Last September, I completed my first ultramarathon. 80 km of trail running in the Hautes Gorges National Park, in La Malbaie (QC). It's also been 5 years since I launched my startup. In the days leading up to my run, I realized that there were many similarities between my last months of training for this ultramarathon and the launch of my business.
So in this article, I’ll tell you about 10 similarities between training for an ultramarathon and starting a new business!
1. Both Are Kind of Crazy Projects!
For both of these projects, there are plenty of good rational reasons not to go ahead! Launching a business, as well as training for an ultramarathon, WILL prove to be real challenges.
Indeed, these are avenues that can take us far from our comfort zone. Yet there is something attractive about these sometimes extremely uncomfortable challenges.
I don't have a scientific explanation for this, just a philosophical proposition borrowed from Pascal: "We prefer the hunt to the capture."
2. The Perfect Time to Start Was Yesterday... or Today!
"I'm finishing school and only then I’ll start my business", "I need to lose 10 lbs before I can enter this race"... I couldn't cite all the good reasons I've already heard for postponing the start of one of these projects.
And that's perfectly normal, there's never a perfect time to start!
You always feel like it's going to be better later because it's uncomfortable to get started right away. If you want to start a business, start doing it now on your own time: take a fresh look at your surroundings, find a problem you want to solve, and start trying to find a solution!
In other words, start quietly, but quickly get started. The same goes for training for an ultramarathon: go running! Register for a race next year, find a training program adapted to your situation if it can motivate you, but most of all: go running!
In both cases, it won't be perfect, that's for sure, but you have to stop thinking that you can start perfectly!
Beginnings are almost always bad, the important thing is to notice the mistakes you make as you go along and avoid making them again. So you have to accept to be a beginner, deconstruct the images that you can get from the experts you would like to compare yourself to, and start. Without starting, you never cross a finish line.
3. Surround Yourself With Loved Ones.
These projects take a lot of time and energy and can tend to isolate those who undertake them. In both cases, it is extremely important to maintain social ties. Talking to family and friends about your entrepreneurial venture from the beginning is crucial.
You can set up a monthly newsletter for your family and friends to keep them informed of small steps forward and avoid the traditional "how's business" politeness.
But joining an incubation program would be my best advice.
Indeed, being part of a group that is experiencing similar challenges is incredibly rewarding. This is true for the race as well, it's important to share.
While training for an ultramarathon, you will be running a lot. Take the time to run with others.
Simply exchanging regularly with the same people on your progress is also a very good habit. Having the support of your loved ones before, during and after a major race makes a real difference mentally.
I’ll never tell you enough how it is essential to learn the habit of running in a group.
4. There Is No Miracle Recipe, We Are All Different.
Find your own recipe.
Yes, you can go to business school and take entrepreneurship courses, yes you can take a coach and follow a training plan, but another common point of these two projects is that there is no universal recipe to reach your personal goal.
There are tools that have proven themselves in both disciplines, but trial and error is still the best way to learn and progress. It can be extremely frustrating! "It worked for him, why can't I get the same results?"
Starting small, testing, learning and noting what works and what doesn't, getting to know each other better and starting a little stronger, that's the best way to go, in my opinion!
5. Stand on the Shoulders of Giants.
While there is no universal miracle recipe for becoming a great runner or successful entrepreneur, there are still lessons worth sharing.
The best entrepreneurs and athletes (as well as the best coaches and investors/mentors) have lessons based on their experiences that can be invaluable!
Giving yourself the means to access these lessons (podcasts, biographies, online courses, mentoring, coaching....) is giving yourself a real chance to be more successful and not repeat mistakes made by others (thus saving time and money).
However, be careful to always recontextualize and adapt these tips to your project. A good entrepreneur is the one who is able to keep the good advice and leave out the not so good ones. It's the same for an ultramarathon runner.
6. There is no shortcut - "Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success."
A common point that immediately marked me during my training for the ultramarathon and the launch of my business is the consistency and rigor that must be shown in these two adventures.
"Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success."
This quote from Biz Stone (founder of Twitter) sums up this idea perfectly. These events are both long-distance races. Giving your 200% on day 1 doesn't matter, giving your 80% for 10 years is the key to giving yourself a chance to perform at the best level.
Today's society gives us a skewed view of the road to success. As a consumer, we see a solution like Airbnb appearing and becoming unavoidable in a few months.
We say to ourselves: "what a great idea! "and we blame ourselves for not having had it! It wasn't Airbnb's idea that made it a success overnight, but rather the 10 years of work, tests, errors, and over-seating of Brian Chesky and his 2 friends.
The same goes for Kilian Jornet who not only won the "Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc" at the age of 24, but also broke the record for the event. He didn't become good during the race, but during the 24 years preceding the race.
As a spectator/consumer, you have direct access to the result and not to the process to get there, so you have a biased view of immediacy. It is important to be aware of this if you want to take your turn or you will quickly be disappointed!
You have to give yourself time to make mistakes, to adapt, and to progress by practicing very regularly.
7. Carpe Diem - Seeing Training as an End in Itself.
As you will have understood, these two projects are long-term commitments.
The key to success is therefore to appreciate each day for what they bring and not for the hope of what they could bring.
Repeating a movement or working on the same project every day for 10 years can be repetitive if one is not intrinsically motivated, i.e. motivated by the practice of the activity itself.
If, on the other hand, motivation comes from the outside (extrinsic motivation) - for example, the desire to earn a lot of money, to win a race, to be recognized - one would quickly become less motivated by realizing that this objective is very distant and uncertain.
The best runners will tell you: "I just love running deeply" and successful entrepreneurs "I had to find a solution to this problem".
8. Monitor Your Progress.
Imagine walking into an infinite desert.
You could walk for hours without knowing if you've really made any progress or if you're going in circles. It could be the same for an aspiring ultra-runner or a contractor.
It's a very long process and you could find yourself very quickly without landmarks. It is therefore important to regularly put markers in your desert crossing to recognize your path.
If you leave the desert metaphor; let’s just say you'd better take a step back and look at your actions regularly to make sure you're moving in the desired direction.
As much in running as in starting a business, it is crucial and motivating to set short-term goals that bring you closer to the final objective and thus ensure that you stay in the right direction.
9. Practice Resting.
Finally, most importantly, if you want to take on one (or both!!) of these projects, I would recommend that you take care of your physical and mental health and that starts with a good, long night's sleep.
During the day we learn, we move, we exercise and we weaken our metabolism.
It is at night, while we sleep, that the body assimilates the new learning of the day and progresses or accumulates fatigue.
In fact, on average, nights of less than 8 hours can begin to have a negative impact on respiratory and muscular capacities and on concentration.
On the contrary, well-planned sleep can be a real catalyst for performance and protect you from injury or viruses! While sleep is vital for everyone, it is crucial for entrepreneurs or athletes who push their cognitive and physical limits during the day.
It is recommended to sleep between 7 and 9 hours a night and avoid screens for half an hour before going to bed. My trick is to see sleep as part of my training and as something I track as much as the number of sales or the marketing budget.
And… That’s it! I know that in my intro I told you about 10 similarities between training for an ultramarathon and launching a startup, and not 9, but you know what? You’ll find the 10th one in my next article!