Blog Stats

Excerpt: By Joe DeSena with Jeff O’Connell

SPARTAN UP! You’ll Know at the Finish Line

An entrepreneur from 8 years old Joe has had a passion for life that moves the ball forward against all odds. Born in Queens NY to a yoga teaching, meditation practicing mother and an Italian father that was an uber-entrepreneur the author learned simple techniques for forging ahead no matter the odds. Find out how a young kid breaks out, builds multiple businesses, changes lives, and eventually partners with military SpecOps.


Spartan Up! is more than an insider’s view of the world of obstacle racing

It’s a manual for the Spartan way of life, including:

  • Finding the will to succeed: The first half of a race you run with your legs; the second half you run with your mind. Turn your pain into an outboard motor to drive you forward.
  • Tossing your cookies: The Cookie Test can teach you how to overcome the need for immediate gratification and help you prosper in the long term.
  • Getting Spartan fit: Survival of the Fittest means training outside the gym for strength, endurance and flexibility for your entire body—and don’t forget those burpees!
  • Moving mountains: Whether metaphorical mountains or the ones on which Spartans race, what you think of as your limitations can actually be a mere starting point for  transformation.
    The day the U.S. Olympic wrestling team touched down at the airport after a five-hour flight, I made sure that they were confronted with the unexpected. They were  not  told  why  they  were  coming  to  see  me,  and  they  didn’t  know  what  they   would be experiencing upon arrival. Their coach had arranged the trip, but some of the best wrestlers in the world were in the dark about the venture and what kind of training they would encounter.     I wanted to give them a proper introduction to the Spartan lifestyle. I made certain that when they arrived, no one was there to greet them. Their destination, an organic farm in the mountains of Vermont, was a 10-mile uphill hike away. Dumbfounded, these wrestlers stood holding suitcases, dressed for a business meeting rather than a mountain hike. Without a vehicle, they had to walk the entire distance carrying their gear. I had made sure they had no alternative. So off they trudged to train for the weekend under my tutelage.I know nothing about wrestling, but my team and I are experts at turning someone’s world upside  down. To the team members, this seemed like madness. Yet, there was a method at work. I needed to see how these men would react when their mettle was tested in such crazy fashion. The answer would determine if they were indeed Olympic quality athletes. After all, there is only one gold medal.

    I had  met  the  wrestling  team’s  coach, Noel  Thompson,  months  earlier  at  an   obstacle race I organized. The course required a stretch of kayaking, and at one point, you had to drag the kayak 20 yards through waist-deep mud. All the other teams made it through, but Noel got stuck. Not in the mud, mind you; his mind vapor-locked, preventing him from wading in with his kayak like the other racers had. I instinctively grabbed him and his kayak and pulled them both through the mud. On the other side, I was able to push them downriver.

    Later, after the race, the wrestling coach approached  me.  “Can  I  talk  to  you?” “Sure,”  I  said.  “What’s  up?”?He  said,  “How  did  you  learn  to  do  that?” “What  do  you  mean?”  I  asked.  “You  just  get  in  the  mud and go.”  I  hadn’t thought  twice.  That’s  how  I  always  tackle  life.  Because  I’ve  been  through  so  much   already, I push through when others would stop, even this coach who trained world-class athletes. How could he freeze in the mud? In my mind, you just commit to something and then get it done, no matter what. He had let self-doubt creep in—the number-one mistake people make.

    You  won’t  get  stuck  in mud during a wrestling match, at least not during Olympic wrestling, but you might get stuck in a crazy hold or some other predicament. Wrestling is among the most fluid of sports. A match has a beginning and ending, but how it will unfold during  those  five  minutes  is  anybody’s  guess.   There’s  no  telling  how  much  energy  you’ll  need  to  expend,  no  telling  what  you’ll   encounter.  Wrestling  isn’t  linear  like  a  marathon. Your opponent may be wholly unpredictable, continuously trying to place you in unexpected holds from which you can’t  escape.

    So Noel sent his wrestlers to me because he knew that I could teach them how to prepare for the unexpected. I could show these elite athletes that if they endured  enough  off  the  mat,  they  could  crush  any  challenge  on  the  mat.  I  wasn’t   preparing  them  to  win,  because  they  wouldn’t  know  what  that  required  until  their   match got underway. I was preparing them for the unknown.

  • THE SPARTAN CHALLENGE? My name is Joe DeSena.  I’m  the  founder  of  Spartan  Race, a global lifestyle company whose life-changing outdoor adventures have taken the endurance world by storm. You may not know what the Spartan Race is, but a million hardcore fanatics define their world around the rules that we have created for them, and many more participate. I’m  these  people’s  biggest  supporter  and  their  worst  nightmare—both at the same time.
    My partners and I have staged races in front of tens of thousands of people in far away places like Slovakia and cool stadiums, including Citi Field and Fenway Park, in the shadow of the Green Monster. Three hundred thousand people a day follow daily workouts that we post on and blast out across our social media platforms. We put a free e-book  on  our  site,  and  to  date  it’s  been   downloaded more than half a million times. After mixed martial arts, obstacle racing is  the  world’s  fastest-growing sport. Only people  don’t  watch  these  races; they participate in them.Obstacle races present unique pitfalls designed to exploit your weaknesses and leave you face down in the mud. The stump jump ambushes your balance, monkey bars target your grip, and hill climbs set traps for your stamina. This requires total athleticism, absolute discipline and mental toughness. You’ll   encounter  things  you  can’t  control  or  understand  or  perhaps  even  imagine,  so  you   need to be at your best. Like the original Spartans, I built my philosophy on a blend of hardcore modern science and obscure philosophical teachings, all given my own unique spin. To me it all boils down to one thing: to reach full potential, you need to UNLEARN every important thing modern society has taught you.
  • Spartan Race developed out of a series of events my friends and I called Death Races, long-distance  events  that  made  marathons  look  like  child’s  play.  The   race  waiver  read,  “You  might  die,”  and  on  more  than  one  occasion,  we nearly did. Death races gauged our strengths, our weaknesses and our commitment to finish what we started. I  didn’t  know  it  but  these  extreme  adventures  had  historical  precedent  in  the   Spartan warriors of ancient Greece. They might train for 30 years before entering battle. They developed a concept that would take science another 2,500-plus years to prove—that success is a byproduct of delayed gratification. This was confirmed scientifically in 1972 when Walter Mischel, then a Stanford researcher, gave child subjects their preferred treat—a marshmallow, cookie, or pretzel—as well as a choice: They could eat the treat right away or wait 15 minutes, at which point they could receive two. The researchers found that those kids who were willing to postpone gratification became more successful adults than those kids who  couldn’t   wait.
  • Unfortunately, instant gratification guides so much of modern-day life. The individual lacking self-control wants things from others now, but they themselves couldn’t  be  bothered  to  put  in  the  work  and  get  shit  done.  So  they  shortchange   themselves and our society time and time again with disastrous long-term results. Having thankfully developed a Spartan will myself, as a way of transcending a pretty crappy childhood, I wondered how I could pass along this transcendent feeling  to  colleagues,  my  friends,  my  kids  and  others.  I  didn’t  want to lecture them; I wanted to inspire them. The idea I hit upon was to organize races for them, initially as a way to evaluate prospective employees for my business. I was working a high- powered job on Wall Street back then. On the surface, everyone who came to see me seemed Type A, but when things got tough, I needed to know: Who would survive? Who would drop out? These races would weed out the exceptional from the merely good, the average or the poor. The first official Spartan Race took place in 2005. A phenomenon was born.

This book will be available May 17, 2014.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s