‘To be truly successful, you must make yourself a priority,’ says the entrepreneur and champion bodybuilder.
7 min read
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When Sam Bakhtiar was 11 years old, he and his mother immigrated from Iran to the U.S. in search of a better life. They arrived with only one suitcase between them and $500 in cash. Today Bakhtiar, who is an Advisor in The Oracles, is a champion bodybuilder and the owner of an international nine-figure health franchise. Along his journey, he experienced rejection, family challenges, and a recession that nearly wiped out his business. Now that he has come out on the other side, he helps others reach the top 1 percent in life and business, as he has.
“When we’re younger, we care about how we look and feel,” he says. “Then life happens, and we put ourselves on the back burner to focus on our family, job, or business.” Life often becomes all about the grind, especially for entrepreneurs who don’t have a boss telling them when to start and stop working, he explains. “But to be truly successful, you must make yourself a priority.”
Here are six lessons Bakhtiar has learned about how to do just that, no matter what challenges life throws your way.
1. You can’t have a $1 million business with a $5 body.
Bakhtiar begins by reminding us that our ancestors had to exercise to catch their food. “Now food is delivered to us, and our jobs are much less physical than they used to be. Our bodies weren’t designed for this lifestyle. Coupled with our addiction to technology, that’s why many of us are depressed and unhealthy.”
Your body will break down if it can’t handle the stress of owning a business, says Bakhtiar. Exercise is the best way to deal with that stress because it naturally releases endorphins and feel-good hormones. “Carve out time to exercise every day and make it nonnegotiable,” he says. “It doesn’t matter whether you run, walk, lift weights, or do yoga — as long as you move.” To make it easier, he recommends adding a social element. For example, Bakhtiar started a “breakfast club” of guys who work out together every morning.
2. Own your time, or it will own you.
“It’s much easier to prioritize exercise when you protect your time,” says Bakhtiar. “There’s always something to do when you own a business, so you must create a strict schedule with dedicated time for yourself.”
Bakhtiar recalls a period when he and his wife would wind down by watching a movie together at the end of the day. “We’d both be on our phones the whole time; we weren’t communicating at all. So when we started having issues, I knew that was the root of the problem.”
Now they have a rule in their house: no phones or internet after 4 p.m. “I start work at 7 a.m. and finish at 4 p.m. every day, no exceptions. Then it’s family time,” says Bakhtiar. “My team knows that I won’t reply until the next morning if they contact me after that. And you know what? No one has died yet.”
Bakhtiar adds that unless you’re a heart surgeon on call, you can do this too. “You’re not going to miss a $1 million sale — but if you don’t ruthlessly guard your time, you might miss out on your life.”
3. You can become whoever you want to be.
Bakhtiar says that the ideal schedule is whatever works for you, but what works for you is not set in stone. “I was not a morning person, but I wanted to be. So I started going to bed earlier and made myself get up at 3 a.m. until I became one.”
To keep himself from snoozing, Bakhtiar puts his alarm clock 15 feet away from the bed, next to his pre-workout drink, which he drinks as soon as he hits the alarm. “It has caffeine in it, so I can’t go back to sleep even if I want to,” he says. He also lays out his clothes the night before to minimize the decisions he has to make in the morning.
“You know yourself. Create systems to overcome your weaknesses and decide that you will always follow through on your promises to yourself.”
4. The work will be there tomorrow.
You don’t have to wake up at 3 a.m. to fit it all in, but you do need a purposeful routine. “When you’re working, you must be focused and efficient. Do your absolute best during work hours so you can feel good about disconnecting with your family. Then when you shut down for the day, remind yourself that it will be there tomorrow.”
To ensure he maximizes his time, Bakhtiar plans his day the night before, even scheduling his breaks, which also means he isn’t available for impromptu meetings. He also prints his schedule rather than looking at it on his phone. Why the old-school approach? “Otherwise, you can easily waste 10 minutes reading texts and emails every time you check your phone.”
He starts every day by reviewing his gratitude list and goals. While reviewing his goals, he also listens to a recording of himself reading them to drive them home.
5. There’s no point in having it all if you aren’t happy.
Like many entrepreneurs, Bakhtiar maximizes every minute of his day. But he says this ambition can make it difficult to relax without feeling like you need to do something productive. “I’m uncomfortable when I’m comfortable,” says Bakhtiar. “But spending quality time together by relaxing is one of my wife’s ‘love languages,’ which means I need to adjust. So I’m learning to let go.
“At the end of the day, life is about having fun,” he adds. “What’s the point in having it all if you aren’t happy? So identify whatever fun means to you and make it happen.” For Bakhtiar, fun means talking to his family, walking the dog with his daughters, or going on a date with his wife.
6. You must put on your own mask before helping others.
“My life wasn’t always this way,” says Bakhtiar. “I spent years working 18- to 20-hour days to make ends meet.” He adds that many entrepreneurs feel guilty if they do something for themselves and think it will get better when they’ve “made it.”
“But it isn’t selfish to take care of yourself — because if you don’t, you can’t take care of others or achieve your goals. It’s like what they tell you on airplanes: put on your mask before helping others.
When you don’t feel like getting out of bed, remind yourself why you’re doing this. “Remember: We aren’t promised tomorrow. ‘One day’ never comes, so it needs to be here and now. Live your life by design, not by default.”