When you’re starting a business, it’s easy to fully give yourself over to your work and lose sight of anything else. When we narrow our vision in this way our work suffers. When we lose perspective and forget about other aspects of life it not only goes against every work-life balance article you’ll read, but it’s also bad for business.
Jane Chen, Co- Founder of Embrace Infant Warmers, discovered that opening herself up to nature through surfing actually helped her business strategy as well as her well-being.
Chen started her nonprofit based on her revolutionary incubator technology for premature infants, and although that sounds like an easy sell, she had trouble getting it off the ground. Going through the ups and downs of starting a business can be a tricky thing to navigate, but in a recent interview with SMORE Magazine Chen says she found solace and guidance in these five lessons she learned from her time in the ocean.
Let go and go with the flow
When Chen is in the water she knows the only constant is change… sound familiar? We can’t control the waves, just like we can’t control the market or the economy. Being able to shift with the swell and adapt to the changing elements of the ocean allows for growth and survival.
As most entrepreneurs know, being the little guy means you’re often at the mercy of the big guys, whether that’s an angel investor or a bigger company trying to run you off the map. You can’t plan around an ever-changing world, so you need to be able to adapt within your company to stay afloat.
When the waves knock you down, try again
For Chen’s startup, the big wipeout came when funding was pulled right before their launch. It was a bad wipeout too… sand in every crevasse kind of wipeout. Chen admits there was a moment where she thought that was the end of her dream, but she didn’t give up. Even when it felt like the end, she decided to get back on her board and she found a new investor to help her carry out her dream.
Don’t be afraid to catch bigger waves
While this lesson is clearly about not surrendering to fear and using it as a drive rather than hinderance, what’s often left out is the thrill you get from charging the bigger waves.
It’s the same as any business venture—self-doubt will always tell you it’s better if you sit this one out. But you have to allow yourself to be vulnerable to reach the bigger and better goals. And the thrill of “holy s*** I just did that” will always follow! Even if you wipeout.
Accept what cannot be changed
When you’re in the ocean you can’t control your surrounding environment. Put your energy towards something constructive instead of fighting what you can’t control. This is something most entrepreneurs have a hard time with. After building a company exactly how you want it, it’s hard to accept the things you cannot change. But if you are able to move accordingly within the company, you will save time, money, and manpower.
Always have fun
Chen says, “the best surfer is the one who is having the most fun.” Learning to surf is full of reminders not to take yourself too seriously. It’s easy to lose perspective in life, but taking a step back and enjoying the outdoors or something you love is an easy way to add a little fun back into the equation.
Just like being a self-employed entrepreneur, we do it because it’s fun and it makes us happy. Next time you want to kill yourself after pulling all-nighters because there’s just not enough time in a day, remind yourself you started your own company because you wanted to be in charge of your own well-being and happiness.
Don’t take yourself too seriously, there’s always tomorrow.
Jessica Welch received a Bachelor’s degree in English, Creative Writing with a minor in Anthropology from California Polytechnic State University. After graduating she spent a year teaching at a low- income high school in Oahu, HI.
Jessica is passionate about helping others and sees her work with BigSpeak as a great way to help spread knowledge. Connect with @bigspeak on Twitter.
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