By Dan Boudreau
Snowboarders call it riding. One rides a snowboard, one runs a business.
On New Year’s 2003 day I meekly followed my 12 year-old daughter onto the ski hill for my first snowboarding lesson. I had never seriously considered snowboarding until I was standing in the lineup at the ski shop, booking a snowboarding lesson for my daughter. In the heat of the moment, it just seemed like a great idea. Faced with sitting in the lounge killing time until she was done, I heard my voice unexpectedly asking the ski shop cashier, “Would I be able to get in on the lesson at the same time?” I was rather hoping for a firm no, but the swine said yes. There was no way to gracefully backtrack.
With visions of my limp body draped in countless bandages in the local intensive care unit, I crept cautiously onto the hill for my first ride. The first hint that I might be way out of my league was when the adolescent instructor asked, “What ever possessed you to try snowboarding?” I didn’t have an answer for her.
That first lesson was a one-hour endurance test. After an unprecedented number of falls, 19 face-plants, seven brand new unidentifiable positions, four tailbone-elbow landings, at least four unplanned handsprings, two attempts at tree removal, and five graceless collisions with innocent passersby – I limped off the ski hill a humbled man. All of this was achieved using only the kiddies T-Bar, which I single-handedly brought to a rude halt three out of my five attempts at riding it.
After a couple of weeks of healing, I successfully navigated my second lesson, with 1000% improvement. I actually got on and off the chair lift and successfully negotiated the easiest run on the hill three times. I’m not fun to watch and I’ll never keep up with my daughter, but I do ride!
My most philosophical undertakings on this topic seemed to occur after liberal doses of Advil and hot rum, taken purely to kill the pain. Here is how riding a snowboard is like running your own business.
1. You really learn both by rolling up your sleeves and doing it.
You can only learn so much about snowboarding or business from books or TV. A certain amount of theory is helpful, but the real thrill comes from getting out there and doing it. All the business and snowboarding magazines in the world don’t add up to the lessons of a single ride down the hill or a month of actually running a business.
2. They are both scary.
Friends and family get concerned and start reciting statistics of all the horrifying bruises and injuries they know of or have read about somewhere. Everyone knows someone who has hurt themselves snowboarding or who has lost everything they own in a bankruptcy. You must learn to manage your fear.
3. They are both risky.
There is always a chance you will fall and embarrass or hurt yourself. In fact, if you don’t land on your face occasionally, perhaps you aren’t trying hard enough. You need to determine how much risk you are comfortable with. Your survival depends upon your ability to assess and manage risk.
4. Flexibility and fitness count.
This became clear to me as I watched my daughter gleefully seeking out jumps and enjoying airtime. Her performance seemed all the more impressive as I was viewing it from a very uncomfortable upside down position following a less than elegant three-point landing. Ah yes, I thought to myself, it really is time to get back to doing more cardio at the gym. I find business to be more enjoyable when I feel most fit physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.
5. Fatigue makes cowards of us all.
I don’t know who first made that statement, but it is so true. It is incumbent on us to know our limits and to decide when to quit for the day. Most importantly, just know that fatigue makes small obstacles look bigger and more daunting.
6. People will laugh at you for trying; even harder when you fall.
It had been years since I had learned to ski. I had forgotten how thoroughly one must leave their sense of dignity behind. I was reminded of this shortly after a rather nasty abrupt stop using only tailbone and elbows for braking on unforgiving ice. I found myself lying face up, still attached to the #^*$^#@*((#^! snowboard, at the feet of the entire T-Bar line up. As with mistakes in business, it is easier to laugh about these experiences later.
7. Snowboarding and business are both do-able.
The key is to learn the basic skills, one at a time. The first baby steps include learning to stand upright and to control the direction and speed. Until I acquired some skill at using the edges of the snowboard, my direction was controlled by landing on my head, my hands, my butt, my elbows, on trees and on other skiers and riders. You bump into some of the nicest people on the hill. We can also get fairly bruised some days in business, but if we are learning and making the right moves, we can and will succeed.
8. You must become one with the board; one with the business.
Neither business nor snowboard will run smoothly until you are tuned into its most subtle needs and nuances. Until you reach that point you are likely to look like a calf moose on a slippery slope, gangly, clumsy, frantic and out-of-sync.
9. They both require you to maintain balance.
A snowboard will challenge the sense of balance you thought you had when you walked onto the ski hill. A business will test you in a similar way. A lack of balance in your personal life can be magnified by the added stress of running your own business.
10. Business and snowboarding are both adventures.
There’s no denying the adventurous aspect of both of these activities; the thrill of the many unexpected variations, the challenge of preparing yourself to succeed, the joy of having fun, the pride that comes with navigating the right path, the reward of achievement.
Perhaps most exciting of all is the fact that snowboarding and business both bring us opportunities to experience new connections, to appreciate different perspectives and to understand more about ourselves and the world around us. Whether you are riding a snowboard or running a business you will hone your sense of balance. Speaking of balance; there will be times when you call my business to find that I’m not there. I’m going to do little less running and a bit more riding. See you on the slopes!
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“Dan Boudreau is President and CEO of Macrolink Action Plans Inc and the RiskBuster Business Plan Oasis at http://www.riskbuster.com Writing your own business plan can be easy, fast and fun! Instantly download a free copy of Dan’s popular fast-track business plan template, The Shell, when you subscribe to the RiskBuster Oasis Insider at http://www.riskbuster.com”