheProfitWizard

3 Responses to “The Real Work is Done in the Dojo! (Or the Office)”

  1. Carroll B. Merriman December 29, 2011 at 3:41 am #

    Thanks for this great piece of information. I’ll be your constant reader!

  2. 1099 form January 4, 2012 at 8:50 pm #

    whats your facebook profile?

  3. Chris Hanlon January 11, 2012 at 10:52 am #

    Hi Tim, My facebook profile is in the box to the right of the site. :)

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