3 Things Extreme Sports Taught Me About Running My Own Business

There are two things I love in life: creating products that solve people's problems and doing extreme sports.

Okay, my wife and dogs are great too, but they’re not the focus of this article.

While I work, I often think about my next mountain bike ride, backcountry skiing adventure, or surf trip. Being in those moments has helped me tremendously to focus my energy and release stress, and while I’m out doing what I love, I naturally end up solving work problems.

Funny how things work - or don’t work when you’re trying to work - but work when you’re not working.

It hit me the other day that my drive toward improving in extreme sport has the same characteristics when I want to improve my business.

Here are three ways I’ve seen how my active lifestyle impacts my businesses.

1. Both Require Self Motivation

Most people have jobs (and lives) that are dictated by external rewards. “Do this or you get fired... sell this much and you get a bonus.” In entrepreneurship, there are no mandated sales quotas.

You are in control of your work effort and only you get to decide how far to push yourself.

Studies show that intrinsic motivation is the most effective form of encouragement when performing a task, and that external rewards actually diminish our enjoyment and effectiveness of the same task. Nobody gave me any motivation to move to Colorado and start skiing the Rockies. If anything, everyone around me said it was a horrible idea.

What I’ve learned is that by dedicating your time and energy to things you love there will eventually be a greater reward. Maybe more importantly, if you don’t dedicate your time and energy to things you love, you will certainly lose.

2. Both Are Results Driven

You are 42% more likely to achieve your personal or professional goals if you write them down. You are even more likely to achieve them if you write smaller progress goals each week and achieve them one at a time until you fulfill your ultimate goal.

Several months ago I decided to add running to my weekly routine. Although I am still a novice to the sport, I am humbled by the level of commitment and patience it requires of its participants. As any runner will tell you, you need to build up to success with care; run a mile first, then run two miles, now cut out junk food, now run eight. Sounds like fun, right?

In order to build your business, you need to consistently set goals for yourself that you can measure and achieve, then slowly raise the bar each time.

When we first launched Coopt, my goal was 100 users. I implemented an email marketing campaign that brought in over 300 users fairly quickly, but then leveled off. Then it was 500 users, which took some more thoughtful ideas like becoming a contributor on relevant forums and ecommerce communities. My next goal was 1,000 users where I found myself having to reach outside of my comfort zone with tasks such as attending networking events and writing blogs - like this one.

My next goal is 10,000 users.  

Setting frequent goals helps lift me from the dreaded comfort zone and drop me where I belong; improvement. Accountability is built-in.  

If a goal isn’t reached then I haven’t done my job, and I’m forced to look back and ask: did I push myself hard enough? Did I miss any of my daily or weekly tasks? If the answer is no, then you know exactly what to do next time. There’s no room for excuses. The results speak for themselves.

What's the next measurable goal you're hoping to achieve? Write it down and take action each day to make your way towards it. 

3. Both Require Balance

One thing my Mom and school teachers can attest is that I love testing the limits of things.

First it was skiing halfpipes, then trying to jump off bigger and higher cliffs. Unfortunately pushing these limits also has it’s drawbacks. Lately my back pain has been so bad I've had to cut back the amount of hours and types of activities I'm pursuing.

Balance is necessary if you want to continue pushing limits. As an a business owner, balance is absolutely critical if you want to continue to grow year after year. 

Entrepreneurs by definition choose to stray from the beaten path and venture into unsafe territory. But sometimes too much is too much. If you burn out in business, you lose the intrinsic motivation to push boundaries and make decisions. If you aren’t balanced in extreme sports, you put yourself in danger.

The great thing about balance is that it creates synergy. I’m not talking about synergy in the lame corporate way like when Susan in HR tells you to “think out of the box” when “developing your personal brand”.

The kind I’m talking about occurs when you ski off a cliff and the adrenaline rush alone carries you through the workweek. Or how the high stakes of downhill mountain biking remind you what’s really important, delivering a special kind of inspiration.

It turns out exercise gives people 20% more energy aka you can literally increase productivity by exercising.

I’m not recommending that everyone jump a cliff or swim with the sharks, but I am recommending that you find a positive hobby that challenges and excites you.

It can keep you focused on what's important, help prevent burnout, and reach your goals easier. Whatever you decide to do in business and in life, be sure you love it for the activity itself and the reward will surely follow.

Do you have any hobbies that help teach you lessons about your business? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.