I’m hovering in side plank – body trembling uncontrollably – watching not one butthree rivers of sweat running down my upward stretched arm. I catch a glimpse of my ridiculous looking star-shape in the mirror, almost like Da Vinci’s Universal (wo)Man has been caught in suspended animation whilst doing a jump for joy. Hardly.
Today I decided to push a little harder, go a little further, and venture into the world of hot yoga. After seeing the mercury hover just below 100F for the past few days, I figured I was prepared and it couldn’t be that much worse. Wrong!
It was terribly, terribly difficult. Poses that I normally handle without so much as skipping a breath seemed to become impossible. It was probably harder than it should have been exactly because I went in anticipating that it was going to be easy. Mostly thanks to the encouraging words from the instructor as well as a few emergency rests, I persevered and just about bounded out of the class in a moment of ecstasy when it was over (ok I admit, my body may have wobbled out the door in a state of disorientation, but my mind was leaping!). And in this practice I learned three valuable lessons which I continually revisit as my startup goes through its growing pains.
Lesson 1: Prepare yourself
When you’re doing a startup, the environment around you is constantly changing. There are changes in the market, changes in legislation, and often disruptive changes in technology. Your competitors will do something you wished they wouldn’t, a crucial staff member may leave, you’ll encounter new knowledge that will rapidly and irreversibly affect your game plan. Things that seamed ridiculously simple and easy before will suddenly become impossibly challenging. My point is this: You have absolutely no control over those externalities. You can spend hours preparing, and things will still go wonky at some (if not many) points throughout your startup. The only thing you have control over is yourself. The single most valuable preparation that you can do is to prepare yourself intellectually, physically and emotionally to best handle the constant change. You’ve heard them say that it’s not easy, but did you really believe them?
Lesson 2: Find a mentor (the more the merrier)
In those moments that things seem to crumble around you and you don’t know how much more you can take there is nothing more valuable than the support of somebody who actually understands what you’re going through. A teacher.Somebody who knows how challenging it is, somebody who can give you a fresh perspective and help you find a way to achieve your goals, and somebody who can reassure you that there is a silver lining somewhere outside of the dark cloud you’re in (or at least spin you around on your heels and force you to at least look in another direction!). I have been very fortunate to find some terrific mentors, but it took many coffees, a stupid amount of networking events and an undisclosed number of questions to find the right fit. But it’s absolutely worth it.
Lesson 3: Avoid burnout
Pace yourself. Startups are an insane amount of work and because it’s your precious, it’s always with you whatever you do. If you didn’t have OCD before, get ready towelcome it as an addition to your new startup life. It’s tempting to pull consecutive all-nighters when the pressure is on, but the harsh reality is that you’ll be able to work more creatively and productively when you’ve had good sleep and some other stimulation. I must admit to cheating a bit with this: my startup Arribaa is a marketplace for discovering unique experiences offered by passionate, talented locals. So when I feel overwhelmed with responsibility and the sheer weight of running a company with bootstrapped resources, I have unrivalled access to people and experiences that really inspire and energize me. There’s nothing more powerful than taking the time to reconnect with what’s really important to me, and connecting with my users in this personal way reminds that I’m going to all this effort for a much bigger purpose. And that makes a world of difference in how I feel about what I do.
“Yesterday I was clever. That is why I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise. That is why I am changing myself.”
– Sri Chinmoy
Colette Grgic is the co-founder and CEO of Arribaa (arribaa.com), a marketplace for discovering unique experiences offered by passionate, talented locals. She’s a global citizen, conquering a new passport every few years and wondering exactly how she’s supposed to pick only one place to live when there’s all these amazing places in the world to explore in depth? She’s obsessed with French Macarons and has been co-running the Pushstart Accelerator, an Australian tech startup incubator. You can stalk her on @tweetbaa.