In October of 2016, while I was being interviewed on a podcast during my 12 podcasts in 12 weeks, The host asked me “what do you do when you’re not working?” and I had a moment of panic. I blurted out “I read! And I’m a scuba diver.” I do read. But that is not a hobby. It was a lame answer to me. And I’m a scuba diver but it’s been over a year since I’ve put scuba gear on, but I can’t really call that a hobby. So lame. I had become a work-obsessed person that felt a little one dimensional. I suddenly realized how important it was to me to be a well rounded entrepreneur.
In my Powersheets, I made note that I was going to take up learning something new and “getting new hobbies.” I wrote down photography and ice skating and 6 months into 2017, I can say I have taken up Ice Skating as a hobby. It’s hard to use muscles you didn’t know you had and it’s difficult being a newbie as an adult but each time I take the ice, I’m reminded of how the learning relates to business ownership. These are all good lessons for us.
There is magic in being a learner
I was intimidating walking into the skating rink for the first time. I didn’t know where to go, where to register for my classes, where to get my ice skates that I needed to rent. Everybody was already going about their business, already knowing the lay of the land, having casual conversations with others. I felt like I just didn’t fit in. I also felt like a big bumbling and uncoordinated person because just the act of putting on my skates felt like a feat. Everything was brand new.
It’s like this in our online businesses. We somehow learn about online creative entrepreneurship and we don’t know which way is up. People already have established businesses, they already have connections and friendships. You might (I certainly did) feel overwhelmed, like a small fish in a big pond that you’re not even sure you should be a part of.
But what I’ve learned from skating is that no matter where you are in your skating abilities, your competition is you. Getting better than the last time I took the ice was my goal. I wanted to learn how to skate smoothly without falling. I wanted to learn how to skate backwards. I wanted to learn how to do cross overs (y’all, i’m still working on this one). I have friends on the ice now. I know skaters who are National Champions. I feel like I’m more “in the know” now.
In your business, you have to show up. You have to compete with you from last week. You have to practice the act of being on the proverbial ice skating rink of business. Willing to take a tumble in order to learn. When you put yourself out there in business, it might feel scary and a lot of the time, you’ll feel like a total impostor or goob (or both), but you still have to keep showing up to beat yourself from last time.
Skating is mostly about coordination at the beginning and learning to take instructions. But as I get further along in my skating, I’m learning that the core is important to stabilize all the new moves I’m practicing. Much like skating and training the core of your body to support you better, in business, we must also become strong in our core. The core is what I refer as short had to all the things that most newer entrepreneurs skip.
Working on your business core, you’ll examine your core values as a person and then translated to your business, the purpose of your business, a business sketch (a loose version of a business plan) the financial goals, and other things that create a foundation on which to build your business. This might not seem as fun or intuitive to do as say, starting an Instagram account or grabbing the right domain name, but trust me, when people 2-3 years into their business quit or are burnt out, it’s probably because they didn’t take the time to intentionally build the core of their business and they’re standing on not-so-strong foundations in their business.
Learning something new takes a lot of patience. Things are new and challenging. For me, every time I get on the ice, it’s an act of courage because I don’t want to look like a fool and because I’m terrified of falling and hurting myself (and my ego, going back to that looking like a fool thing).
When I started learning how to lift one foot off the ice to do cross overs, I was like, no way, this isn’t happening, 100% chance I’m going to fall. I didn’t fall. As many times as I’ve practiced, I haven’t fallen doing this one yet. But my coach saw me practicing and she said “you’re not trusting the inside of your blade to catch you so you’re overcompensating and making it harder for yourself.” I shot back at her, “it’s not the blade I don’t trust. I don’t trust myself!” And there you have it. While my physical skill was almost there, because of my lack of trust in myself, I couldn’t actually execute the move properly.
In business building, it’s the same way. We have to go “all in” mentally (I’m not talking about the quit your 9-5 kind of all in), in order to land the move. This might mean removing your inner critic, to move through your excuses, decide you’re going to make time for your business, or to make your business a priority. It’s my guess that when you’re not all in, it’s because you don’t trust that it will work and therefore you want to have an escape path, financially or emotionally for how you can get out of it free and clear.
When you don’t put that risk of putting your trust in yourself, you’ll actually hurt your chances of making it because you’re always looking for a way out. You’re not doing the things necessary to get you ready for the next move and just like my skating, you’ll be making it harder for yourself to succeed.
Show Up and Practice
If I want to get better at skating backwards and one day nail a jump (which I’m currently nowhere near doing), I have to be willing to put my excuses aside about how it’s unfair that I have to wear leggings when it’s 100 degrees out to go to the skating rink or how tired I feel from the weekend and get myself to the rink. When I show up and my mind is elsewhere, I know it’s going to be a bad day on the ice. But most of the time, I can get my brain to focus until I get into the flow. While it’s super fun to learn how to skate, it’s challenging and sometimes I don’t want to do the work. Each time I get better and learn a new skill, I know it’s because I keep showing up and practicing.
We can’t just get good by thinking about doing something. We actually have to execute. The business application of this is pretty straight forward. We need to show up in our businesses consistently and continue to learn, apply our new skills and keep making progress. Even when there are obstacles, excuses or reasons we don’t want to, when you show up in your business, you’ll be able to look back and see the improvements made.
Play + Best practices exist but try it your own way
One of my skating coaches was talking to another coach about how he teaches and I overheard him saying, “I kind of make it up each time as I go along as I teach.” I thought that was a strange thing to say. Wasn’t there some kind of scripted coaching technique for skating? And maybe there is, but this comment made my normally “rule follower” brain open up to new options. Obviously, technique wise there are best practices. There are things you’ll want to do in order to master a skill that’s tried and true. For the rest of it, you can try it your own way and find something that works for you that might be different than how they normally advise you to do things.
There are certainly best practices in businesses. You don’t need to recreate the wheel when it comes to certain things in business (unless you want to!), and there are plenty of things that others can teach you. However, remember that there are things that will work for you and some that don’t jive and that’s okay! Take what you learn at face value and make it fit your personality and your business values. Take up a curiosity and notice what works for you and what you feel excited by. Playing and experimenting in your business will feel more freeing than having to follow a scripted method.
You’ll fall if you look around
The one and only time (so far) that I fell on the ice was when my husband and son were visiting me for the first time on the ice. I noticed that he was video recording me, got distracted and fell hard. It’s a good thing I didn’t land on my head. I was distracted by the thought of looking good or graceful (neither of which I accomplished in this video) and ultimately got myself pretty banged up.
The other and many times I’ve almost fallen, it’s been because I’m watching other skaters (read: ones that are probably 15 years or more younger than me) displaying some skills and I get distracted so much so that I forget what my legs are doing. Cause for near disaster.
When you pay attention to what others are doing rather than concentrating on yourself and what you’re doing, it’s going to hurt you in the end. If you’re inspired by other’s work ethic and skill, that’s one thing. But being distracted and wishing you were where they were or wishing you could look as accomplished as them is futile.
Looking good isn’t nearly as important as gaining skills. Practicing things over and over again to become proficient then gain mastery is what will in the future allow you to “look cool” but looking around to try to emulate what others are doing is going to hurt you right now.
There is so much to appreciate in your business right now. Even if you aren’t doing everything you want to, even if you don’t have the dreamy dream perfect clients, you have a business. You can be grateful to something (probably many things) in your business. Don’t try to find your value by looking around at others and how far along they are. They’ll make you doubt yourself, they’ll make you question your path.
My biggest takeaway in learning how to skate is my ability to see a parallel between being a novice skater and remembering what it was like as a novice business owner. Even as somebody who has been in business for a little while now, these takeaways are still relevant.
You can take advice from experts but don’t get bogged down by their advice that you never take action. Your intuition is so much more attuned than you give it credit for.
Keeping your eye on your own prize, playing hard and doing what’s right for you, getting clear about your core, and continuing to show up in your business day in and day out are the best things you can keep doing if you want to keep growing.