Running a start-up is incredibly exhilarating. Especially when things are going well, the momentum the entire organization feels is amazing. And as an entrepreneur you’re taught to believe that your success is all about how fast you go. The more you get done, the better you feel. The more you accomplish in a quarter, the better your board meeting goes. The faster your numbers grow, the more valuable your company is.
It’s true, speed is important.
But that doesn’t mean you have to miss the entire experience because you are overworked, under-slept, and under-appreciative.
Even as you read this article you’re probably cramming it in between meetings, or while eating lunch, or into some other small window of time.
I used to do this when I was running Contour. I thought the faster I went, the better. The more I checked off the list, the better I was doing. The more hours I put in, the higher the probability the company would succeed. Nine years later, I realize there is a lot that I missed. A lot went by that I can hardly remember now, because if I had tried to fit one more thing into my head it would have exploded.
I’ve recently learned to surf, and found so many lessons in surfing that also apply to running a company. You spend most of your time paddling against the break (learning to navigate the currents of the business world and pushing through at all odds), some of your time waiting for the right wave (thinking about the business), and less than 8% of your time surfing (enjoying the ride). This ratio is even worse when you are learning because you spend most of your physical energy paddling against a current you haven’t studied well, you are hardly patient enough to wait for the right wave, and your riding sessions last a matter of seconds before you get tossed back into the water. To make matters worse, you spend most of your mental energy trying not to give up. The actual wave riding (the whole premise for surfing) becomes secondary to just surviving the onslaught of the waves in front of you.
Contrast this to the experience of seasoned surfers who understand that navigating the break is part of the process to get you to those few seconds of bliss. They have trained their bodies to handle the pounding waves, they have spent hours studying which waves to take, and when they ride one they can feel it deep in their soul, even if it only lasts a few seconds.
Running a company can be a soul-fulfilling journey, especially if you learn how to navigate the sets, pick the right waves, and enjoy the ride. While I was at Contour I kept telling myself the onslaught of waves would subside, at which point I would have time to think about the business and enjoy the ride. But the waves never stopped, they only got bigger. And my time to think and ride diminished.
From what I’ve learned I put together a five-part series called “Enjoying the Ride,” a simple guide to a more soul fulfilling experience.
Part 1 – Be Physically Preparred
Before you can even enter the water you have to be physically in shape. Sure, you’ll get stronger as you battle the waves, but if you don’t take care of your body you’ll never get to ride the wave.
Part 2- Staying Mentally Fresh
Getting past your fears is only part of what you need to stay mentally sane. Learning how to keep yourself mentally fresh and emotionally stable is critical for long term success.
Post 3 – Do Less
If you break down your day you will find there are only a few hours you can apply your most creative energy to doing great work. No different than surfing, you can’t ride waves for 16 hours a day, seven days a week.
Post 4 – Appreciate the Relationships
If you strip away the business the only thing you really have are the relationships around you. Learning to appreciate and enjoy the people makes the ride so much sweeter.
Post 5 – Celebrate the Small Things
It’s easy to recognize the big wins, but how can you understand, appreciate, and enjoy the small things? Being a great surfer or an entrepreneur can take a lifetime, so if you wait until you win you will miss all the progress you are making.
*Note: If you are looking for some inspiration there is a movie called Chasing Mavericks, which is based on the life of surfer Jay Moriarity. It chronicles his quest as a teenager to surf Mavericks in Northern California, and Frosty Hesson, the local legend who takes him under his wing in order to train him to survive it. My surfing buddies tell me the film was criticized by core surfers as a dramatic hollywood rendition of surfing, but nonetheless I found the film inspiring.
Image Credit: By 2010_mavericks_competition.jpg: Shalom Jacobovitz derivative work: Brocken Inaglory via Wikimedia Commons