We had just lost a match that we should have won, and the next day our college tennis coach decided he wanted to teach us a lesson. We got to the courts that afternoon and it had just started to rain. We all thought practice would be called off as we strolled up to the courts. Ah, the naivety of freshman athletes.
“Leave your stuff here and follow me,” he said. And I’m pretty sure he didn’t say ‘stuff’.
He walked us out to the field close to the courts, carrying two cones with him. He placed one down, then walked around 100 yards out, and put the other cone out there. He came back and said, “Line up.”
We all lined up behind the first cone, and he told us we were to run to other cone and back ten times.
“Go!” he shouted. We ran, and as we did, the rain started coming down harder. We finished that first run pretty easily. About 15 seconds after, he said, “Line up.”
We lined up, he shouted, “Go!” and we ran another ten sprints.
After this happened about five more times, he gave us a few minutes to catch our breath. He said absolutely nothing, just standing off to the side with his arms folded, his face in a scowl.
I figured that was it, but then he said, “Line up.”
We lined up, he said, “Go!” and off we went, ten more laps. A few seconds break, and ten more. And on, and on.
Eventually one of the guys stopped halfway through a sprint and started vomiting, which caused another guy to vomit. He told them they were both excused.
About 15 minutes later, one of the guys simply got to the far cone and fell down, and laid there in the rain not able to get up. Coach yelled out to him that he was free to go.
This is when I realized that he was trying to break us. His goal that day was to break all of us, one by one, to show us the meaning of hard work.
And it was at that moment, partly out of pride and partly out of the voice inside my head that said, “SCREW HIM,” that I decided he was not going to break me. I would not give him that satisfaction, and I would not let myself give up. Also, part of me wanted to prove to him that I was strong enough not to break. I always had a sense of wanting to live up to the expectations of my coaches, and I desperately wanted to show Coach what I was made of.
Over the next hour, one by one my teammates fell out. I’m sure some of them simply couldn’t go any longer, but I’m also sure a few realized all they had to do was stop running and they could go back to their dorm room, so they quit.
After my last teammate was excused, it was just me and Coach. I was soaked and exhausted. Every muscle ached and my head was pounding. I was dizzy and moving at a snail’s pace…but I would not quit.
At one of the breaks, Coach walked up to me and said, “Hillbilly,” – that’s what he called me – “just give up so we can go home.”
I looked up at him and said, “You know I can’t do that, Coach.”
He smiled and said, “Alright, do one more and we’ll get out of here.”
I did my one more circuit of ten sprints – again, at this point these were not sprints by any means – and walked back with Coach to campus, smiling.
As I look back at my experiences as an entrepreneur, there were times when I could have quit. Heck, times when I probably should have quit.
But quitting never occurred to me. It just didn’t.
At my first company, Spunlogic, I racked up over $100,000 in personal credit card debt because I was unwilling to quit.
Even with Dragon Army, several years back we went through a really tough time, someone close to me asked, “What’s your Plan B?” I asked what he meant by that, and he said, “Well, you have to be considering the option of shutting the company down and just starting over.”
“No,” I said. “I don’t have a Plan B, because I never considered the idea of quitting. I have a myriad of Plan A’s, and one of them will work.”
If you’re going to have success as an entrepreneur, or success at accomplishing anything of consequence, there has to be something in you that says, “I’ll never quit.”
~ photo by @sarti46