Over the last several years, I have rediscovered a part of my life that I once loved: riding my road bike. While racking up the miles and hours, I discovered that some of the things that made me fall back in love with cycling were the same as those that drive my work as an entrepreneur.
The Work Cycle
Many cyclists bike for recreation, fun, and fitness. For me, cycling has become more of an obsession. And for many entrepreneurs, that obsession fuels their work in the same way. Both cycling and entrepreneurship require relentless determination, hunger for adventure, tolerance for risk, and teamwork.
Pain. Excelling in most sports involves some amount of pain, but an endurance sport like cycling forces you to learn how to ride with pain as your constant companion. The pain you feel in cycling (a leg cramp, muscle fatigue, your heart beating out of your chest) translates perfectly to business.
When starting your own company, you have to push past the pain of lean times, hearing “no,” losing a sale, or losing a staff member. If you can cope with the pain and learn to appreciate the ride, you can make it to that place of relief, satisfaction, and accomplishment at the end of the journey.
Exploration. My road bike is made for just that: paved roads. But some of my most memorable rides have taken place off the pavement, high up on a dirt mountain road with the sunlight fading and the temperature dropping. In those instances, heading off the beaten path made me feel like an ancient explorer.
Building a startup and creating a new business model is much the same. Entrepreneurs are the explorers of our generation. Discovering new businesses and building new products that change the way others live and work is an adventure.
Teamwork. People usually view cycling as an individual sport, but a huge part of cycling is riding and working together in a group. When riding in a group, you actually share the load and work required to cut the wind. Together, you can ride significantly faster than you can alone; you have teammates for encouragement and inspiration (even if it’s just another cyclist’s presence next to you). This same camaraderie is present among startup co-founders. With a co-founder, you can go faster and farther.
Danger and risk. Entrepreneurship always includes some sort of risk, and so does cycling. There have been rides where I didn’t think I could make it back home alive. I was too far away, it was getting cold or dark, or I was exhausted, out of food, or out of water. Other times, the weather turned on me. Every ride comes with a certain amount of risk, which makes it a compelling journey.
Risk and adventure are part of entrepreneurship, too. In some cases, this is what attracts people to becoming entrepreneurs and keeps them in the game. For others, risk acts as a barrier because only adventurous people can handle the possibility of failure. Embrace this danger and appreciate it.
Rain. If you ride long enough, you’ll know what it’s like to ride in the powerful, driving rain. At this point, you might feel like all is lost and there is no sense continuing. In cycling, it might be dangerous to keep going, but in business, this will be a defining moment for you.
There comes a time in every entrepreneur’s career when everything seems to be working against you. The entrepreneurs who are successful are the ones who choose never to give up. Just keep riding, and the storm will pass.
Pedal on (But Know When to Rest)
The key to any great ride is knowing when to push hard and when to hold back and conserve energy. No one can give 100 percent effort 100 percent of the time. This is part of why I love watching professional cycling. These riders are constantly testing themselves, taking risks, betting on themselves, and doubling down in the hopes of securing a victory.
If you’re tired, rest. It’s important to push your company, but working tirelessly can sometimes be counterproductive. If you’re exhausted and need to rest, then do it. A break can help prevent injury in cycling, and it can prevent a meltdown in the workplace. Knowing when to ease up leads to a fresher mind and a more sustainable lifestyle both in and out of the workplace.
Push yourself at the finish. When the end of a race is in sight, it’s time to unload every ounce of energy left in your legs and power yourself across the finish line. This is the time in your company when you need to deliver on a commitment or hit a deadline. All bets are off, and it’s time to do whatever is necessary to make it happen. The one who endures the most pain at the end is often the one who wins.
Whether you’re in the saddle or in the swivel chair at your desk, embrace the adventure, be persistent, and take risks. I’d like to think I knew this before I became a cyclist, but those miles in the saddle allowed me to reflect and appreciate these subtle and ever-present aspects of business. Remembering these things on the bike made it much clearer to me what being an entrepreneur was all about and how I could be a better leader.
Josh Cramer is the founder and CEO of Cramer Development, a world-class Web and mobile application development company that helps clients create new businesses and products through ideation and technical services. Reach out to Josh on Google+.
Image Credit: www.training4cyclists.com