Took a hike on Saturday morning to the top of Stone Mountain to catch the sunrise. There are a million reasons not get up this early, but if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have caught this beauty.
If you’re a mountain biker, you know the importance of picking a line, attacking it, and driving your legs to get through tricky terrain. Turns out, this line-attack-drive mentality is actually pretty applicable in the world of startups and entrepreneurship, too, but not just in navigating the treacherous terrain of entrepreneurship, but also in just starting out.
When I was younger, my buddy and I biked around the neighborhood looking for “mini-off-road adventures”. That meant going down stairs around the ‘hood, flying through the wooded backyards of neighbors, and occasionally, fording a creek bed near the neighborhood pool.
The creek had rocks and dips in addition to the slow current of the creek, so it made for a “risky” adventure – hey, we’re in the suburbs. The key to navigating the traps and obstacles was to find a line, attack it, and keep churning your legs.
At first, my buddy had trouble fording the creek either stopping well before entering the creek or right smack in the middle. But once he focused on a clean line free of rocks and big dips, finding momentum into the line, and then driving his legs, he was crossing the creek almost effortlessly.
I’ve recently sat down with several “wantrepreneurs” and musicians, and so many of them are stuck in this “I’m not ready” phase or “I’m waiting for… [insert ‘stars to align’ here]”. But as they’re waiting for the right people to come aboard to help or for themselves to have the confidence to try, years have passed by. And in most cases, those ideas are now yesterday’s someone else’s successes.
So why are people holding back? How do you just “pick a line, attack it, and keep your legs driving”? Everything’s easier said than done, but maybe being conscious of what’s holding you back is a step towards accomplishing the goals you’ve set forth for yourself. So here are a few thoughts:

Surprise! You’re afraid of what others think.

How many times are we afraid that others won’t like what we’re doing, or they “disapprove”? Funny thing is that everyone has their own priorities, and you should too. That priority? Yourself.

I happened to meet a young girl in high school who said she liked to sing, but she didn’t consider herself a singer or musician. In fact, when my friend and I asked her why she didn’t share her music more, she mentioned “mean girls” at her school. Wow. That was truly sad. She was holding herself back from her passion, afraid of being teased by others who really didn’t care for her. Meanwhile, those who did care for her encouraged her, but it was the rotten apples in the group with nothing positive to say who held her back.

What you’ll learn in any marketing exercise, especially in startups, is that you’ll have multiple levels of the market, and those who your message resonates with are the ones who matter the most. It’s that depiction of a funnel where the right audience who comes through at the end. And believe me that there are plenty of people who will care about what you do and say.

You think you’re not ready.

“If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.” – Lemony Snicket

Truth is, I don’t think we’re ever truly ready for a lot of things. Couple examples:
  • I hear from my friends who are now parents of little ones that they didn’t think they were fully ready, and even when their kids were born, they weren’t. But they learn on-the-fly.
  • As I’ve started consulting independently, I’ve had to rely a lot on my own experience and skills and my ability to quickly learn. Once I sold myself on projects and started working on them, I’ve continued learning which has been my way of powering through (the drive). Sometimes, it’s smooth, sometimes it’s not. But each time has been a great learning experience.

When we pursue a dream or a passion like entrepreneurship, we have to be strong, smart, and vulnerable enough to ask for help. Those capabilities you think you may lack can be learned, and asking for help is one of the best ways to do that.

It’s amazing what happens when we actually push ourselves and keep our legs churning – we accomplish what we didn’t think we could.

With more time (and falls), you seek the path of least resistance.

I was hiking on Stone Mountain this weekend, when I realized I started picking lines on the trail with the smallest “steps”. I remember I used to love jumping down the larger boulders. Now, I’m nursing a sprained ankle (I’m like Mr. Glass these days), and I’m consciously more cautious of what line I take.
When I was younger, I would dream about mountain biking up and down this granite. Now? Now I’m slowly, cautiously stepping down each boulder. Ah, how the years have affected my risk aversion…
As we all get older, “wiser”, we’ve got more experience and scars that keep us from both getting hurt and attempting anything too risky (like a growing family). Sure that can be a good thing, but it can also hold us back as we settle into a pattern. It’s important to weigh risks against the opportunities and realize, too, that some risks aren’t really risks at all. Instead, they’re just excuses.

You don’t think you’re good enough.

Patrick McKenzie (of Kalzumeus Software) wrote a post about the need for salary transparency in Talking About Money, but he also shared a little nugget of truth about skill growth. Patrick increased his consultancy rates dramatically from $12K per week to $30K to $50K (PER WEEK!!) DESPITE his skill levels being largely the same. Instead, it was his ability to continue to market and sell himself that drove up rates.
When we’re afraid to venture out on our own or to share our music or our ideas, most of the time, it’s because we THINK we’re not “good enough”. However, in most cases, we are. Patrick continued growing his consultancy rates by learning and iterating over the years. It took practice to learn and iterations… practice and iterations he would never have if he never started.

You put others and others’ obligations ahead of yourself and your own.

I was talking to my musician friend the other day. I’ve heard his stuff, and he’s genuinely a great musician, but due to his work with others, he hasn’t put out any new music in years. At least, he hasn’t shared it. It makes me sad a bit.
I explained it to him like his personality… he’s a great guy, has a good heart, and has some deep, creative thoughts. However, most people don’t know him that way because either he doesn’t open up to others or strangers don’t just say hello. I just happened to be the Curious George to say hello.
His music, like his personality, will never be liked, disliked, or even known it ever existed if he doesn’t share it with the world.
It’s easy to be so focused on the day-to-day that our true passions fall to the wayside while we earn the paycheck that puts food on the table. Important, sure. However, perhaps it just takes being conscious of the lack of effort we spend on what we’re truly passionate about to seize the opportunity and share.

The most successful DO-ERs know that stagnation is a trap, and it’s got this gravitational pull that keeps us there. They know that the only way to success is to… well, DO. Pick your line (your direction), attack it (you do), and drive through it (learn, iterate, keep doing). 
How would you use the Line-Attack-Drive mentality to achieve some goal you’ve set? What other step do you think is missing from this?
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