I hiked Angel’s Landing this past weekend. It was one of the most magnificent places I’ve experienced. The trail up included lots of switchbacks and narrow uphill scrambles with drop offs that are thousands of feet to the ground. It was intense, precarious, and a mental challenge I didn’t expect. In climbing the 1500 ft of elevation on this strenuous hike, I witnessed behaviors amongst complete strangers that mirror the needs of entrepreneurs in their journey of founding and building a startup.
Make thoughtful, deliberate decisions to build relationships that aid in the ascent
The very first days of building your startup are really scary and exciting. You are embarking on an unknown path that, while traversed by many before, can only be experienced by you. You are not alone on the ascent, there are many others who are also on the same journey. While your experiences may be different, some may huff and puff a little more up the steep bits, you are sharing a similar challenge. On the trail, I made a thoughtful and deliberate choice to engage those around me that were just ahead and just behind. This allowed us to support each other through the more challenging aspects of the hike and have someone to snap our photos at the top.
As a founder, it’s essential to build a community of founders around you that are both a bit ahead and a bit behind. These relationships allow you to seek guidance, support, or a place to vent when everything goes wrong. These relationships become central to your success because you can truly trust and rely on each other. Your founder community is the foundation of your collective success.
The path will be narrow and precarious. Know what you need and how to ask for it.
As the wide path began to narrow and the sand became jagged rocks, I definitely questioned my ability to continue up the ascent. I took time to stop and assess where I was at both physically and mentally. I was anxious. Did I have what it took to continue? I started asking people who stopped with me what they were thinking and feeling. I received encouragement, support, and empathy from the strangers around me.
This rollercoaster of emotion and execution is something that entrepreneurs face every single day. You are going to lose customers, have your servers crash, and disappoint a lot of people in your life, including your friends and family, over and over again. Your community of founders understands what this is like because they are experiencing it too. As a founder it’s critical to stop and assess how you are feeling mentally, physically and emotionally. Lean in to the community of founders to listen, provide advice, or commensurate. These common bonds provide us the perspective, but we won’t benefit if we don’t ask.
Self-awareness, vulnerability, and empathy are your strengths
I watched experienced hikers forge the narrow passes to the peak without blinking at the thousand foot drop off below. This was not me. I was anxious and unsure of my ability to continue once the rocky path became only a few feet wide with chains to support the ascent. I knew my limits, I wasn’t afraid to admit them, and I stopped 300 ft short of the peak. I knew that pushing myself beyond that was detrimental to the experience, so I stopped and enjoyed the view.
Know your limits and know when pushing past them won’t help you. Sometimes grinding it out can result in burnout or worse. If you’re reaching your limits, don’t be afraid to tap into your vulnerability and discuss with your founder community. Talk about how you are feeling and the challenges you are facing. The best option, sometimes, is to stop and that’s okay. Be empathetic with yourself and leverage the community around you to validate your position. In turn, by being vulnerable, you provide a safe space for others to do the same.
While the ascent as a founder is filled with trials and tribulations, a strong community of people on the same path will help you achieve your greatest potential. While it is a path many have traversed before, your journey is unique and deserves support. You are not alone because there are thousands of people hiking to Angel’s Landing with you. Don’t be afraid to engage your peers because they become your biggest supporters.
What experiences have you had in your personal life that relate to your journey as an entrepreneur? Jump into the comments below and let us know what you learned through them.