It seems that since this summer, time normally spent throwing words at my Blog has quickly become time spent throwing Frisbees on an ultimate field. So it seems only appropriate that the theme for this blog should focus on ultimate Frisbee and startups.
Without further ado … The similar keys to success in Ultimate Frisbee and in a startup.
1. Learn nothing from success, but everything from failure
Once every couple weeks, one of my favorite quotes pops on one of the tech startup blogs I read. Most recently Don Dodge used this quote about “success being a terrible teacher.”
In 2005, our mens ultimate Frisbee team (EMU) went into Canadian Nationals as the number 3 seed in the country. The tournament went down as one of the most disappointing for EMU, after we finished the weekend in 11th spot. Looking back at this classic collapse, I often attribute much of it to success we had earlier in the season. We had beaten Calgary in Alberta regionals handily, and dominated Flowerbowl in Vancouver earlier in the year. However, these successes taught us nothing. We won Alberta regionals on a cold, soggy, rainy day where we played the game with the same 7 players. Similarly, Flowerbowl was a victory against a weaker division. The success of these tournaments was misleading. Not only did we fall under the false belief that we could succeed with a smaller roster, but it instilled a false sense of entitlement in our players. Instead of being hungry, and eager to improve, we became complacent and content. We glossed over the areas that we could have improved on, and glorified all of our success.
2. Effort less than 100% results in quick failure.
I wish I was … but sadly, I wasn’t blessed with the god given speed, agility, or fitness that many athletes are born with. Nor was I born with Stephen Hawking’s IQ. Any success I’ve had, has pretty much been achieved through a lot of hard work. Unfortunately, in the case of both career and ultimate Frisbee, not giving 100% has resulted in some pretty terrible performances. The 2006 and 2007 ultimate seasons are good examples of this. Infrequent training, poor diet, and not practicing resulted in my worst 2 ultimate Frisbee seasons ever. In the same way I feel completely behind after being away from the office for only a couple days; the second I take a step back from the ultimate field I feel completely behind. I’m unconditioned, can’t keep up the pace, am confused on the field, and not ready to compete at a high level. There’s little room for taking a break in a startup, or on the ultimate field. The game just moves too quick, you’ll be left too far behind, it’ll be tough to get back.
3. But there is always a chance to bounce back
Another of my favorite sayings … “if you haven’t failed, you’re not trying hard enough.” The game of Ultimate Frisbee, perhaps more than any other, allows you opportunity to atone your error quickly. Drop the Frisbee? Work extra hard and get it back with a layout defense. Throw the Frisbee away? Block your opponent next pass. Mistakes, both in ultimate, and in start ups are crippling, but they happen. Of course, the goal is to minimize your mistake, but more important than that, is your ability to realize the mistake, adjust, and fix the problem quickly.