10 Truths You Wish You Would Have Known


Anytime I find myself stuck in an airport with a layover, I’ll grab a copy of Entrepreneur magazine. I’m hungry for knowledge and always looking for an opportunity to learn. 

That’s a lie. I’m usually tired of playing Angry Birds or I found the end of my Instagram feed. 

Speaking of lies, the one article that stuck out to me in October’s issue was all about lying. We’ve all been there, right? How many members do you guys have? How much are you paying yourself and your Coaches? As leaders, we’re under constant pressure to project success and near perfection.  

This shit is hard. I’ve seen business ownership ruin friendships, health, marriages and everything in between. The fact that only 20 percent of us will see year five and only 10 percent of us will see year 10 tells you everything you need to know about entrepreneurship. It’s a long, hard road that ends in failure for the majority of us.  

I wish more of the “celebrity” voices in our space would speak to this. It would require a public vulnerability that distinguishes great leaders from good leaders. This post isn’t me taking on that role. I’m an average athlete who is an introvert with a gym in the middle of the country that no one cares about. This post is more for me than anyone. Hopefully you find a little catharsis and realize that —  if you’re feeling these things —  you’re in the majority.  

1. You’ll care more about your members than they’ll care about themselves and you.  

This sucks, but it’s true. People join gyms when their brains are flooded with absurd levels of dopamine and serotonin. That shit has a shelf life.  

2. You should care more about your team than your members. 

If I had a time machine, I’d make my first goal as a gym owner to create as many full-time jobs as possible within my first couple years. Members come and go — and can get pretty nasty sometimes — but a good team will exponentially improve your business and your life.  

3. You are alone and have no one to turn to. Ever.  

Each year I help two or three people start a business. Our first meeting begins with a speech intended to scare them out of it. Here are the CliffsNotes: Wells Fargo is a company worth over $350 billion. In 2008, we learned the CEO of a company that large still has someone they can turn to if things get too bad: Congress. If you get in trouble, you literally have no one to turn to and you’ll probably lose your house.  

4. You’re not alone.  

I’m not all doom-and-gloom. The next thing you put in your calendar should be a monthly meeting with other business owners. Sign non-disclosure agreements and vent. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels knowing that everyone is going through the same stuff.  

5. You get to be your own boss!!!  

No one telling you what to do. No stupid TPS reports. You literally can have an idea and create something in the same day! If that’s not motivating and awe-inspiring, check your pulse.  

6. But… you have to be your own boss. 

You’d be surprised how many MBA-holding, “managed millions in assets” business experts become entrepreneurs and are completely lost. Business management and entrepreneurship are entirely different skill sets. As an entrepreneur, you need to get comfortable with a blank page and a blank calendar. Humans like to be told what to do and how to act. You need to create systems that “tell” you what to do.  

7. Create systems that tell you what to do. 

When should I check email? How many classes should I coach? When do I pay myself? There’s no right answer. But please create some structure.  

8. You’ll fail. Like, a lot.  

Get comfortable with failing. Your first draft of everything will suck. That’s OK. Your goal is to get to the second draft as soon as possible.  

9. Be picky about your media. 

After a recent bout of feeling shitty, I did an audit of the podcasts, books and YouTube channels I follow. I realized I was consuming a lot of content from folks we could consider good leaders, but I didn’t hear any vulnerability or nuance in their content. It was all “Things are amazing. I’m a fully-optimized human. You should do this. The reason your stuff sucks is because you’re not doing these things.” Here’s a secret: these people are lying. The human experience is wrought with confusion, paradox and pain. Don’t trust anyone that doesn’t admit it.  

10. Imagine the BEST feeling you’ll have as an entrepreneur. And then write down its counterpart.  

What’s a big goal you have? Maybe it’s to reach a certain number of members. Now, identify the feeling you associate with reaching that benchmark. Next, take a moment to write down the opposite of that feeling. Maybe the good feelings are pride and ownership. The opposite of these are shame and feeling lost. If you want the good feelings, plan on experiencing their opposites on your way there. Have big goals? Plan on big pain.  

To be honest, I don’t have anything figured out. I’m struggling just as much as the next guy. And I probably would have been too stubborn to hear these things before I started. But we’re all working on it. Let’s just try to be a little more honest about it.  

Matt Scanlon is the owner and founder of CrossFit Memorial Hill and TheHillKC in Kansas City, Missouri. He is also the co-founder of BUILD — a CrossFit program and research project dedicated to improving health outcomes for cancer survivors.  Matt's professional career began in healthcare management. As a result of this experience, Matt is focused on using CrossFit to improve health metrics for a broad population of people historically underserved in the fitness industry.  Located at the base of the National WWI Memorial, CrossFit Memorial Hill was founded in 2011 as a free community fitness resource. After gaining a following of nearly 1,300 participants in community pop-up WODs, Matt Affiliated in 2012.  In 2016, CrossFit Memorial Hill expanded to incorporate a private coaching business, BUILD, a TRX and bootcamp series, and various other specialty programs under the umbrella of TheHillKC.  Contact him at matt@thehillkc.com.