Published on January 24th, 2024 | by Dr. Jerry Doby0
Endurance Entrepreneurship: Lessons from Steven Pivnik’s “Built to Finish”
Endurance involves more than just pressing on — those who endure press on when things are difficult, unpleasant, and unnerving. They keep going through the toughest of life’s challenges, despite resistance, injury, and fatigue.
“There is no substitute for work. Mostly hard work,” Pivnik shares in his book. “Building endurance and strength for the marathon of life, business, and sport is far from easy, but few things worth doing in life are.”
Pivnik, who serves today as an inspirational business speaker who also provides business strategy consulting, can speak with authority when it comes to endurance. He is a world-class endurance sport athlete, having competed in more than a dozen full-distance IRONMAN® triathlons, including the IRONMAN® World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. He has also participated in eight New York City Marathons, numerous ultra-marathons including race distances of 100 miles, and successfully reached the summits of Aconcagua and Kilimanjaro.
In the business world, Pivnik was the CEO of Binary Tree, a tech firm that was named to the Inc500 as well as the Inc5000 lists of fastest-growing companies for seven years in a row. His entrepreneurial accomplishments include negotiating and closing multi-million dollar licensing deals with IBM and Microsoft.
The personal journey Pivnik traveled on the way to business success also required a good deal of endurance, as “Built to Finish” explains. It started in the Soviet Union as part of an Eastern European Jewish family.
“Anti-Semitism was very much alive in the USSR when my family lived there,” Pivnik explains in his book. “It was an uncomfortable place to be, and my parents and grandparents wanted more for us.”
The desire to have a better and more stable life eventually led Pivnik’s family to immigrate to the US, a journey that involved them leaving Odessa in the middle of the night and struggling to find a place to stay in Italy while awaiting entrance to the US.
“My family endured the grind countless times on our journey to America,” the book recounts. “The grind, as I would later learn, is part of any journey of meaning. It is the lubrication that helps you shift gears and climb over the steep hills ahead.”
Going the distance in business and life
“Built to Finish” gives readers the detailed formula for success that Pivnik developed on his entrepreneurial journey. At the core of the book are the secrets of endurance athletes, masters of sustained performance.
Readers will come to understand the value of pacing themselves in business and life, rather than rushing into opportunities before they’ve established a solid foundation. They’ll also learn why it’s critical to envision the finish line and the important role contingency plans play in ultimate success.
Each chapter of “Built to Finish” ends with a list of key takeaways designed to inform and inspire entrepreneurs looking to build their endurance and achieve their dreams. The following are some key takeaways.
Endure through mistakes
One powerful takeaway that appears early in the book focuses on obtaining a proper perspective on mistakes. “One mistake does not define you,” it says. “Don’t let one mistake define others in your mind.”
The takeaway follows the story of a rookie mistake Pivnik made while working for Reader’s Digest. The mistake, which involved introducing a bug into code he was developing for a customer billing program, cost the company several million dollars. Rather than costing him his job, it also resulted in a very gracious and understanding response from his supervisor.
“In the business world, mistakes will inevitably happen,” the book shares. “When they do, it’s paramount to acknowledge them, apologize, and then bend over backward to rectify them. In most cases, the remedy will come at your own expense. Smart customers will notice the remorse and hard work of your corrective actions. They’ll remember your efforts and commitment to fix the problem more than the original problem itself.”
Beware of the rush
Chapter four of “Built to Finish,” begins with Pivnik sharing the story of summiting Aconcagua, the majestic peak on the Andes Mountain range that reaches 23,000 feet above sea level. The experience, Pivnik explains, involved the type of rush many entrepreneurs crave. It’s the rush of experiencing new things, reaching new heights, and claiming new accomplishments.
While Pivnik acknowledges the power and persistence craving the rush can bring to an entrepreneur, he also warns of its dangers.
“As my story unfolds, you will see how I replaced the rush of business with that of climbing mountains, running marathons and ultramarathons, and competing in triathlons,” Pivnik shares in the book. “But one thing I can tell you, unequivocally, is that the rush can motivate you or it can sink you. The choice is yours and yours alone.”
Pivnik provides two takeaways on the rush. The first warns entrepreneurs: Be careful not to chase the rush just for the adrenaline high. The second guides them: Find multiple ways to have the rush in your life so that you can choose the right rush at the right time.
“Built to Finish” provides aspiring entrepreneurs with a wealth of insight on how to achieve their business dreams and much more. It explains how to find the grit to start, the stamina to finish, and the balance to live fully along the way.