I’m doing triathlon for almost 12 years now and there are some learnings for my entrepreneurial existence which I wanna share with you. Five months from now I’m turning 40 and so I decided to do a last Ironman (instead of buying a red sports cabrio) to fight a coming mid-life-crisis. One last time 3.8km (2.4mi) swimming, 180km (112mi) on the bike followed by an “enjoyable” marathon (42km — 26mi). No worries :), I will continue with triathlon but only up to half ones (Ironman 70.3).
How did I get into triathlon?
First things first, I have to tell you the story how I got into triathlon because it’s very similar to my story how I got into my first startup.
My friend and I came back from a nice tour with our mountain bikes when he told me that his brother-in-law will attend an Ironman. “Ironman — what? Sounds weird.”, were my first thoughts. So he went on and explained me that an Ironman is a triathlon with specific distances and Ironman is a U.S. brand. So you have to swim 3.8km, then go 180km on your bike and finally do a marathon for all the 42.195 km. “You do that day by day?”, was my answer in astonishment. His reply with a big smile on this face was of course “No, you do that in 1 day. The best athletes only need eight hours for that”. Silence.
Then he told me that he made a bet with his brother-in-law that they both will accomplish an Ironman before turning 35. We were 28 by then. I was only thinking: “no, never” while I left him this day.
To keep the long story short. He never did an Ironman but I did in my 35th year, although my cruciate ligament snapped two years ago only one month before my first start at an Ironman.
Same happened to me with my businesses. I started my first startup which a technician who forced me into it and left me at the day of your first customer. Lucky for me I met my today’s best friends and founded a new company with them. Today two of our companies got already acquired and we are already building the next generation of our enterprises.
Let’s go back to the initial intention of this article. Here is the list of the 10 learnings:
1. Goals are the fundamental basics of success
In 2007 a business coach told us, you have to have your goals painted in pictures and attached to the wall where you sleep. Without goals you don’t know what you want to reach. Goals must be SMART, so they must be specific, measureable, attractive, realistic, time-based. This princible is 100% valid for triathlon training as for business. I add my goals in my online training service TriCoreTraining and all training schedules are based on these goals. The same goes for business. First I define my personal goals and then I derive my business goals from them.
Without goals how would you measure success?
2. Have a plan to reach your goals and measure it
Goals and metrics without constant measuring are shit (sorry, I’m watching “Orange is the new black” on Netflix and so I hear this word too often). In my triathlon training my online service is almost doing the measuring for me. But I still have to add all workouts from my garmin sports watch to the training software. Each week, week for week. Is this process boring, yes of course. Is it necessary. 100%. Without measuring defined metrics which show you how you reach your goals, your training is only worth half. Also measure the right metrics, don’t fall into the vanity metrics trap.
Same goes for business and I confess that this is my weakness. I love doing stuff on a regular base but not if you have to motivate everybody to deliver their numbers. Integrate writing down the numbers in the process or create a habit out of it.
3. In the end triathlon and business is not a team-play but you need other team-mates to stay motivated and go through tough times
Ok, this one might start some discussions but what I mean is that you have make your decisions on your own. What is good for you and your training and what not. Same in business. But teammates are absolutely the best in keeping you motivated in tough times. I would never have waken up so many days at 6 a.m. without one of my best friends Clemens. No matter if it was raining or snowing.
4. Be constant, don’t change your training methods all the time
Don’t follow the rules of 10 coaches, follow one mentor you trust. When you start your swim training, a lot of people are telling you, how you can improve your technique and so on. But the problem is, 10 friends or even experts give you 10 different advices. Find the one you trust and follow her rules. I read the book about triathlon by Joe Friel and followed his tips. I signed up for an online triathlon training service (www.tricoretraining.com) and use it since to have constant metrics and training plans.
5. If you fail your goals, don’t go harder, analyse why
You can’t catch up with what you missed in months, within the next week by doing more at the same time. Sometimes (maybe often) you fail at your planned activities, because you’re ill or lazy. But never try to catch up with what you missed by adding it to the amount of training in the next weeks.
In my entreprenerial adventures I tried to catch up with all the tasks I missed and ended up finishing less. Think about the 80–20 principle. Re-think your current activities, go on to the next learning.
6. Recovery and meditation are most of the time the better choice instead of doing more
When you experience the flood of tasks and urgent problems from all around you, then stop, go in meditation. Recover and relax. This does more good to your body then any additional task you could accomplish. Most athletes fail in doing not enough recovery then in doing their training. Recovery is the time where your muscles build and your body gets stronger.
Go for a walk, think about your business, view it from a bird’s perspective, talk to a friend about it, drink a wine and relax. Next day you hit a home-run.
7. Networking pays off, get to know other people who share the same intentions and problems
I do a lot of training on my own. As I listen to business books from i.e. Audible, training times pay off for me double. But most of the times when if meet new athletes, I learn about new, interesting stuff which helps me in my future training. And most of the time I meet someone interesting for my business too, because a lof of executive people are doing triathlon too.
So go out, get to know new people and share your experiences, it will pay off.
8. Don’t concentrate on your weaknesses, build on your strengths
This one is an oldie but goldie. I will never win a race by improving my swimming skills. Ok, probably I will never win a race, but I will also not improve my race time but concentrating on my swim style. I’m a slow swimmer but I realize my improving running skills. “Triathlon is running with preconditions” — I love this one. So find out what your strengths are and improve them.
To apply this for business. Find your strenghts and improve it, on all weaknesses find other team-player and hire them.
9. There are no silver bullets, you have to fight with lead
All the years I was looking for silver bullets to find the secret methods to run like Carl Lewis and to swim like Michael Phelps. But as you can guess, there are no silver bullets. You have to do your training, work on your nutrition and on your body. Improve your mental skills and you will be a better triathlon athlete.
10. You do triathlon/business, you are my hero
The same is valid for business. You build a startup and hopefully started your entrepreneurial career, you overcame the most difficult step. Just go on!
I hope you enjoyed this article and you could use one or two pieces for your own sports or startup career.
If you have any comments, please feel free to add them. I love to get some feedback and have a great discussion on your thoughts.
Happy training, Klaus-M.
PS: If there are some grammatically strange sounding sentences, I’m really sorry. I’m not a native English writer and I wrote this in a hurry. I have to leave for my start at Ironman Austria.