Even though more people lose than win, success stories seem to be a dime a dozen. No one really talks about losing, and no one really talks about getting back up, but we should. But, before we do, I think we should actually define winning. In a foot race, that's a petty easy thing to do, but in life and in business it's not so cut and dry. Measuring success is, too many times, measured in dollars. Well, I'm here to tell you that's not the case. Vision, passion and drive will bring you success in business. If you can mange your business successfully, the money will come. Money is nothing more than a score card – a byproduct of success, not the definition of success.
Business is hard. Staying in business is even harder. Staying in business for decades is like landing on the moon. A lot of people see a guy running a business and they see that he occupies a big building and has a bunch of employees and he drives and cool car and lives in a nice house in a desirable area, and they think, yeah, he's got it made – he's successful. But, those material things are only what you see on the surface.
How you get there is a journey that, for many businessmen, a trip down a long, lonely, bumpy road. This is not a story about the nuts and bolts of making money. It's a about the mind set that bred my success; it's a story about the bumps – getting knocked down and getting back up.
When people see “Rich Gaspari,” they see one of the most prolific bodybuilders of the 80s and early 90s, and the owner of Gaspari Nutrition, a global brand that's been around for 25 years. And it's easy to understand
why. Before I built my $100 million company, I had accomplished just about everything I set out to do in competitive bodybuilding. I won the Mr. America title (now known as the NPC Nationals), the Mr. Universe, Professional Mr. World, I won the first Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic, and took 2nd, not once, not twice, but three times in the biggest and most coveted contest title in professional bodybuilding – the Mr. Olympia. Even though people believe the line Ricky Bobby made famous in Talladega Nights, “if you ain't first you're last,” it's not true. If you come in second place to Lee Haney, an absolute freak of nature, not to mention my longtime friend and training partner, you still have a lot to be proud of - if you know you did your best - and I knew I had.
By the time 1993 rolled around, my injuries had caught up with me and my professional bodybuilding career was clearly over. So, I did what a lot of retired bodybuilders do, I opened a gym. Unfortunately, I hadn’t dug very deep into how to set up a business, how to make a business plan, I didn’t know the real costs of running a business. I assumed that my work ethic and optimistic spirit would be enough. But, it wasn't. I hadn’t really prepared myself for the transition from being a competitor to being a businessman. I hadn't made a ton of money as a bodybuilder and, as a result, my gym business was severely under capitalized. I was bleeding money. Before I knew it, the number at the bottom of my combined personal and business balance sheets was shrinking faster than I could think. I needed to get out from under owning the gym, but I couldn’t find a buyer. Things quickly went from bad to worse. Eventually, to my great embarrassment, I went bankrupt and lost everything.
There I was, a 34 year-old, former professional bodybuilder, with an impressive mantle full of titles, trophies and awards and I was dead broke. Thankfully, I had a very supportive mom and dad who let me move back home to start over. I felt sorry for myself—but not for long. That’s not how I was raised. I put on my game face and began the slow and painful process of rebuilding myself. I worked as a personal trainer and sold supplements on the side. Because of my years as a bodybuilder and all I had learned first-hand and through my voracious appetite for knowledge of nutrition, I started working with a supplier to develop my first Gaspari supplements. I took a look at the industry and believed it was time for an upgrade – it was time for me to make my mark.
After seven or eight months I was gaining some momentum in rebuilding
my life, my finances and my new business. I actually began to see a light at the end of the tunnel and I knew it wasn't the train. Before long I had expanded my operations from the basement and took over Mom’s garage to use as my warehouse. That may not sound like much, but I was darn proud of my progress.
Then, one day an electrical problem set my mom’s house on fire and it burned completely to the ground. Thank God no one was hurt and she had insurance. It covered rebuilding the house and replacing her belongings. But I lost all my competition memorabilia and my entire supplement inventory, which was not insured. And just like that, I went from the frying pan into the fire!
I’m going to tell you the story of how I rebuilt my business in another blog - it’s a good story. And, believe it or not, I had other setbacks I'll also tell you about another time. But,right now I want to plant in your mind a seed. It’s my definition of a winner.
A winner, in my book, is someone who gets back up after they get knocked down. Even if they have to live in their mom’s basement, with tragedy to follow. If they get back up, they're a winner. A loser stays down. A winner gets back up, no matter how many times they fall flat on the ground.
I am such a positive, energetic, person that people are surprised to find out the number of setbacks I’ve had. When you're smiling on the cover of a magazine it doesn’t tell the story of injuries and other hardships. I have a lot to be proud of to be sure. But, if there’s one thing I would brag about, it's the fact that I got back up when I was down. I got knocked down and I got back up.
Be it in business, in life, in your athletic pursuits and other competitions, victory is never final - defeat is. The best thing you can believe is this simple truth: you can always be a winner. All you have to do is get back up. It happens in that second. Even as you rise, you win.