How Snowboarding Taught me to be a Better Business Owner
Owning a content marketing business in Colorado has its perks. Snowboarding is one of them. Slow week? Time to hit the slopes. How about a long weekend near Breckenridge?
Learning to snowboard, however, is difficult. Compared to most sports, it’s unnatural. The speed is too fast. It’s exhausting holding your edge. My skiing friends shrink away from the image of their feet strapped side by side to a strip of carbon fiber.
But for those who know, snowboarding has few rivals precisely because it’s so different from everyday experience.
Businesspeople like to talk about “comfort zones.” We grow when we step outside our comfort zones, and when we grow, we find fresh solutions to problems. Like learning to ride, it takes time and courage to develop cold-calling skills and implement a strategic plan.
Here's what snowboarding can teach us about becoming better business owners and entrepreneurs.
There are few activities, especially in 2020, that require full attention. Theoretically, we give our full attention to many things: driving, staff meetings, date nights. But when was the last time your commute didn’t involve a podcast, a sing-along, or mental to-do list?
Snowboarding is one of the last refuges of concentration. It exists alongside woodworking, motocross, and live music. To lose focus on a snowboard means inevitable disaster not just for myself, but possibly another rider. Snowboarding forces me to navigate the world with heightened senses and courage.
Academic research backs this up.
[Extreme athletes] are highly trained individuals with a deep knowledge of themselves, the activity and the environment who do it to have an experience that is life enhancing and life changing. The experience is very hard to describe in the same way that love is hard to describe. It makes the participant feel very alive where all senses seem to be working better than in everyday life, as if the participant is transcending everyday ways of being and glimpsing their own potential.
I’m not saying I’m an “extreme athlete,” but I can relate to the feeling of “transcending everyday ways of being and glimpsing their own potential.”
Snowboarding's euphoric sense of focus has pushed me to declutter other mental spaces in my life. Keeping my home office tidy increases the chance that I slip into a productive work mindset. Creating a place of peace and comfort through candles, natural light, or a cup of tea can promote that focused "flow state."
If you want to succeed in your business, you must focus. Snowboarding will show you just how pleasurable and therapeutic true focus can be.
Just do it
The first day learning to ride a snowboard can be traumatizing. Low oxygen, windburned faces, and bruised tailbones are nothing to sneeze at. Beautiful, cheerful Scandinavians blow past as you beg your screaming thighs to push you back up to standing position.
Some people get the hang of it after day one. I didn’t. I took four or five days.
I still remember the pain. Even now, before the first run of the day, I think, “Why am I here? Do I enjoy this at all?”
The doubt sticks with my through the run. But then my body warms up. The muscle memory engages. The dread dissipates, and I’m enjoying the mountain. What’s up with this self-sabotage?
One scientist says humans are evolutionarily wired to be lazy. Our caveman ancestors needed to conserve calories, so laziness and self-sabotage are defense mechanisms.
Other researchers point to negative experiences and mindsets that influence future behavior decisions. If you were shamed for not exercising as a kid, you might find that it’s harder for you to get to the gym now. If you nearly pass out on a mountainside because of altitude sickness and asthma-induced hyperventilation… your subconscious might remember.
As a writer sitting down to write this post, my negative brain says, “That’s boring and it’s going to take work. You have client work to do.” That’s self-sabotage right there. I enjoy writing! I love being in the writing zone.
As a business owner, don’t let negative self-talk keep you from starting an important task or project. Point your board down the mountain and file those receipts, make that cold call, and launch that new product.
Build the habit of starting tasks and realizing you enjoy whatever it is you're doing.
I am a naturally cautious person. From a young age, I was taught to research and assess risk. When my family buys a car, we make sure to look up a dozen different models, gather online and in-person reviews, and compare prices between local dealerships.
There’s nothing wrong with due diligence, but entrepreneurs cannot afford to be timid. If you want to start a business (and not fail) you must take risks.
You must step into a world you cannot fully control.
Snowboarding has redefined my idea of “control.” My instinct is to brake down the mou
ntain. I’m not saying I “leaf” down the slope. I can hold both edges and carve back and forth. But my instinct is to maintain a speed where I know I can stop whenever I need to.
This is not a good mindset. Constant braking tires my legs too quickly. By the end of the day my thighs and lower back are cramping like crazy! What’s more, I end up falling much more when I don’t trust my speed. On a steeper slope, the back edge of my board can’t catch that quickly. When I throw on the brakes, I fall.
And let’s not forget losing momentum on unexpected flats…
But control doesn’t mean being able to bail anytime, anywhere. Control means making it to the end of the run intact without injuring yourself or others.
Control means finding the balance between speed and safety, adrenaline and recklessness.
Instead of braking down the mountain, point your board down the slope, maintain speed with your back foot, and trust that you can come to a stop over time.
When running your own business, you get the point when you cannot bail. If you quit, you will lose things you can recover: money, relationships, and experience. Even a serious drop in momentum can be disastrous for a startup.
Do your due diligence. Don’t plunge off the back bowls before you’re ready. But once you are ready, trust your research, training, and intuition. Reach the bottom, and you’ll be ready for a little bit more on the next run. You'll be shredding gnar in no time.