13 Things Startup CEOs Can Learn From Mountain Biking

13 Things Startup CEOs Can Learn From Mountain Biking

It’s 6am and I’m loading up my mountain bike.

The summer morning hints at a hot day. I arrive at my destination and begin to unload my bike.

Helmet, CHECK.

Camelbak with water and tools, CHECK.

Gloves, CHECK.

I get on the trails and start climbing. I follow a simple, basic truth, that I know I must follow to prevent physical pain: focus on my line. The line is the narrow path I’m following.

Done climbing on the bike. Now, it’s time for the descent.

Intensely focused, my eyes are fixated on my line.

As I gain speed with the bike, I find myself in a state of flow. Leaning with the turns and trusting the bike, I strategically use my brakes and find myself completely immersed in the moment.

It's a liberating feeling. Almost like flying.

I don't ride for the adrenaline of the downhill, I ride for the experience of nature, the immersion, and the training.

In my mountain biking story...

Did I mention avoiding the cliff side exposure on my right?

Did I mention avoiding the cactus?

Did I mention avoiding the large rocks that I am navigating around?

No, I didn’t, because there is no time to focus on where I don’t want to go.

There is only time to focus on where I want to go.

This is a foundational truth of mountain biking.

This truth is simple: you get what you focus on.

This has nothing to do with the law of attraction or the secret. This has everything to do with how you experience the journey.

Have you ever been car shopping for a specific model of car only to see that same car more often on the freeway, in parking lots, and on the streets? That’s heightened awareness. That’s what focus does to you.

Startups need to focus on growth and where they want to go, not where they don’t want to go. Focusing on where you don’t want to go is a waste of energy.

Growth is a game of progress. Momentum.

Elements of growth require a different focus at different times.

I don’t even want to tell you what you shouldn’t focus on because as soon as I say it you'll focus your attention on it, but you need to know what not to focus on to start.

What should you not focus on?

1. Don’t focus on competition

Who says they’re doing it right? Who says their pricing is right? Are you a follower or a leader? Focus on learning, your customers, your product, and your metrics. You can influence that. 

2. Don’t focus on distractions

Sounds easy, but what are distractions? Distractions are the haters who are saying you cannot. Distractions are the demanding customers who want it their way. Distractions are news reports that are not relevant to your immediate situation. Sometimes there is truth to what customers say, but you have to experience their demands many many times to consider it. Don’t adapt based off one experience. To create conviction, or intensity of understanding, allow yourself to experience a truth dozens (or hundreds) of times.

3. Don’t focus on problems you don’t have

Are you trying to build something that scales to millions of users right from the start? Concerned that your product is so awesome it will go viral overnight? That’s a problem you don’t have. It’s a construct you have created in your mind. While planning for the future can be important, focus on growth and don’t spend too much time on problems you don’t have. Building a highly scalable solution from the start won’t matter if you fail before you get off your runway.

4. Don’t focus on perfection

If you struggle with uncontrollable perfection, it’s because at your core, you’re afraid of being defined with anything less than perfect. That is a bad habit. Stop associating what you do with your identity (that is called shame, my friends, something I know all too well). Whatever you do is enough. If you have something too sloppy, let your users tell you. That bug you’re afraid of? Let someone report it, respond quickly, and blow them away with how much you care.

5. Don’t focus on fears

Fear of the runway? Fear of your employees not working as good as they can? Fear of someone lying to you? Fear of competition? You create your reality. Period. Focus on fear and you will get more of it because you get what you focus on. The more you focus on fear, the more you return to the animal state and the less effective you are at connecting the dots between things you need to connect. Leading with fear limits legacy.

6. Don’t focus on everyone’s advice

Don’t blindly listen to everyone. Everyone is projecting their reality onto you. They’re projecting what has and has not worked for them. SuTre, there may be some truth to it, but consider yourself warned. A recipe to cook food works repeatedly. A step-by-step recipe for startup success has the major variable of the evolved human experience (HX). Our existence is changing. Also, pay attention to the context of the person you’re talking to. A dentist will tell you you need braces. An eye doctor will tell you you need glasses. A lawyer will tell you you need to protect yourself. It’s all good until you realize you incorporated your business in California, paid a thousand dollars, and you have no assets to protect. Why? Because you listened to the advice of a lawyer who didn't care to learn about your context. True story.

Instead, focus on these 7 things to evolve in the right direction.

1. Focus on communication

Go back and forth, be candid and honest, nothing is personal, everything is about growth. People who want to learn and understand the nature of startups will focus on growth, not on dancing around people’s feelings or being oversensitive.

2. Focus on the customer

The customer is your investor. They’re investing their time in something you have created. They’re investing their time because they need or want what you have to offer. Give them what they would love. Delight them. Create an experience. Get in their mind and understand them better than you understand yourself.

3. Focus on the product

With what you’ve learned from your customer, take that knowledge, and apply it to your product. Don’t listen to every feature from every person. Implement the core, the minimum viable product, that is needed to begin the foundation of your startup. For new features, add ideas that you and your team are tired of hearing about. Focus on creating demand for something that is needed first.

4. Focus on the metrics, cohorts, and AARRR

Pilots can fly airplanes in the clouds and under insane weather conditions because they have a dashboard with indicators and tools that help them fly. Instruments they trust. As a startup founder, you need your dashboard. Take the time to understand cohorts analysis and AARRR metrics so you can lead the way with what you need to know.

5. Focus on learning

Every experience, every time, is a learning opportunity. Getting frustrated, or dealing with conflict, doesn’t need to be that way if you experience life as a learning opportunity. Learning about people, learning about yourself, or learning about certain situations. Refine the instincts. Keep learning to lead better. Learning can affirm and validate your ideas and theories and ultimately strengthen your conviction for how you live.

6. Focus on opportunities

With what you learn, focus on opportunities. Opportunities to adapt and pivot. Opportunities to captivate a customer and turn them into an advocate. Opportunities to share with others. They say luck is when preparation meets opportunity. You’re in a startup, be prepared, and focus on opportunity to create your own luck.

7. Focus on trust

Startups are often portrayed in a light of insanity. Living and dying by the startup. Doing whatever it takes and working crazy hours. While some of that could be true, focus on trusting. When you're afraid of the future, anxious about success, and uncertain about reality, and when you focus on that, you live in a world of scarcity and fear. Why would you do that to yourself? Instead, focus on trusting. When you trust, you have less anxiety, you're more patient, you can make better decisions, and you can see more clearly. 

Like anything, this is a muscle.

The more you learn how to focus, the better you will lead. The better you will live your legacy. 

Fighting for legacy is why I exist. I want you to live your legacy with your startup.  

Be intentional, proactive, and mindful about what you focus on. 

Revisit this insight. 

Share it with your team.

Perception is reality.

Create a perception that allows you to execute better.

By Matthew Gallizzi. Consultant. Thinking Partner. Strategic Advisor. He believes our language creates our world. He equips business leaders as they live into their future vision.

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