It’s Not a Race, It’s an Obstacle Course

Ten miles of ice water, electric shocks and more mud than Weston-Super-Mare, this week the Stephenson Law team took on the ultimate challenge of strength, stamina, grit, and camaraderie: Tough Mudder.

But how do you create a business that makes millions of seemingly ‘normal’ people want to pay for the pleasure of being electrocuted with 10,000 volts, squeeze through tightly enclosed spaces and plunge into ice water?

Tough Mudder was founded by Will Dean and Guy Livingstone in 2010, both British citizens living in New York. Over the course of the past 8 years, they have transformed obstacle racing from playground fun to one of the world’s fastest-growing athletic activities. To date, millions of men and women have taken part in hundreds of events across the world, making Tough Mudder a global phenomenon.

Tough Mudder appeals to those of us that aren’t content with the familiar, with staying in our comfort zones. As with starting-up a business, completing a Tough Mudder event requires a determined forward motion and an ability to keep adapting and trying new approaches. Standing still and admiring achievements isn’t helpful; if you’re not moving you’re not growing.

So what keeps us moving? We all need a sense of mission. The importance of core values can’t be understated and Tough Mudder’s journey is one of the best examples of this. Tough Mudder has capitalised on the ‘business of belonging’. It was created to value a different kind of winning to the kind of winning found within half marathons and triathlons. Those taking part are encouraged to believe in the value of team spirit, rather than in dog-eat-dog competition. You can’t get through it on your own, so embracing this is a prerequisite for success.

Tough Mudder’s transition from start-up to a sustainable business was not without its difficulties. The resilience and grit of its founders meant that, despite these, they have created a ‘tribe’ of like-minded individuals who transcend cultures and share a set of values and ideas about the world. It is these shared values that have made the business such a resounding success.

Completing a Tough Mudder obstacle course isn’t for everyone, but their story is one that we can all learn from. It teaches us the importance of staying true to our core values and constantly stretching ourselves. Tough Mudder as an event dramatises the fact that in business, and in life, we’re constantly overcoming our own obstacles and we need a little help along the way.


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