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Conquer Life’s Obstacles with Spartan Founder Joe De Sena (ep. 182)

Joe De Sena

John O’Leary welcomes Joe De Sena, founder + CEO of Spartan Raceto the Live Inspired Podcast to encourage you to conquer life’s obstacles.

What is your boulder? The obstacle blocking you from becoming the best version of yourself?

Joe De Sena is the founder + CEO of Spartan Race, the global leader in obstacle course racing. He has a vision of empowering over 100 million people to change their life for the better through camaraderie and competition.

Today’s conversation will encourage you to conquer life’s obstacles and push past your comfort zone to achieve more than you thought possible.

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  • Spartan has engaged hundreds of thousands of people through 275 events in 42 countries.
  • Most people need a partner to hold you accountable to be the best version of yourself.
  • Game changers in Joe’s youth:
    • After hours of unsuccessfully trying to move a boulder for his dad, Joe told him that he’d find someone that could.
    • While purchasing a car, Joe’s mom reminded him that he could buy a fancy car if he worked for it.
  • With the encouragement + guidance of his neighbor, Joe started a pool cleaning business that grew to 700 customers.
  • After fighting his way into Cornell University, a friend introduced him to a mentor that led him to a career on Wall Street.
  • Full circle: Joe sold his finance business to purchase an organic farm in Vermont.
  • Finding the physical aspect of the farming inspiring, Joe began inviting his former Wall Street colleagues to the farm for challenging races up the mountains.
  • Why name it Spartan? It’s simple yet hard. You’re going to sweat but there’s a reward at the end with your comrades.
  • “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.” – Henry Ford
  • You better do some burpees: Burpees are the most efficient way to promote movement + circulation in the body.
  • Joe encourages others to sign up for something hard, where you need to be held accountable and have others join in order to make healthier habits.
  • When you do something hard, it feels rewarding.
  • Do the work. Get to a point where you enjoy the work.
  • Leo is Joe’s 40-pound kettlebell that he carries with him every day.
  • Happiness is wanting what you have. One way to want what you have is to throw a few obstacles in front of yourself every day.
  • Joe hopes to get Spartan in the Olympics and reverse health + wellness trend with children.
  • Bond by doing tough things together. Joe suggests couples do 100 miles before a marriage certificate and 200 miles before they can get a divorce.
  • For tips to make long-term impactful change, consider Change or Die by Alan Deutschman.
  • Get 20% off your Spartan Race registration with promo code LIVEINSPIRED.

If you enjoyed today’s episode, you’ll love hearing my conversation with Koran Bolden. Koran shares how he overcame losing his brother to gun violence and a 3-step analogy to pivot in life. Listen to Koran on Live Inspired ep. 36 here.


1. What is the best book you’ve ever read? Atlas Shrugged Ayn Rand.

2. What is a characteristic or trait that you possessed as a child that you wish you still exhibited today? Relaxed a little more.

3. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be? My computer.

4. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be? Ernest Shackleton.

5. What is the best advice you’ve ever received? Happiness is wanting what you have.

6. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self? Patience.

7. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read? Here’s a man who worked hard, tried hard.


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