The Wildest Ride of Your Life

Some people get their thrills from extreme sports or from travelling around the world riding the biggest and most heart-stopping rollercoasters. I get mine from being an entrepreneur, because it’s the wildest ride I can think of.

Anyone who’s set up and run their own business will tell you the same thing – pack for changeable weather.

Just about every day I wake up feeling excited about the challenges that lie ahead, buoyed by the very idea of what’s possible. Then, at some point, reality sets in or an unforeseen obstacle presents itself and I find myself thinking, “Ugh, this is hard!” That’s because it often is – really, really hard. Setting the course for an enterprise, managing staff, building a client base, controlling the finances, staying on top of a huge workload, and ensuring that you deliver real value for your clients isn’t kid’s stuff. 

It’s what it must feel like to find yourself at the top of one of the world’s highest rollercoasters, which can reach an eye-popping 175 metres –– about as high as a 50 storey building. The idea of doing the ride is beyond exhilarating; the ride itself, not so much. Just like someone in one of those little carts suspended high above the ground, you often feel like screaming. And just as things level out again, there’s another big issue to face and you find yourself worrying about messing up so big that you’re going to ruin your reputation and go bankrupt.

What gets me through all of this? Well, three things: Surrounding myself with capable people I know I can trust; faith in the fact that, as wild as the ride is, I can get through it; and the feeling of accomplishment I get at the end of it all. I’ve also come to accept that the ups and downs are all part of the process, and to understand that there’s no such thing as failure. Things sometimes go wrong, of course, but it’s how you handle them when they do that matters, and what you learn from the experience that builds resilience.

I also allow myself to scream occasionally.

Entrepreneurs are just human, after all, so I feel it’s important to accept one’s fears, limitations and needs, and to work with them instead of seeing them as obstacles. It’s also important to understand that, as Nelson Mandela so famously put it, after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. Then again, he also said “It seems impossible until it’s done.”

So what is the bridge between these two concepts?

As I see it, firstly one has to accept that there will always be great rollercoasters to ride, with all of the fear, exhilaration and reward that brings. That’s life and, even more intensely so, that’s life as an entrepreneur. Then one has to have the confidence to take it all on, and the savvy to choose the best people you know to join you. As importantly, all of you need to understand that there are steep inclines, sharp drops, and fairly even gradients along the way; it’s simply the nature of the thing. And once you’re on the ride, there’s no getting off. No matter how many late nights you have to put in or whether you blow out the office coffee machine because you use it so much, you need to persevere.

In short, know your destination, make a plan about how to get there, choose the right people to come along, put the proper safety measures in place, show a bit of bravado as you set out (it never hurts!), and then get on board. The journey isn’t going to be easy, but that’s the thrill of it. Scream when you need to scream, hold hands through the tough times, enjoy it when things are on an even keel, learn some humility (because everyone gets scared along the way), get excited on the next steep climb, and above all, have confidence in yourself and that you’re going to pull it off.

Like die-hard rollercoaster riders, entrepreneurs are a special breed of risk-taker: People who believe in the magic of creating something from nothing and who thrive on the kinetic energy that running a business brings.

Best of all, when you get to the end of even the most challenging ride, I guarantee you’ll feel like a superhero –– and that you’ll be more than ready to take on the next crazy ride.