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What Endurance Athletes Can Teach Us About Building Wealth

(Ed. Note: This guest post is from Larry Weber, a regular participant in our community who is coaching me for an upcoming 178 mile, 24 hour, team relay running race.)

Endurance athletes as a group have a higher percentage of wealthy people than the general population.

What makes them different?

What can we learn from their unusual success that might help us duplicate it in our own lives?

I’ve coached endurance running champions for 30 years. My mission and passion in life is helping all runners reach their God given potential in running and life regardless of age or ability level—from the first time runner to the world class athlete.

Part of my life mission also includes helping people manage money well. I spent 16 years working in one of the largest public pension systems in the United States. Helping others reach their wealth and health potential is my quest in life.

In 30 years of coaching, I’ve noticed a strong correlation between endurance running and wealth building habits.  Endurance running and wealth building are both character driven activities that require goal setting, focus, commitment, perseverance, and good old fashioned hard work. It takes a lot of commitment and a deep sense of purpose to reach your potential in wealth building and endurance sports—especially running.

I’m not the only one who’s noticed the correlation between endurance running and wealth building.

The promoters of the highly popular Rock and Roll marathon series target endurance athletes because of their high incomes and commitment to physical fitness. The Competitor Group Inc. is the leader in securing the market share of some of the wealthiest people on the planet — endurance athletes.  They are banking on the wealth of endurance athletes to improve their bottom line.

So what are the specific traits that endurance and wealth champions share? I will examine these issues below with coaching instructions on how you can take action to apply them in your own life.

Trait # 1: Endurance and wealth champions commit to big goals. They don’t just talk about their goals. They set challenging goals and go after them with courage and determination. Self sacrifice and self discipline are more than words to the champion. They are a way of life. Champions overcome laziness and procrastination by setting meaningful and challenging goals.

Champions generally assess their goals differently from the crowd by asking questions like, “How bad do I really want this goal?” Is the goal worth the price I’ll have to pay physically, emotionally, and spiritually? Is this goal in alignment with my deepest values?

If the answers to these questions are yes, champions close off all distractions and find a way to win.  They keep running the race until they cross the finish line.

The best don’t give 50% to their goals. They don’t give 75%.  They give 100%.

How much time and effort are you giving to your most important wealth building goals?

Trait #2: Endurance and wealth champions don’t buy into instant success thinking. Instant success is part of fantasy-land promoted by charlatans who make their living by promising much and delivering little. Champions do the daily work required to reach the finish line.

Champions also accept that reaching a goal is 20% perspiration and 80% determination. Champions don’t waste time looking for instant success strategies like the masses.  They lace up their shoes each day and get out that door whether they feel like it or not. Champions are generally people who work harder, try harder, and refuse to quit.

Are you taking the path of least resistance to reach your wealth building goals? Do you need to eliminate instant success thinking from your life?

Trait #3 Endurance and wealth champions work with a world class coach. The most effective road to success is to find someone who has already mastered what you want to accomplish. Therefore, champions select a coach who has actually lived what they teach, preach, and coach.

The coach of a champion doesn’t just live in theory land. The coach lives in champion land. He or she has been there, done that, and now wants to help others do the same. The best coaches understand the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat because they’ve experienced both emotions.  They pass on what they know to help their students stay poised in the face of adversity and to celebrate in times of victory.

I’ve never met a champion who didn’t have a great coach.

Have you found a world class coach or mentor to help you reach the next level?

Trait #4 Endurance and wealth champions pace themselves to victory. Many people give up on their dreams a few steps from the finish line. Champions don’t. They pace themselves to win the race.

Champions know that the fastest runner does not always win the race. They’ve learned that slow and steady usually wins the race.

Champions use their energy wisely. Their smart “even” pacing brings them to the finish line in record time ahead of the pack. Champions pass other people near the finish line because they run hard and smart.

Are you pacing yourself effectively in the wealth building race?

Trait #5 Endurance and wealth champions pick themselves up when they fall. John Maxwell wrote a book several years ago called Failing Forward. The basic message of the book is to treat your mistakes as true learning experiences and to get back into the race as soon as possible.

I loved reading Maxwell’s book because of its emphasis on grace and accountability. Maxwell brings a nice balance between forgiving ourselves and finding ways to improve performance in the future. I also love the title of the book. Failing Forward means getting back on that horse again no matter how many times you’ve fallen.

Champions “fail forward” quickly and get back into the race. The champion knows there is no time for a pity party. Hesitation has no place in the champion’s mindset. Champions get back into the race with courage and determination.

Is it time for you to “fail forward” and get back into the wealth building race?

Trait #6 Endurance and wealth champions harness worry and fear. With all the bad news in the press about the state of the economy, it’s easy to worry and fear the worst. Worry is interest paid on trouble before it is due. It is a waste of time and the enemy of hope.

Champions learn to harness fear by developing a strong backbone – not a wishbone. They don’t “wish” for success, they work at success in spite of their fears.

Champions stay mentally and spiritually strong in the face of adversity in difficult and painful circumstances. They replace worry and fear with faith and determination. Faith cancels out fear. Champions run their race to win regardless of the obstacles that stand in their way.

Are you pushing through your fears in the pursuit of your wealth building goals?

Trait #7 Endurance and wealth champions go the extra mile. Champions consistently run the extra mile. Those few extra steps each day separate champions from the rest of the pack.

Champions are willing to do the little things that the masses are unwilling to do. They complete their daily workouts in all kinds of weather conditions. They run when they don’t “feel” like running.  Champions understand that short term pain produces long term gain.

Champions forgo a few pleasures today for greater rewards tomorrow. They train consistently to win the race regardless of the circumstances. Going the extra mile each day keeps champions out of the maze of mediocrity.

What extra steps do you need to take today to improve your chances in the wealth building race?

Crossing the finish line

In summary, the traits of endurance and wealth champions are remarkably similar.

The principles that lead to success in one arena apply equally well to the other. Both disciplines require smart goal setting, long term thinking, great coaching, self pacing, picking yourself up when you fall, conquering worry, and going the extra mile.

There are no short cuts to success. Self sacrifice and self discipline are more than words to endurance and wealth champions. They are a way of life.

The lesson is clear – expediency is not the solution. Get-rich-quick thinking, greed, and instant gratification hurt our country and must go the way of the dinosaur. As a society, we must get back to the basic principles of goal setting, hard work, self discipline, honesty, selflessness, and the other virtues that made our country great… and will grow your wealth.

It is no coincidence that endurance athletes are more financially successful than the general population. They have learned from their athletic success how delayed gratification, disciplined effort, fortitude, and faith are valuable tools that can help you reach your goals.

So keep on, keeping on. Run your wealth building race to win, and I’ll see you at the finish line!

Coach Weber

(Ed. Note: Larry started a great conversation I would like to continue in the comments below. We have a lot of athletes in our community. Please share your insights about how endurance athletes are like successful wealth builders. What ideas can you add to this discussion?)

About the Author: Larry C. Weber is a former nationally ranked distance runner and all time record holder of The Original Ultimate Runner Competition—a 10k, 400 meters, 100 meters, mile, and a marathon all run on the same day.  Larry scored higher than ultra marathon national record holders, national road racing champions, Olympic runners at 1500 and 5000 meters, and many other runners in setting the all time record in “The Ultimate Runner Competition”.

Larry has also coached runners of all ages and ability levels from beginning to world class for nearly 30 years. In addition, he served on the executive team of one of the largest public pension systems in the United States.  His personal goal during his pension career was to help all people reach financial freedom regardless of their income level.

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14 comments
Tim
Tim

Great post. The older I get, the more I realize how valuable athletics can be in someone's development and success. I've met several successful people that draw from lessons learned as a kid playing sports. I did not like the pressure and intimidation of sports growing up, so I only played a couple years. I intend to encourage my sons to hang in there and learn from an experience that is not only good for their health, but also for their character.

As I now try to form successful habits, I see how vital a partner is. Of course a coach comes to mind, but many people who overcome obstacles to achieve physical fitness goals do so with a partner. Could be a work out buddy, or a running partner, or a cycling club. I know I need accountability, and I'm still looking for a pal who shares my passion for investing and financial planning. In the meantime, I am forming partnerships for spiritual and character improvement goals.

Good stuff everyone!

Tim

Larry Weber
Larry Weber

Todd,

Thank you for your comments as well. Your insights into wealth building are much appreciated.

I’ve learned a lot from the various comments in this blog. I’m taking the positive comments and constructive criticism to heart as I prepare to write my next wealth building article.

I’ll leave you with my favorite verse of all time:

Don't you know that in a race, all the runners run, but only one wins the Prize? Run then, in such a way as to win the Prize." (I Cor. 9:24)

Run your wealth building race to win within the abilities that you’ve been given. Face your fears and get on with living the abundant life. Build wealth for a greater purpose than self.

Be courageous and leave nothing at the finish line.

Larry Weber
Larry Weber

Steve,

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my post. Your comments made me think about a few other points for discussion.

I've coached many "beginning and average runners" over the years who have displayed world class attitudes and training habits. They may not have the God given physical tools to become world class in the sport of running. However, their mental toughness, character, behavior patterns, and training habits are beyond reproach. They are champions as I defined the term in my post in every sense of the word.

Consistent training habits, a positive attitude, character and belief are the important elements of success. Doing your best with the tools you've been given is what it is all about in my book. I don't care if someone is a 25 minute miler or a sub four minute miler. It does not matter to me as a coach. At the end of the day, the key is seeing a person do their best with the ability they’ve been given.

Steve Farwig
Steve Farwig

Thanks for the great article Larry,

I believe all of the points made showing the correlation between runners and wealth are interesting and very likely true. Just as there are very few great runners, there are also very few truly wealthy people. I am not staying that it is impossible for anyone to become a great marathon runner or a very wealthy individual but obviously it is not easily attainable for most people. Why is this? Perhaps for the same reason that not many people are commenting on this post. The chasm between where they are now and where the writer is is too great for them to see it as real for them. Regular people need simple, straight forward ways of acheiving what they want and need to make small consistent steps toward their goals until the miracle of compounding starts. When I was in my mid 20's My first step toward independent wealth took place because for the first time in my life I realized it did not matter how much money I made or what I did as long as I spent less than I made and invest the difference I would someday become wealthy based on the magic of compounding returns. The next step was actually making saving and investing a habit just like buying groceries or paying the rent. When you do this for a number of years and you are in your thirties you have a lot of choices to invest more and in better ways. The other thing that radically changed my perspective was that I needed to know financial self-defence. In our capitalist society in financial terms you will eat or be eaten. You need to realize that there are endless ways in which to spend your money and endless ways which you are not aware of that financial institutions will take your money. Credit cards, Bank loans, and many other assortments of financial products. Being aware of your role in our comsumer society and not following the herd when it comes to lifestyles, educating yourself about financial matters and knowing financial products are not your friends can position yourself for the better.

Stephen Del Monte
Stephen Del Monte

Behaviors. Right on. It's all about choices, or behaviors, that will make the difference. I believe sport is the most notable area of being able to spot those behaviors. Most persons who compete due so out in the open. People can actually see the choices they've made leading up to an event i.e. results, or prorgress for that particular result. So, yes the behaviors are the key to what we're talking about. Like wealth, you are not going to see immediate results, but I will guarantee, with an excellent coach (advisor), a plan that you believe in, and the addition of time so your efforts can compound, you really don't have a choice but to achieve. Hah, that's pretty funny. In the beginning it's all about choices, but in the end you don't have a choice you're going to get faster and wealthier...LIKE IT OR NOT!!! The law of compounding is just that....a law.

Larry Weber
Larry Weber

Todd,

Your comments really clarified the intent of my post. As you stated, "The important point is that the characteristics or behavior patterns are what matters – not the extreme athletic achievement (emphasis added, mine). Those behavior patterns are accessible to everyone – you included – if you care enough to pursue the goal". I could not agree more.

Larry Weber
Larry Weber

Stephen,

Thank you for your comments. In addition, thank you for taking the time to provide the data on the average income of endurance athletes.

Stephen Del Monte
Stephen Del Monte

This has been a long awaited post. I couldn't agree more with Larry. In fact, there is some hard core data out there that proves you correct. According to USAT (which is the governing body of triathlon in this country...USA!) the average income of a USAT athlete is over $126,000. Additionally, the average income of a marathoner is over 75k. These are very large numbers in relation to the average household income. Why?

I could go on forever, but I'm going to keep it simple: marathoners and triathletes have one thing in common and that is the ability to keep going even when they don't feel like it. Period. They have enough confidence and integrity to look past all of the obstacles, all of the sacrifice, and all of the harships for the vision of seeing their goal come to fruition. That's it. Nothing shocking,

Of course, to build wealth you need to possess those same qualities. There will be times when doubt will fill your thoughts, but it's the belief that you will get there and the ability to stay on course that makes the difference.

Now go sign up for a race!!!

Todd Tresidder
Todd Tresidder

Thank you, Larry, for this great post!

I want to use this as an example to invite everyone in this community to create a post that would be a good fit. It could be a unique twist on investing or finance based on your life experience (in this case, Larry is a runner) or it might be some valuable lessons you learned from an investment strategy or getting out of debt.

Everyone has a story to share with valuable experience that can benefit our community.

It doesn't have to be perfectly written, but it does need to strong enough for publishing without massive editing on my part.

So "thank you" Larry for getting the ball rolling.

Who would like to be my next guest post writer?

And who has ideas to add to this discussion about how endurance training follows similar principles to wealth building?

Todd Tresidder
Todd Tresidder

@Tim - Just by coincidence, the post scheduled for next week is on that very subject - accountability.

Stay tuned...

Todd Tresidder
Todd Tresidder

@Larry - Your Corinthians quote brought a smile to my face. It was the essence of my commitment around college graduation time that put me on the path to wealth.

I realized that as long as I had to work for a living and deal with money I may as well organize my affairs to result in financial freedom. I simply couldn't understand why anyone would do anything else. No other economic alternative made sense.

It is the core of the thinking that made me wealthy, "Run then, in such a way as to win the Prize."

Simple, but life changing.

I hope you will honor this blog by allowing us to publish your next wealth building article. I look forward to it...

Todd Tresidder
Todd Tresidder

@Larry, I like your point...

Turning pro is not about running a sub-4 minute mile or exceeding a 10 million net worth. It is about making the most of your gifts and talents as they are.

I think that is the key distinction that makes the ideas in this article applicable and accessible to everyone. It is not the actual level of achievement (because that is unreachable for many who weren't given those gifts) that matters.

Instead, it is how you do the best you can with what you have. This situation is reached by "turning pro" as I like to call it.

I really like that distinction. It completely sits with me.

Todd Tresidder
Todd Tresidder

@Steve - These are all good points.

Your health, wealth, and happiness are all a function of your habits. Anyone can adopt wealthy habits just as you and Larry both did.

In fact, that is all someone has to do to achieve the goal.

What Larry did was take the discussion to another level and talk about something I discussed in this article here about turning pro. It is about making wealth a priority and approaching it as a professional. It is the same issue confronted by endurance athletes to take themselves to elite level.

The critical point you made is turning pro isn't necessary - it just ups the ante. It raises your game.

Habits are all that is necessary, and this is something anyone can do.

Turning pro is how you play the full game full out (for those that choose to).

You can think of it as levels of the game. There are recreational runners who want to control their weight and stay in reasonable shape so they get out 2-3 days a week for a few miles. Good enough. They are working the "habit" side of the game.

Then there are the endurance athletes who study the sport, pursue disciplined training regimens, and go way beyond just getting in shape. They approach the process as a professional would.

The key distinction I want to make is you don't have to turn pro to succeed - but it helps. It is the way to play a bigger game, improve results, and accelerate the outcome if you choose, but it is not necessary.

Todd Tresidder
Todd Tresidder

@Stephen - Thanks for sharing those impressive numbers.

I agree with your thoughts and would like to add a couple of my own...

This post has received remarkably few comments and I was trying to figure out why.

If I had to guess, the ideas expressed seemed inaccessible. After all, Larry has a remarkable athletic history as evidenced by his running achievements so "how can I measure up?" Most people can't run a mile or swim a few laps. It is easy to dismiss the thoughts as "out of reach".

The important point is that the characteristics or behavior patterns are what matters - not the extreme athletic achievement. Those behavior patterns are accessible to everyone - you included - if you care enough to pursue the goal.

Your health, wealth and happiness are all a function of your habits. These are the habits of success as illustrated by endurance athletes. They apply whether you run marathons or can't run a lap. They are inviolable principles.

What are your thoughts?

Please share...