Participation in triathlons and being an entrepreneur can be mutually reinforcing endeavors.
Let’s look at four key characteristics of successful entrepreneurs and compare them to those of endurance sports participants:
Bold: Entrepreneurs are daring. They’re not afraid to tackle something new and outside of their comfort zone and they certainly aren’t deterred by the risks of failure. And let’s face it, there are real financial, emotional, and health risks associated with starting a business.
Similarly, participation in triathlons means being adept at swimming, biking andrunning, not to mention being knowledgeable on the fourth and fifth sports of nutrition and proper recovery. Even if you were a world-class collegiate swimmer, Tour de France cyclist or accomplished marathoner, chances are that you’re going to have to work (and work hard!) at becoming proficient in the other disciplines. It’s going to be hard and you’ll likely look like a fool at times (just watch yours truly in the swimming pool!), but in the end the juice will be worth the squeeze.
Similarly, competing in triathlons means tackling a day filled with swimming, biking and running and not every leg of the race will go well. Not being discouraged by a bad swim performance, a flat tire, or a meltdown on the run is crucial to finishing the event and accomplishing your goals.
In business and in endurance sports, we train and hope for the best but we’re always prepared to deal with the worst and bounce back accordingly.
Disciplined: When business is all-consuming, there’s not a clear line between work and personal life and yet following a regimented schedule that creates focus can be the difference between success and a long drawn-out failure.
Endurance athletes understand this all too well. Training ten or more hours per week for a race on top of professional, personal and family obligations means eliminating waste in our schedules and constantly finding ways to optimize our time. Workouts are planned weeks in advance and meticulous attention is given towards how each workout fits within a well-planned training schedule that might extend months or years into the future. Sound familiar, entrepreneurs?!
Importantly, just as athletes schedule in rest to physically and mentally recover and rebuild, so do the best entrepreneurs. The mind of an entrepreneur should be treated like the body of an athlete: schedule in the right amount of rest in order to come back to work fresh and invigorated.
Confident: Starting a business requires a leap of faith. There are sure to be numerous moments of doubt, hesitation and fear alongside the tremendous joys associated with achieving one’s goals. It takes confidence to turn down a high-paying and more stable corporate career to follow your entrepreneurial pursuits. And you need confidence to put your reputation, financial capital, physical and emotional well-being on the line.
Similarly, triathletes must develop self-confidence. It doesn’t matter if you’re an accomplished pro like Meredith Kessler or a newbie participant, you will run into challenges and have to face your worst fears. Possessing an infinite belief in oneself empowers us to overcome those hurdles and achieve our goals.
And here’s where it gets interesting! The confidence developed from launching our businesses fuels our ability in endurance sports and vice versa. When I’m faced with a challenging business situation, I recall how I taught myself to swim, bike and run and with the help of some amazing friends, coaches and loved ones, I completed an Ironman triathlon. I tell myself that if I could do that, then I can do anything.
Representative Examples: It’s of no surprise that some of the most accomplished amateur triathletes and endurance sports participants are also successful executives, entrepreneurs and investors. Brad Feld, co-founder of TechStars and Foundry Group is cruising towards completing a marathon in every state, Tony Conrad, About.me founder and investor at True Ventures and Peter Fenton, renowned Benchmark investor are both accomplished triathletes.
How has participation in endurance athletics impacted your successes as an entrepreneur?
Ryan Frankel is CEO of VerbalizeIt. He’s a travel and endurance athletics enthusiast and a former investor on behalf of Goldman Sachs. In 2014, he was named CEO of the Year by SmartCEO Magazine and he is an Inc. Magazine Top 35 Under 35 Entrepreneur. He lives in New York City with his beautiful wife and pair of running shoes. Write to the author at email@example.com.