I spoke to a recent high school graduate who wanted some insight on going to college. He was leaving California for Hawaii where he would be attending Chaminade University of Honolulu. I kept my advice simple. “Don’t Stop.” I likened his college years to his journey from California to Hawaii. But, in this journey, instead of flying he would be swimming. If you stop swimming you may never be able to complete the journey. As I talked to him, I realized the same is true for entrepreneurs. Running a start-up and being a college student have many similarities, including limited funding and learning as you go. In fact, there are four distinct lessons from swimming that apply to both.
4. You are at your best when the environment isn't completely comfortable. Elite swimmers like water that is too cold to lounge in. They know they will be working hard and a little discomfort will keep you moving. You have to have the confidence that your own power will heat both you and the environment around you.
3. A crooked path is most effective. When you’re in the water a straight-line always looks like the most effective path to your destination. This is because you cannot always see the currents and tides that will impact your journey. You must pay attention to what is happening at every moment and make adjustments to stay on course. Although counterintuitive, the best strategy to escape a riptide is not to swim faster or harder, but to swim parallel to the beach for a while in order to reach safety. Apply the same rule to your college career and start-up and you will see surprising results.
2. Even resting uses energy. Swimming is so much different than walking. When you are on land you can rest by standing, finding a bench or even just sitting on the ground. If you stop while swimming you must still tread water. At that point, you might as well expend the energy to keep moving forward. Even a small island in the ocean provides only a temporary resting place, as it will be overrun by rising tides quickly.
1. You cannot stop until you succeed. This is the key point. Once you have committed to swimming from one point to another you have only three choices. A) Turn back before you get half way and accept the fact that you may never have the guts to try again; B) Stop somewhere in the middle and exhaust yourself; C) Don’t Stop. Keep swimming. Rest while you are on your back. Think while you stroke forward. Slow if you must and get your bearings, but never ever stop. Stopping means failure so keep on swimming. You will never get this exact chance again. You must keep the vision of your beachside destination in mind and know that only your own power, persistence and determination will get you there.
“If you want to swim across the English Channel from England to France – you have to leave your doubt on the beach in England.” – Lewis Gordon Pugh
Mel Jameson has more than 20 years of experience in financial services, sales and marketing. One of the founder’s of Performensation, an industry leading compensation and human capital consulting firm, she has a proven track record of growing businesses through strategic marketing, business development and sales management. Mel’s passion is assisting women in navigating the challenging waters of business. Mel can be reached at mjameson@performensation.