I needed a break from my business. Being an entrepreneur is not as glamorous as my employed-self assumed it would be. You work longer hours, take fewer holidays, and don’t get invited to enough of those cocktail networking events in Hawaii that you had envisioned.
So, my husband and I flew away from it all and journeyed from tropical South Africa to the French Alps. Nothing beats a full day of snow skiing to take your mind off of the stress of daily life. Well, that’s what I thought.
I remember the day when I had my first lesson. Looking up at the mountain behind me, watching the sweep of skiers making equilateral turns down the manicured piste. They looked so graceful. I imagined it would be eerily silent except for a little “Shhh… Shhh” as they made each turn.
But skiing is approximately 328% harder than it looks. From the first of our six days on the slopes, I found myself facing similar feelings to that of running my own business. And while I grated my way down each run, I sought solace in the metaphor of how being an entrepreneur is quite akin to skiing. And if I could do one, then surely, I could master the other.
Here are my four little know entrepreneurial lessons from the ski slopes:
LESSON 1: On the steep bits, focus on 10m in front of you.
ENTREPRENEUR TRANSLATION: During the tough times, focus on small wins.
You boldly push yourself off the lift, ski to the start of a red run, and look down. It’s steep, lumpy, and has more icy patches than a chiropractor. The only way to get down, apart from an embarrassing bum slide, is to take it one turn at a time. Left turn, right turn, ice-slide-scrape-stop-breathe. And again. And again. And again…
Until you’re at the bottom – and you flop over on your poles, exhausted from exertion. But you made it, one turn at a time, one small win after another. And, at the end of every run, you get to look back and see how high and how far you’ve come.
LESSON 2: The most important thing to learn is how to slow down!
ENTREPRENEUR TRANSLATION: The most important thing to learn is how to slow down!
Skis on. Let’s go! Bombing down a mountain, dashing through the snow, schussing past your friends. We’ve all done it. We want to be the fastest.
It all comes a cropper when you hit a speed-wobble and lose your well-cultivated composure. Worse yet, you could spin out of control with skis in the air, a tumble of padded body, watching your esteem rolling down the off-piste section to your left.
But, the clever ones know something. They know when and how to slow down. They rarely fall. And when they do, it’s like a graceful-one-move-plunge and back on their skis again. Like nothing even happened.
LESSON 3: Don’t forget to wee at the restaurant.
ENTREPRENEUR TRANSLATION: Don’t forget to do what you need to do to rest and recharge.
Waiting at the lip of a red run is akin to braving the launch of a new venture. You’re staring down (what feels like) a 90 degree drop, with a high degree of weeing in your pants.
At that point, the slope can’t be avoided, but that warm sensation down your trousers can. Good skiers know when it’s time to rest and recharge. They take care of their physical selves before they launch off the side of a mountain.
Top tip: Make sure you read the physical signs well in advance, because we all know how long it takes to remove five layers of ski gear.
LESSON 4: Your gym legs care nothing for your poor technique.
ENTREPRENEUR TRANSLATION: Technique trumps strength.
Let me give it to you straight. A year’s worth of power squats makes little difference if your technique sucks. On day three, you’ll be teetering like a mom on marbles down the piste.
It takes practice and deliberate focus to define those turns into graceful lyrics down the mountain. But when it “clicks”, your strong-or-not quads will sing.
Similarly, entrepreneurs know that resources aren’t limitless. In today’s digital age, the competitive edge comes from creating efficiency. To sum it up, here’s a trusty business cliché: work smarter not harder.
BONUS LESSON: It’s all worth it!
The end of a ski day is the reward — a warm drink and a warm feeling of achievement. It may take slightly longer for the entrepreneur to realize such goals.
But if you’re thinking about starting your own business (or skiing), then do it. It will be an adventure full of ups and downs, highlighted by the realization that you can achieve anything. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll receive an invite to a networking event in Hawaii.
About the Author
Terez Rijkenberg is a business coach, speaker, and marketing strategist with a passion for making it easy for anyone to build a remarkable business.
While working on her MBA, Terez built an e-commerce store, had a baby, and created a marketing agency, Fregency. Not all on the same day, mind you, but still a remarkable feat. So she knows how to find clever ways to make it all work.