Sumo Wrestling: When Owning a Business Is a Calling

Sumo wrestling, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan’s website is an ancient martial art that was performed in South Korea, Mongolia, Turkey, and Japan. In Japan it dates back to the third and seventh centuries. Sumo bouts were performed when it was time to plant rice “as a way to pray for a bountiful crop.”

Business ownership is nothing less than Sumo wrestling. It’s like a picture I saw on the web: a young child is leaning in, pressing with both hands, to budge an unbudgeable wrestler’s 300- to 400-pound body. It’s ridiculous to think that we would ever take on that hulking mass. It’s just too big and too powerful, like trying to move an immovable wall. But we do.

We’ve had the hard bruising rounds—the ones where we haven’t taken a salary for a year or more so we could keep employees on the payroll. The ones where we almost lost the business. The ones where we’ve had to lead our business while we or a family member had a serious health issue.

We’ve had the shorter rounds, too, where we’ve been disappointed—when someone we thought could grow into a senior role couldn’t, or when we discovered a competitor winning a coveted contract by being less than scrupulous.

We’re bruised and sore at the end of each round, long or short, surprised and relieved to find nothing broken.

Its sounds absurdly difficult, doesn’t it? Why would anyone choose this? But if you don’t know it, let me tell you: business ownership is a calling.

That’s why we engage in the bout. You might have started your business based on an economic opportunity or on not liking the idea of having a boss. It won’t be long before you find it’s something you cannot not do. Though we might choose to wear more than a mawashi (loincloth) or our hair in a traditional topknot, we show up prepared to give our all. The resulting crop might or might not be bountiful, but pray we must.

Every now and then, we win bouts big or small. The picture then is quite different. We are in full delight where all the defeats are forgotten if only for a fleeting minute. That’s when we too, flash an impish smile at the camera.

What about you when leading your business seems absurdly difficult? Can you step back to embrace your calling— where leading it is something you cannot not do?  When we connect with that calling, we are in touch with a resolve that transcends the bouts. We step forward as our most powerful self, a slight smile or impish grin on our face as we bow to our Sumo opponent.

Wishing you your next victory, a shiroboshi, large or small.

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