Patrick Smith is an open water swimmer and entrepreneur who writes about the parallels between swimming and business. In his second post he says it’s time to commit and get your face wet.
For many people new to open water swimming, putting their face into the lake, river or sea for the first time is what puts them off. It’s the fear of the unknown, the fear of what lies beneath – as well as the cold – that makes them hesitate.
I regularly see people in the lake standing in the shallows, very nervous about taking that next step. Or they even have started swimming, but it’s a head up breaststroke they’re doing as they are still uncertain about whether to commit fully to the swim and put their head under water.
It can be the same for people looking to start their own business – or even start any difficult task at work. Many people spend a long time in the “shallows”. They will write and rewrite their business plan, create intricate spreadsheets with financial projections, tweak and retweak their business idea – all the while avoiding actually getting their face wet.
The lake that I swim in for my open water training swims is used by a lot of triathletes. On many days while 60-70 people may get into the lake during the session I am often the only ‘skins’ swimmer. And on those days, I invariably get a comment along the lines of “you’re brave”.
My natural response is to smile and flippantly tell them that maybe it’s stupidity instead of bravery. But actually it’s neither – it’s just experience.
My routine is to gingerly get into the water up to my waist, get my hands wet, take a few deep breaths, stretch a little and then set off. After having done this many, many times now I realise that I’m no less apprehensive than other people and the water is no less cold for me – instead I have a wealth of experience to draw on that tells me that nothing will go wrong and even if it does I will know how to deal with it.
The same is true in business. Having worked for myself, in one form or another, for 14 years now I have the experience to allow myself – after a few deep breaths – to just get on with it.
People talk about practice as a way to learn and perfect skills, however I believe that equally important is the fact that practice allows you to build experience. It is only by having a depth of experience that you let your skills flourish.
So my advice, whether you’re swimming or starting a business, is to get your face wet – it’s the best way to learn and it won’t be as bad as you imagine.