No one succeeds alone. I believe the greater the success, the more people involved
As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Milan Costich.
Milan is the big, bad leader of the pack — yes, you can still be bad and in bed by 10pm. As the founder, he is fostering both the boxers within Prevail’s community and the next generation of all-star coaches.
Hailing from the cosmopolitan metropolis of Falls Church, Virginia, Milan began his martial arts journey at the age of four. By the time he was a teenager, Milan had obtained two black belts, several national titles and a silver medal in the Jr Olympics. His Taekwondo journey was sidelined by an injury that rendered him unable to kick, but he didn’t let that stop him on his pursuit of self-excellence. Milan used his set-back as an opportunity to dedicate himself to the art of boxing.
Flash forward to young adulthood when Milan bid adieu to his humble beginnings and ventured off to sunny Los Angeles with just a bindle and a dream. He began working on the business side of the entertainment industry, but Milan felt a strong pull towards a more entrepreneurial endeavor. So, he struck out on his own to start a handful of business ventures. Eventually, a side gig training a former colleague in boxing sparked a true passion for coaching people to realize their full potential in health and fitness. And in 2011, Milan started what is now known as Prevail.
With the help of a small but mighty team, Milan transformed the business into the thriving and spirited community it is today. Through a unique platform for group fitness classes, Prevailers of all skill levels come together to share Milan’s authentic love for boxing. By encouraging dedication and persistence with a little tough love, Milan helps clients develop a champion’s mindset that can be employed in any and all areas of their individual lives. And for Milan, that applies to his training, work ethic and indulging in a big Italian cheat meal.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
My life changed when I was four years old and I saw my first Bruce Lee’s movie. At that moment I knew I wanted to get into Martial Arts. My Dad used to box and my mothers from Taiwan so they were both always very supportive. I began with American Taekwondo at 4 ½ years old and received my black belt when I was eight. After that, I started competing and then when I was around 10 or 11, Olympic gold medalist Arlene Limas, the first female to win a Gold Medal at the 24th Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea, became our coach — so I had the opportunity to learn a different style, which is Olympic Style Martial Arts and even went on to become a national champion twice. I also won one silver at the Junior Olympics. Shortly after that, I started practicing sport karate. I unfortunately suffered an injury that left me unable to kick, and that is how I fell into boxing. I immediately fell in love with it and never really stopped.
During college, a lot of my friends were being recruited by different tech companies and management consulting firms. I didn’t want to do any of that, but those were the opportunities. So, I ended up doing it when I graduated and remember feeling this wasn’t what I was truly passionate about. It had nothing to do with the job,it was just me personally not aligning with it. It didn’t take me until my early thirties to realize that life is too short to do stuff I’m not passionate about. I want to do things that are fulfilling to me and that’s exactly how I came up with the name of the business. I didn’t know what the company was going to be, I just knew the name would be Prevail. And so I certainly try to inspire that spirit of taking accountability and taking action, even when things are scary. That is what held me back, accountability and the fear of failing.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
For who, my first inspiration was Bruce Lee and when it comes to what inspired me, it starts with a friend.
This friend of mine convinced me to train him in boxing while I was in this transition period of my life. I had just left entertainment and knew I wanted to do something entrepreneurial. When he approached me, I reluctantly agreed. I never saw myself as a coach; I did because he was a friend. Well, that same friend ended up losing 25–30 pounds in the first couple months of us training together. The way that he carried himself, faced the world, approached work, it was all so different. There was an immediate impact. I got to watch a transformation for the better. That was really rewarding for me and changed my complete perception about training other people and exploring this avenue.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
No one succeeds alone. I believe the greater the success, the more people involved.
The person who gave me the most help and encouragement would be, first and foremost, my Mother. Even though she had a traditional job, she had this big entrepreneurial spirit. She was an author, a journalist, the first female correspondent for her newspaper and she just worked so damn hard that of course it was gonna rub off. She was a huge influence. I was a bit of a lazy kid that got away with having talent at my sport. Eventually I really found myself honing into working hard and following those examples set by my mother and in doing that, I’ve met really extraordinary people that have helped shape me and mentor me.
Another big influence and although not a mentor but a partner of mine at Prevail, Coach LoLo. Not only is he an amazing friend, but an outstanding employee — which is rare. He’ll forever be a partner with me in this business and has a special place in my heart.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
I’ve made a lot of mistakes…let’s preface it with that. I’ve probably made more mistakes than others and I’m probably going to make a lot more. I don’t know if I’d even call them funny. I just always saw mistakes as opportunities for growth.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
Nothing happens overnight. My journey has been a long and interesting one, and as I mentioned, I didn’t know what direction I wanted to go when I got out of college. But I would say to never give up on finding your passion.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog. He’s the founder of Nike and the book is his memoir. Nike’s an iconic brand. When I was a kid, I mean having Air Jordans or Air Maxes…that was the pinnacle at the time, so it was so easy for me to resonate with his story. As a matter of fact, hearing the struggles and triumph he went through, not only could I relate, but multiple chapters actually brought me to tears. My journey as an entrepreneur, my own personal experience, has not been a smooth one. It’s been filled with a lot of trial and error and testing me.
I always thought being a competitive athlete was one of the hardest things you could do, especially being one in a combat sport where you physically face pain and are getting hurt, that’s gotta be the toughest thing. Nope. Entrepreneurship, being a small business owner, that’s been way tougher. And going through the pandemic, I mean that’s a whole new world. It was really encouraging, as I’m reading the book, to hear that someone so successful went through those same emotions, the same doubts, hardships, setbacks, and seeing his perseverance take over and take him to the next level.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“It can’t always get harder.” I forget their name but there’s this ultra marathon runner and they’re running 100 or 200 miles, talking about how it is mostly a mental thing, that there will be a point in the run where something starts to hurt. Yet the more you run, the less it hurts and then at some point, it subsides. Or it starts to go away. And so, the reminder is that it can’t always get worse. At some point there’s got to be a turning point.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I think the biggest challenge with my business is really scalability. Even though I’ve been training my whole life, doing martial arts and combat sports, I can’t teach all the classes and I can’t always have the reach that I want to in person, so one of the things that we’re working on is figuring out how we can introduce more people to the brand. The path to that is building a really strong team and that’s exactly what we’re up to. We’re bringing in some new partners and working with more people so that we can focus on different opportunities to help the brand get out there a little bit more. We’re also creating a digital component, bringing in some products, and expanding our physical spaces, meaning opening more gyms in the greater Los Angeles area.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?
I think it really boils down to the habits that we make. Yes, habits are important, but intention is probably the most important because if you have the intention to build the right habits, you kind of go on autopilot and just go for it. When you make a change, it’s going to be challenging but once it becomes a habit, what was once so challenging before is no longer and is instead a part of your routine. Picking those routines really pays off exponentially.
How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
My father had me at fifty. Growing up, he was considerably older than most fathers and there’s great things and there’s bad things about it. I didn’t have a dad to take me skiing, camping, or to throw a football around. He was too old for all of that by the time I was old enough for it. But on the flipside, I got to see how the choices that we make when we’re young impact us towards that second half of our life. My father was past middle-aged and by the time I’m really processing what is going on, my dad is deep into his fifties and today he’s in his eighties. The constant reminder is that the choices I make today, the habits that I form today…they might not change my life in the present moment, but those little things make a big difference down the road. And that realization alone has certainly influenced the habits and decisions I made when it comes to the approach I take with training and recovery. Even when making a choice not to have a drink or 10 drinks, it is because I want to wake up early the next morning and feel good and train. I want to make sure I get good quality sleep, do productive things. I see how those little choices and those little habits add up to really big things.
Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?
When it comes to stopping bad habits, you should create good habits in replacement of those bad ones. For example, I love delicious food, so if somebody were to say to me, “Hey, no pizza,” the discipline for that, to me, is that you’d have to have strong willpower to say no and at some point, it will probably break. So, instead of saying no to the pizza, I would take the approach of just making sure I’m eating this many vegetables and healthy foods.
Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.
I believe you’d really have to take the time to figure out exactly why you want these things and how much time you’re willing to spend towards achieving them. It’s important to be your own best cheerleader. It’s best to acknowledge when something is tough because then you can see through it and overcome it. But one thing to remember is to never be too hard on yourself, but to approach your own self with a certain kind of love and patience.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
The best way to develop those habits is to be clear on what your desires are and what you want the outcome to be. Think about what you want to get out of it because if you really want it, then you’re going to take the time and dissect how you’re going to get there. And the key is really by forming good habits, habits that are effective in helping you reach your goals. Clarity is also important.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.
When it comes to focus, I have one practice; whatever is important to me, do that one thing and eliminate distractions. Technology is great, but it can also consume us. To help manage my usage I don’t have social media or email on my phone. I have set times throughout the day to check and respond to email.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
If I’m working on a task, many times my phone is on DO NOT DISTURB and on my desk is just the task at hand. I have found being able to focus is a muscle, so I’m constantly exercising that muscle throughout the day and forming a habit and awareness that is greatly beneficial in all that I do.
As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?
I believe flow comes from a number of things aligning and that one of the things that stops it the most, at least in this day and age, is technology. I find that in order for me to be in a constant “state of flow,” I need to clear my mind and make sure that I’m 100% present in what it is that I’m doing. At times it almost feels like we’re a slave to our technology rather than the technology being our asset, so to help me stay grounded and stay flowing, I have certain rituals I partake in. This includes meditation, reading, brainstorming, etc. I have this whiteboard behind me that I use with the intention of just writing. My phone, my computer, all of my electronics are in the other room and I’m just standing in front of this whiteboard, writing whatever comes to mind first. It just goes on the board and then when I’m done, a lot of times things that are kind of just bubbling up in the back of my head, I also write down and brainstorm from. I go into the next phase of my day with a clear mind, which allows me to be focused on the one thing at a time that I’m supposed to be working on.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
If I could inspire a movement…interesting. Well, the reason I started Prevail certainly revolves around empowerment. Empowerment to take accountability of our lives. Everyone. It doesn’t just mean starting your own business, it doesn’t mean doing any particular thing, it just means taking accountability and ownership of whatever it is that you’re doing.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
There’s a lot of people, where do I start! I’m genuinely moved by thoughtfulness, compassion and loving acts. But if I could pick someone dead and someone alive, the person I would pick who is dead is of course Bruce Lee and a person alive would be Dave Chapelle.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Be sure to check out Prevail at http://www.prevailboxing.com and follow on Instagram
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.