As a traveling entrepreneur (or digital nomad), biking through long stretches of land with few people to interact with, I’ve had plenty of time to ruminate on life and work. I am often struck by the parallels between life and biking, and try to match the lessons I learn on my cycling journeys to things I face in my daily life.
Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned on the bike that have positively impacted my life.
1. Winds and weather matter, but not as much as your drive
Through my travels, the only thing that I could never really prepare for was the weather. You put on your windbreaker, it gets hot. You take it off, it rains.
You can try to prepare, but coping with the weather is more about your reaction to it than your preparation for it.
As I was biking on the coast of Portugal, heading from Porto to Lisbon, the winds were blowing at 55kms per hour. What looked like a flat or downhill trail felt like an uphill trek. What was supposed to be a small hill felt like a mountain. Oh boy, was it demotivating.
But it was the drive that pushed me, not the wind.
Drive should never be dampened by the situation or environment we find ourselves in. We shouldn’t allow the overwhelming power that hits us in the face to derail our dreams and hold us back. Neither should we let it be an excuse to give up.
Trees grow through buildings. Plants sprout through solid ground. Countries rise from the ashes and ruins of destruction.
Don’t let the wind affect your drive, determination or will to succeed.
2. Take it one pedal at a time
Coming across a particularly long and steep slope while biking can be discouraging. But cyclists know that what matters most is the next pedal. If you can focus on that, you can overcome the slope.
At the bottom is not the time to think about the full effort of getting to the top. It’s the time to get your butt off the seat and start using every ounce of energy, every cell in your body to push that next pedal. And the next. And the next. And the next. Until you’ve pushed yourself up that hill.
It’s the same in life and work.
Most of us get discouraged when we see where we are in relation to where we want to be. Too many people get off the bike at the first sight of a steep slope. They don’t even try that first pedal. They give up on their ideas and dreams because they’re too focused on the full mountain of effort involved.
Stay on the bike. Ignore the mountain. Focus on the next pedal and you’ll get there.
3. Shift gears to suit the path
As a cyclist, you switch to low gear when going uphill. Faced with a downhill, you switch to high gear. If you are going on a long ride, you find a gear that suits your comfort and endurance.
You are constantly shifting gears based on the situation, urgency and environment.
The same goes for your daily life and work. You shift to high gear to meet a deadline. You go on low gear to relax a bit. Above all, you need to find a combination that suits you in the long run. A gear that is balanced and sustainable for you. Pay attention to your gears.
4. Always have your tool kit/spare tire and be ready to get your hands dirty
Every cyclist knows that a tool kit and spare tire are must-haves. Even if you are going on a short ride, you never know what to expect. Better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them.
In life, it is always good to be prepared for any situation and to accept that there will be times when you just have to get your hands dirty.
Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
5. Keep moving forward
Einstein once said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” What he didn’t say is to that you must keep moving forward.
It doesn’t matter your speed or how far you go each day, as long as you are continually moving forward and making progress.
Always move forward. Make progress every day, even if it’s something small. Make progress a habit, not an occasion.
See you at the top of the slope ;-)
It’s my 2 into my entrepreneurial adventure and it has been an exciting, but deeply challenging journey.
When you set out on a journey like this, you get called bold, crazy, adventurous, even foolish! Often by the people closest to you.
And that’s before you even start.
Yet, with all the discouragement and difficulty, some of us succeed and go on to live lives infinitely happier than they were before.
So what makes an entrepreneur successful?
Quitting you job is the easy part. Making the first few changes is easy. Fun even! But starting out as an entrepreneur is often a 24/7 job and that gets tough.
Of the many people I know who left their 9-5 job to start their own thing, few lasted longer than a year. Even fewer eventually reached success.
Part of that is due to the market today. Virtually everything is saturated. Strategies for innovation that worked 10 years ago aren’t relevant anymore.
But then, if it were easy, everyone would do it.
So why do we still try? Because it’s exciting. It’s fun. It’s adventurous. It’s leaving behind the drudgery to build our dreams! And ultimately, success is possible.
If you’re thinking of leaving your 9-5, ask yourself if you have what it takes. Here are 5 hard truths about what you will need to succeed:
1. Motivation, Determination and Curiosity
This is the trifecta of entrepreneurial drive. You need all 3 if you’re going to succeed.
If you’re motivated only by money, or have only a curiosity for a new technology, stay in your 9-5.
One of the toughest moments for new entrepreneurs is when the full realization of not having a regular paycheck hits you. And it hits hard. When it does, you will have some tough decisions to make.
Forget the Caribbean vacation. It’ll be a backyard vacation. Or no vacation at all because you run the show at your new venture. You are the show.
You will have to start watching your spending, even for necessities. Budgeting will become a way of life.
There will be times when months pass with no money coming in and plenty going out.
In fact, money now goes out like never before. You have legal fees, financial fees, contractors, service fees, business expenses and more.
If you are looking at entrepreneurialism as a quick get rich plan, look again. It isn’t.
Starting your own company is a multidimensional school; a university of thought and training.
It is an ‘in the trenches’ education on what true responsibility looks like.
To go through these tough months, or even years, you need a lot of motivation. You need to be determined. Your curiosity has to stay fresh and vibrant. You need grit.
Giving up is easy. And there will be times when that easy way out looks really tempting. You won’t have money for physical rewards, so what will keep you going?
If you stick it out, there will come a time when you can look back and see, with clarity, how and why you got through it. Following through won’t make sense at the beginning. But a successful entrepreneur will do it anyway. Maybe there’s something to calling us “crazy” after all ;-)
2. The Will to Learn
What do I mean by this?
You have to look at everything – EVERYTHING – from a learning perspective. That’s how you make it through to the end.
If you look at things from this perspective, you will always see more to an experience than what is happening in the moment. There is more than the hardship or the disappointment. There is no failure. There is only a lesson. And a valuable one.
Imagine dealing with a really tough client. The struggle of working with them is a lot for what you’re being paid. (Spoiler alert: this scenario will come up a lot.) You won’t get through it if you only look at the monetary value of the experience. You have to look at the knowledge and experience you’re gaining as part of the package.
3. Partner & Mentors
This, for me, is the most important thing.
The right mentors and partners are critical. Not only because of the financials, the lessons and wisdom, but for the support. You will need a lot of it.
Having the right advice at the right time is priceless. Sometimes, advice from an ‘expert’ is not the right advice for you. Advice from someone who knows you, your business, your goals, your strengths and weaknesses… that advice is invaluable and goes a long way.
To succeed you need smart, trustworthy people around you, either as mentors, partners or both.
If you are fortunate enough to have a co-located partner to share office space with, even better. When you leave a 9-5 you gain freedom, but often lose discipline. With the right partner, you can keep each other in check.
4. Positive Attitude
Shit happens! Honestly, everyday it’s something else. Having a positive attitude isn’t about sunshine and rainbows. It’s about keeping your head on straight and focusing on solutions, not problems.
Don’t spend your days concentrating on problems, email overload, bottlenecks and troubleshooting. Instead, concentrate on the possibilities. The potential. The solutions and opportunities. Concentrate on the positive at all times. Learn. Get better. Move forward.
Work hard, but celebrate harder.
Don’t let time pass without enjoying it. Remember why you started this crazy journey in the first place.
5. Vision & Discipline
The dream! Your dream! That’s what drives you. That’s what will get you through the hardest times.
But a vision without discipline is just fanciful thinking. Keep your eye always on that beautiful light at the end of the tunnel. But if all you do is look at it, it’ll dim. You have to keep pushing towards it for it to get bigger and brighter.
I was working with a client recently. After months of failed attempts to launch a product line due to operational issues, he looked at me and said, “Is this struggle necessary?” I looked back and said, “What could be more necessary?”
Dreams and visions are so important for an entrepreneur. At one point, your dream will be the only thing that keeps you going. Never take your eye off it.
Before leaving your day job, consider these hard truths. If you are ready for them, if your heart is still driving you to become an entrepreneur, then be crazy. Do it.
Image Source: Montreal Tips