There are things we do in our personal day-to-day lives that seem to be similar to things we do professionally.
For me, one of those things is running.
As mentioned in part 1, starting a company is not an easy task. Like running, it requires discipline, will power and the “right stuff” to keep going.
Without further ado, here the “right stuff” I learnt from running that I apply to my start-up:
Start-Up Lesson #6: Be mindful
I would tire myself out trying to reach a destination. I would run too fast and get frustrated.
I started being more mindful about my run. Watching the birds fly to and fro, feeling the wind on my skin, feeling my feet hit the ground…
Before I knew it, I was at the end of the track.
When you start our own company, you are your own boss. It all sounds very glamorous until you realise that this is not always a good thing. You have to set your own goals and pace, and constantly prioritise what you spend your time, money and energy on. And do all this in a sustainable way. After all, your biggest asset is you.
Set realistic goals and enjoy each step that gets you closer to those goals. Be mindful of each activity, whether writing an email or meeting with potential clients.
Enjoy the process. I used to get annoyed when people told me that. The truth is that you forget the small steps and wins at some point. There always is another, bigger goal to achieve.
Either way, after a couple of small steps taken with joy and gratitude, you have reached a goal. And it is more fun reaching it when you enjoy the small moments.
Start-Up Lesson #7: Right place, right time
I used to go running during high peak times, when everyone got off work and joined me at the reservoir. I had to bust a Matrix move just to swerve out of the way of oncoming traffic.
I started leveraging the luxury of working for myself, and chose the time and place for my runs more carefully.
There is a time and place for everything, including starting a start-up and launching a new product or service.
As Bill Gross mentions in his TED talk, The single biggest reason why startups succeed, right timing is the #1 success factor to starting a business or launching a product. Does your idea fill a need in the market right now? And more importantly, would people be willing to pay for it? Take off those rose-tinted shades and try to prove whether your product or service meets those criteria. Oh, and leave those assumptions at the door.
The “right” place refers to the right industry, the right market or the right location. Know the context of your market. There are certain external forces in play, and knowing and adapting to them is key to your success. Know who your competitors are, and how you can trump what they currently offer. Be aware of any policies that could limit the value your product adds.
Start-Up Lesson #8: Get clear about your ‘Why’
During times when it was far too easy to come up with excuses not to go for a run, I had to remind myself with questions like, “Why do I run?” and “Why am I actually doing this?”.
It’s simple: I get out into nature and out of my own head. It increases my energy levels. It resets me, so I am refreshed and filled with endorphins for the day ahead. And I feel good about myself simply by doing it.
When we don’t know why we are doing something, it is difficult to keep going. Get crystal clear on why you are starting your company. And I am not just talking about your vision and mission statement.
What feeling do you get when you’re thinking of your company? What drives you personally to “take this road less travelled”? Even if your reason is to make millions with your idea, having those millions is tied to a feeling. Identify those feelings, write them down, and keep checking in with them. Use them as your fuel to go the distance.
Start-Up Lesson #9: Be consistent
I found myself running too fast, or skipping my warm-ups just to get it over with.
By consistently running every day, and applying the lessons learnt, running became an enjoyable habit that showed great results.
“A jug fills drop by drop” – Buddha
Your jug is the potential of your start-up. A full jug doesn’t happen over night. In fact, it can take years for any real results to show. It took Uber 2 years to launch in San Francisco (never mind going global). For AirBnB, it took 7 years to realise their dream, from idea to success. These guys made it by taking incremental steps. Consistently.
Prioritise your goals. Know how to achieve them. Break your tasks down into smaller steps, and take consistent action.
Start-Up Lesson #10: Mind over matter
I’ve had times where I wanted to stop running and just walk. Just stop and catch my breath.
I asked myself, “Can I physically not run these last few hundred metres, or is it just my mind making excuses?”.
The answer was always the latter.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
More often than not when starting up a business, it is not the market, our competitors or any other external factor that is holding us back. It is our own personal beliefs or issues that limit our potential to succeed, especially during trying times. Your mind can be a real trickster.
When you’re at a point where you feel like you cannot keep going, challenge your thoughts. You’ll find that most things we tell ourselves to stop or give up are straight-out lies. They are illusions we construct because we are scared. Write down all those limiting beliefs and challenge them. Ask yourself, “What is the worst that can happen?”.
To conquer the market, you need to conquer your mind first.
Running helps me to keep pushing in my start-up. It is both my anchor and my trigger. It reminds me, on a daily basis, that I just need to take the next step. To run my own race.
I hope these lessons help the starter-ups out there as much as they’ve helped us.
Feel free to comment and share your thoughts.