// How Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Made Me a Better Businessman //

Author: Taylor Haney

I’m a glutton for punishment.  It’s no secret.  I regularly weight train and grapple with scary men 3-5 days a week…by choice.  A little over three years ago I left the corporate world to pursue my own business; at that same time, my wife quit her teaching job and we decided to have a third child.  Like I said – glutton.

Challenges seem to be something I run to, not away from.  Like the old saying goes “nothing worth doing is easy”.

A little over two years ago I decided I needed a new challenge in my life – enter Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  I know you are probably thinking that’s incredibly random, but truthfully, I have been a fan of mixed martial arts for a long time.  I remember watching Royce Gracie compete in UFC 1 when I was a kid.  At that time, I never would have dreamed that I’d train under a multiple time world champion that came from the Gracie Barra team.


When I first started training over two years ago, I was utterly clueless.  I had the physical abilities and competitive background, but I knew nothing of “pulling guard” or even how to do a “triangle”.  I had no real goals going in.  I just wanted to learn and challenge myself to become a better version of myself.  The first six months were a blur – my eyes were glazed over while I listened and watched instruction.  But I stuck with it.  And, I tried my best.  There were many setbacks, but I overcame.  I remember my first class.  I had one of those crisp, thin uniforms (called a “gi”) that you know the new guy wears.  I didn’t know anyone.  Half the guys in the class looked like special operators (you know who you are, beard and all).  My professor kept me engaged and interested – more on him later.  BJJ is not easy; it’s probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.  A newly minted black belt and friend said the other day “When you go to class at 6am and get choked by another man, the rest of the day is easy”.  True words, my friend.


As my training progressed, I started to form some goals.  I wanted to get more flexible.  I wanted to get comfortable inverted.  I wanted to train with guys who beat me up constantly.  In short, I wanted to get better.  My personal experience with BJJ is that if you want to get better, you must challenge yourself.  You must let go of your ego and get uncomfortable.  I train around monsters.  Some of these individuals compete – at the world stage.  They set their goals and align them with their training.  Nothing makes me prouder than to see a teammate with his/her hand raised after a match and to know that I am somehow involved with how they got there – by being a part of the team and family that is our school – Grace Barra Knoxville (GB Knox!).  I have hit some of my goals to date.  I am more flexible.  I recently started rolling around my shoulders and working from the ground position while inverted.  That’s a win in my book!  I still get beat up.  But, it’s humbling and educational.  I have learned more from higher level guys putting a beat down on me than any YouTube video could ever teach me.  And, I have begun to do the same to guys under me.  I am realizing the goal of the school is to pass the knowledge down and to build people up.


I train under Samuel Braga – a world champion multiple times over and successful businessman in his own right.  Samuel inspires and motivates me.  I usually do the motivating, but it’s a nice change of pace to have someone do that for me.  He also encourages me.  Amongst my teammates are CEOS, business owners, lay workers, healers, pastors, students, mothers and fathers, and people from all walks of life.  None of these people are perfect, but they carry the same level of excellence in life as the excellence modeled by Samuel on the mats.  They are all humble.  They are friends.  I have formed lifelong relationships at my school.  Surrounding myself with people like this on a weekly basis is so refreshing.  It helps me step up my game – in all walks of life.


My school – Gracie Barra Knoxville – is a community.  It is a family.  My two older sons currently train at the school and love it.  That makes me proud.  They have formed awesome friendships.  My youngest – also known as The Bewilderbeest – recently started running around on the mats.  Samuel gives him big hugs and treats him just like the “big kids”.  I am a proud father.  I am also proud to be a small part of something bigger than myself.  BJJ is just the catalyst.  It’s the people that make the sport and community what it is.  I’ve come to realize I need this in my life.  I am better because of the collective.

To the point of this post: BJJ has made me a better businessman.

I am fortunate to have found BJJ at the time I did.  I was a year into running my own business.  Challenges were a part of every day.  Running a business is hard.  It’s challenging. And, sometimes you aren’t sure what you should do next.  Shortly after I started training BJJ, I decided to start meeting new people in my field of work.  BJJ is an individual sport, but no one gets to where they want to go by themselves. This is true in business and BJJ has taught me that.

I started to check my ego and reach out to new contacts – enter Roger Kiger (founder of our firm).  A good friend and somewhat of an intern/associate who worked with me for a while introduced us.  When we met, I was at an inflection point in my career.  I was happy with my career, but I knew I needed to challenge myself and I wasn’t sure how to do that.  I knew that if I remained stagnant, my business could not flourish.  I decided to delegate work and do a “soft merger” with Visionary Horizons a few months after Roger and I met.  It was a big decision, but one I am so thankful for.  The first few months were also a blur.  But, I had been there before.  Things were changing around me and I was learning.  Truthfully, I wasn’t sure which direction I was going.  But, eventually, that changed.

After about 6 months of working with Visionary Horizons, I decided I needed to formalize some goals.  At that time, another person came into my life.  A person of excellence – just like Roger and Samuel.  Because I had been surrounding myself with excellence and humility, I could easily recognize it.  Roger and my new friend (and partner) Brian both had big goals.  I watched them pursue them every day and I wanted that.  So, I formed my own goals. Ironically, all our goals aligned.  It was about creating something special, together.  We realized we were better together.  BJJ has taught me that.  I am running my own practice, but truthfully, it’s more fun and enjoyable with great people around you – high fiving you along the way.  It’s been amazing to work alongside people I respect so much and to build businesses together.

I fully merged my company – Harvest Investment Management – with Visionary Horizons about 6 months ago.  It has been one of the best business decisions I’ve ever made.  I am a part of a community family office.  I enjoy coming to work every day.

BJJ has helped me to pursue challenges, even when my eyes are glazed and I can’t see – always forward.  It has helped me set and pursue goals – to not quit when there are setbacks.  It has taught me to surround myself with those who pursue and embody excellence and humility.  And lastly, it has helped me to realize that you can do much on your own, but can accomplish far more with a team, a community, a family.