Mindset As It Relates To Running A Martial Arts School

“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”

– Ayn Rand

I’m not really into Ayn Rand (although I agree with many of her views, and I sure enjoyed the heck out of playing BioShock), but I think that quote sums up the attitude that all successful entrepreneurs have.

Dustin Carter doesn't let fear stand in his way

Wrestler Dustin Carter doesn't let fear stand in his way. George Tiedemann/SI

Business owners who are successful over the long term see risk as part and parcel of the game; there’s no such thing as “risk avoidance”, and only “risk reduction” exists in their vocabulary.

And yet I often hear from people who are starting businesses, and their mindset is so focused on fear of failure that I know they’re not cut out for owning a business.

Think about it… if you were training a fighter, and all they talked about and thought about was avoiding getting their tail kicked, would you start booking fights for them?

Of course not, because you know that fighters have to be focused on their ideal outcome, which is tearing the person across the ring apart.

I can remember fights where I got the snot knocked out of me by guys that my coach told me I should be able to beat. But, the problem wasn’t my skill level; it was my mindset. In each case, I had psyched myself out before the match had even begun.

A fighter has to be confident that they’re the one who is going to be doing all the damage; if they’re focused on “not getting hurt”, then they’ll become paralyzed by fear… and that’s a dangerous place to be in when you’re sharing the canvas with someone who is serious about hurting you.

“In battle, if you you make your opponent flinch, you have already won.”

– Miyamoto Musashi

Being in business requires a similar frame of mind. You have to set out accepting that it is not going to be easy. You have to appreciate the fact that the business environment is tough, and that you will experience setbacks.

“Fright often occurs, caused by the unexpected.”

– Miyamoto Musashi

Yet, when you also accept that those setbacks will only be temporary, and that each one brings you one step closer to your goal, you’ll be prepared emotionally and mentally when things go south…

And, you’ll bounce back from those situations much quicker than the person who starts pulling their hair and asking, “why me?” every time they experience a setback in their business.

“Why you?” A better question to ask would be, “why not you?” because it expresses the pragmatic sort of thinking that allows every successful entrepreneur to rise, time and again, to any given challenge.


  1. Jeet Kune Do Enthusiast on April 1, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Your right, no business owner can open a business with a knee jerk mindset. If your worrying about getting your tail kicked, your going to be too busy worrying about how it’s going to get kicked while it’s already getting kicked. It’s a good reminder though, when your in the forest, it’s too easy to look at the trees and not the forest.

    Also, Robert Kiyosaki in his PBS special, talked about investor controls. He mentioned, I’d never drive a car if it didn’t have brakes, a steering wheel, rear view mirrors and etc. That’s what driving without knowledge is like. He also mentioned that giving your investing over to a broker without the knowledge is like driving blind (could that be like handing over all your business marketing to a guru who doesn’t have your best interest in mind, other than to take your money… hmmm.).

    Ok, so I had to do a search for Bioshock wiki because you said it’s Ayn Rand inspired. Sure enough it is, you’d like Rorschach from Watchmen then, because he is based on early the Question and Mr. A. Both created by Steve Ditko who is a huge Ayn Rand believer. Basically a superhero who is totally black and white and believes in no gray area. Totally right wing, and totally believes in what he’s doing and says, “Never comprise. Not even in the face of Armageddon.”

  2. Darrin Walton on April 1, 2009 at 8:55 am


    This is an ever important aspect to starting a new business and a great reminder that you become or manifest what you think. If you are in fear of what is to come (say no students) then that is what is going to happen. But on the flip side if you expect students with some setback and keep the mind set that it will not slow you down you will become unstoppable. That is the place to be.

  3. Jeff Barnes on April 1, 2009 at 9:31 am

    This is exactly what I needed to read today. In the light of current economic uncertainty, I have seen one of my schools really struggle. However, I fail to give up. There is always an upside. My one struggling school is starting to breathe in new life.

    Thanks Mike!

    Jeff Barnes

  4. Mike Massie on April 1, 2009 at 10:05 am

    “…you’d like Rorschach from Watchmen then, because he is based on early the Question…”

    Rorschach rocks, and I’m a bit of a Question fan too.

    Kiyosaki makes a lot of sense in a lot of different areas. I find it interesting that he struggled and suffered quite a bit to realize his dream… and didn’t expect anything to be handed to him on a platter.

    The bottom line is, there ain’t no bailouts for us, guys. Sink or swim is entirely up to the individual, so I suggest school owners just accept it, get out of that pitiful “treading water” mentality, and start back-stroking to shore.

    Excuse the extended metaphor, but that’s just the way life works in the real business world (you know, outside of a socialist pipe dream where the government is smarter than the market).

    I know I mentioned this on the member forums already, but for those of you who aren’t members… I believe every school owner should read “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol Dweck. It’s a perfect mental primer for any business person.


  5. Stephen Kirkman on April 1, 2009 at 10:25 am

    It seems in these economic hard times many people are trying to sell how to do MA business better and try yo make up ground by pushing false promisess of sucess. It’s good to see some honesty out there from you guys as to how things are. These are different times money is tight and many businesses will go under but many will make it as well through honesty and good work. Many programs claim to know how to “recesion proof your business” but once you get on the phone then they don’t want to talk about it at all like Wall Mart and Mc Donalds just ignore the recesion and do business as usuall or even worse try harder on thechniques that worked 5 years ago when times were different. The answere to a new problem is not business as usual its change and try new things not same old stuff but just more of it. I changed my attitude a few weeks ago when I stoped feeling bad and changed my attitude to I will help and did a honest to God fundraiser for my sons class so they could go on a field trip wich got canceled because of budget cuts and because I did that I got 23 new students over night and that was not even my goal it was just simpel wanting to help thats it. I even have another school wanting to do the same thing and people thanking me and bringing in new students. So we can be part of the solution out there just like Wall Mart and Mc Donalds they heard and responded and like them or not they are saving alot of familys out there people shift they don’t quit so did I. I have my studio and I teach at the parks as well and my park numbers are doubeling and my studio numbers are holding and even growing a little. So hang in there stop beliving all these programs out there that tell you to charge crazy amounts of money which in better times work and see why some businesses are making it. We are a luxury item we are after food morgage and car payments but we are also a place where people can come in and forget their problems.

  6. Jason Stanley on April 1, 2009 at 11:04 am

    I agree 1,000%.

    You gotta play to win.

    Michael Gerber (author of The E-myth) talks about the same concept with a similar analogy – building a business is like “climbing small business mountain”. A real mountain climber makes sure that he knows where he’s going, has a map in case he gets off track, makes sure he’s wearing the right gear, has the right equipment and sets deadlines for reaching his checkpoints and ultimate goal.

    Yet so many people set out to climb small business mountain in their PJs half asleep, worrying about the avalanche!

  7. Mike Massie on April 2, 2009 at 4:31 am

    “I changed my attitude a few weeks ago… to I will help and did a honest to God fundraiser for my sons class so they could go on a field trip which got canceled because of budget cuts… and because I did that I got 23 new students over night and that was not even my goal…”

    Stephen, that’s no surprise to me. You stepped up and became a leader in your community.

    Leaders prosper.

  8. stephan siverling on April 3, 2009 at 9:54 am


    I don’t think we want a bailout. If we were to take the governments money then they would have a say in our business. I want to keep the government out of my life as much as possible.

    Thanks mike for that article. I really needed it. A reminder to keep on fighting.

    Thing is too I’ve failed 2 times so far, so the next time I’m going to be more careful but I’m still going to do it. But I’m going to pay of my student loans before I try again. I’m going to start training again when I get the money, finish off that okinawin kobudo training and tai chi training. Then maybe do some brazilion ji-jitsu. Also looking at going back to school.



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