America's Biggest Loser teaches lessons about business
If, like me, you watched in fascination the finale of the mega-popular reality show, America’s Biggest Loser, you’d have been struck by the fact that here were fifteen of what I’ll call America’s biggest sinners as far as overeating, weak will and lack of focus in life, are concerned, and yet, they were all managing to do the seemingly impossible.

Whether you love it or hate it, the fact remains that the contestants’ struggle with themselves and the rigours of their training strip the layers of excuses we, as people are adept at putting in place and allow the real issues to emerge. These are issues which are universal, afflict everyone in every walk of life, including business, and it is almost incidental that, in this particular case, have resulted in someone being so overweight that their very quality of life has been affected.

If you have never watched the show, you should. Life is complicated and we have a tendency to complicate it further, particularly when we accept defeat and choose to self-destruct. In that crucible the lessons learnt which apply to the contestants of America’s Biggest Loser also apply to any business, no matter how large it may be or how small.

What are they?

01. Believe in yourself. This is the first step to everything. Like in Rocky’s speech life and almost everyone in it seems to have been shaped especially to grind you down. Your job is not to accept that, not to accept any excuse and simply keep on going. The contestants in America’s Biggest Loser begin to lose weight and do almost incredible things by starting to again believe in themselves.

02. Understand what’s at stake here. If you’re in business you have more than just your reputation on the line. Chances re customers, suppliers, business contacts and your family are depending on you. To only focus on how you feel and how tired you are and how stressful it is seems like a gross betrayal of all that implicit trust which has been placed on you. In the show, every time, there comes a moment in each contestant’s life when they realise just what is at stake. They regain conscious knowledge of the importance others have placed upon them, and they start to perform.

03. Accept no excuses. Excuses are just that, excuses. As apex predators on this planet we have developed a brain which is fantastically good at intellectualising a process and finding excuses which will condone almost any behaviour. From carrying out genocide to allowing ourselves to put on weight there is a valid reason, somewhere, we have thought through and are ready to bring out at every opportunity. The same can be said in business. I have been in countless meetings where I have patiently listened to someone tell me why they could not get something done at work, why a promotional drive had not been started or a campaign was not even planned yet or why staff was unhappy. If you are in business to succeed your role is to get rid of excuses, understand the tasks which need to be done and do them.

04. Create processes which help you. Not too long ago I wrote a post (after a long discussion with some business colleagues) which stated that the main reason for poverty has little to do with money and a whole lot to do with opportunity and support systems and the processes which are in place which aid rather than hinder a person. In America’s Biggest Loser we see a microcosm of this. Taken away from their home environment. Provided with a support network and the resources to actually perform, people who are clinically obese and suffer from a number of weight-related illnesses, learn not only how to lose weight but how to perform at a physical level that even relatively fit people would find challenging. Business is no exception. If you are building a business you should be putting in place processes which enable your business to work better.

05. Accept setbacks. When you’re feeling vulnerable the slightest setback has the potential to derail you. Arguably the contestants on the show must be amongst the most psychologically and emotionally people in the world. Their efforts to lose weight and get fitter lead nowhere until they accept that a setback is just that, a temporary step back, not the end. It is the same in business. You need to be able to accept setbacks and fight on with even greater determination than before.

06. Remain focused. Losing focus is probably one of the most frequently given reasons for being overweight, mentioned on the show. The moment you lose focus you forget what you are there to do and why. You forget to remember what matters and what does not. You forget what you are fighting for. In business a lack of focus will lead to disaster. Missed opportunities, botched product launches, bad communication with staff and customers. Businesses as large as Blackberry and Netflix (check out my Top Ten Social Media Disasters of 2011) have been guilty of it and they have suffered mightily as a result. For a small business owner lack of focus will lead to certain failure.

07. Learn to enjoy what you do. Life is tough, there is no denying this. What the show’s contestants get back every time is their ability to enjoy it. The power to feel glad to be alive. It is the same in business. If you cannot learn to enjoy what you do, to feel alive doing your job and running your business the chances are that eventually the business will grind you down. It is only be making work an integral part of life can you learn to roll with the difficulties and tackle challenges with a smile and a certain sense of excitement.

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