I recently started practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), a martial art that focuses on grappling and especially ground fighting. I am currently at the very start of a very steep learning curve. Like any martial art, Jiu-Jitsu teaches you much more than just a technique to beat your opponent, it teaches you discipline, endurance, strength, strategy, persistence, and humility.
As I start AptIQ, a new project with a colleague from the Founders of the Future, I realize how all of those skills are extremely valuable to help me achieve the goals I set for myself this year.
My curiosity took me down a rabbit hole finding entrepreneurs that practice BJJ, and it is surprising to see the number of executives that have belts. Joris Merks-Benjaminsen, Head of Transformation at Google, Lloyd (Budd) Dewolf, Director of Quality & Care at Piston Cloud Computing, Pablo Fuentes, CEO and Co-Founder of Proven.com , Jeremiah Grossman, Founder and CTO, WhiteHat Security and Andrew Filed, CEO of Wrike are just some of the names that popped in my research.
In June I sat down to evaluate my goals and make new goals for the second half of the year. Besides taking the time to step away from the hamster wheel and look at things more strategically, it helps to keep me motivated to see how far I have come. When I put goals around AptIQ, I had a moment of deep honesty with myself. I said that if I am serious about starting this project there are many things I will have to get comfortable with, such as failure, stress and feeling out of my depth.
During last night’s class, I realized the relationship of BJJ and those feelings.
In Jiu-Jitsu you fail all the time. As you enter the tatami you know you will be beaten over and over again, and to know that teaches you persistence and courage. According to Forbes, 90% of start-ups will fail in their first year in business. You can bet that the most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who fell 9 times and kept getting back up. In the tatami, when I fail, I literally get thrown on the ground and choked to submission. When I fail as an entrepreneur, it’s awful. But not as awful as being choked. Before I started Jiu Jitsu I was embarrassed by failing. Now I realize that it is part of my path to success.
I get anxious and stressed often in my current role, and I know it will happen in AptIQ too. When I come into a class and get to train some Rear Chokes while someone is fighting back trying to take me down, works as brilliantly against stress. Startups are hard, and things will go wrong more often than not. Finding healthy ways to relieve stress is crucial to being able to function.
Feeling out of my depth is a constant for me in the technology world. Once you eliminate the fear of not knowing enough and accept to fail and to feel out of your depth, you can make space for that steep learning curve. In BJJ you come prepared to fight partners that have been in the game for longer than you, and that know moves that you are yet to discover. Building start-up businesses in emerging industries is equally challenging. You have an entire industry with years of experience and very skilled teams, and you need to be ready to be thrown on the ground and be defeated by their speed, skill, and know-how. But while you do that, keep your eyes and ears peeled, because you are climbing that learning curve every day.
So my advice is, find the martial art works best for you, and go join a class. You might just find that it could make you a better entrepreneur.