Sunday, October 23, 2005

endurance sports and entreprenuerism

this afternoon between reading papers about locality-sensitive hashing, i took a brake and did one my standard weekend activities of going for a long run. for those of you who do not know me, i typically swim/bike/run six days a week and compete in triathalons and running races. people always ask why i train so much etc (even when i travel i am obsessive about exercising), and i typically answer 'relieves stress etc' - the common answers. but today, i came up with a better answer.

while running stairs in the stanford stadium with no else around, i realized that doing long workouts or races is very similar to starting a company:

1) intense discipline

when you start your own company, you report to yourself. you have to hold yourself accountable...no one will know if you do not finish your code or that proposal. you have to set milestones for the company to ensure progress. you have to build an operating plan

when training for a triathlon, you (typically) do not have a trainer that will get you out of bed to swim at 5:30, run with a headlamp in the winter and bike with you in the rain. also, you will often be alone on those workouts...you have to drive yourself. you need to build a training plan to prepare for the race and to ensure progress.

2) embrace the unknown

start-up companies are obviously high risk endeavors...and the outcome is never guaranteed. just working hard is not enough...you have to take risks. big ones. you may have to finance the company yourself...you may have to give up having a social life for months. all for an unknown outcome...but you believe

while racing, you never really know what is going to happen. when jumping out of the ferry boat during the escape from alcatraz triathlon, you just do not know what the conditions will really be like. how cold is the water? how big are the swells?

the unknown can be feared or leveraged...i say build on it.

3) exhaustion is a payoff

going home at 3am after solving a difficult computer science problem is thrilling...there is no other feeling. yes, you are tired. yes, you have only eaten crappy food for hours. but you accomplished it...

finishing a 6 hour race is...well...unbelievable. the human body can go much further that anyone ever really believes...

-> i am sure i can come up with more....just need some more sleep :)