September 10, 2014

Horses, Entrepreneurship, And Getting Comfortable With Imperfection

Pinterest_mistakeAbout three years ago I took up horseback riding, something I did off and on as child but hadn’t done seriously in – oh – 20-or-so years.  Why are we talking about horseback riding on a food business site?  Because, as I’m learning, there’s a lot about working with horses that applies to the business world as well.

After several years of riding ever two weeks when I could get to a glorious stable near my family cabin in the mountains, in the past few months I was finally able to find a stable near me in Seattle and am now riding twice a week (in addition to when I get to ride at that mountain stable as well).   During those weekly rides, I have one private lesson where I’m instructed on the many many many things I need to work on and one is a practice ride.

If you don’t ride horses a lot it’s easy to think that all you have to do is sit on the horse and let the horse do all the work.   Turns out that horseback riding is a series of never-ending techniques and ques – much of it so subtle that it’s not even visible to most people – as that is how you and horse communicate and work together.

So how does this relate to food business?  The other day my instructor yelled at me “You need to be willing to make mistakes!  You’re so worried about doing everything perfectly that you’re not willing to make any mistakes!”

Now, in all fairness, we were trotting around the arena without stirrups and I was fighting a very real fear of falling* so yes, I was a bit afraid of making a mistake.  But she had also drilled down into something that’s very true about me and, I find, very true about many of us Type-A entrepreneurs.  We are afraid to make mistakes.  We want to do everything so perfectly that we rarely take chances that may lead to mistakes.

Which is ironic, isn’t it.  First of all, we’ve already taken the biggest chance of all and have become (or are seriously considering becoming) entrepreneurs.  Secondly though, it’s usually those mistakes that yield the greatest results.  Either those mistakes work out (I’m convinced that much of how our cavemen ancestors determined what was edible and what wasn’t was through Russian-roulette style ‘Here, try this and we’ll see if you live’ meals) or they don’t.  And when those mistakes don’t work out we learn what not to do and move forward.

I’ve written before about how I – and many of you said you react similarly – beat myself up when I make a mistake but I can’t let that instill in me a fear of making mistakes.  You make mistakes when you push your boundaries.  You have to be willing to step outside your comfort zone, be it in life, in your business, or on a horse, if you want to improve and become even better.  And when you step outside that comfort zone you have to do so knowing that making mistakes come with the territory and that’s how we learn and grow.

 *Regarding falling off a horse, while I haven’t yet done it, from my bike riding days I know that there’s the philosophy that every bike rider has either fallen off their bike or is waiting to fall – it’s something that happens to everyone – and I assume the same holds true for horseback riding.  And the old adage once again holds true – when you make a mistake in business or fall off your horse then you get up and get back on it!  

PS – click on the thumbnail picture up top for the full quote.   

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2 comments on “Horses, Entrepreneurship, And Getting Comfortable With Imperfection

  • Susie Hindle Kher on said:

    This is so true. The Mast brothers, who are amazing chocolatiers, have written a book and in it they share their guidelines for success. One of them resonates with what you are saying:

    “Breathe. The urge to complicate is an urge to avoid the obvious. Stop finagling and bring clarity to your work and peace to your spirit.”