A couple of weeks ago I did something that troubles founders and entrepreneurs across the globe - I took a holiday! For the first time in nearly a year, I went away for a week to ski with my husband in France. I've been skiing since I was about 4 years old and it is one of my absolute favourite things to do. There is something very special about spending all day in the crisp, fresh, air, the beautiful scenery, sunshine and snow. I love that my biggest worry while skiing is whether I've done up my boots enough, if the weather will be clear, or how much cheese I should have for lunch. No emails, phone calls or powerpoint - just time to be alone with my thoughts and to reflect. And this time I noticed something strange.
Entrepreneurship has really changed me. I used to be a much more cautious skier. I used to be very concerned about knowing where I was going - which run I was going to take, where to turn next. I always carried a map - and I checked it all the time. When I took lessons, I would get very anxious if I wasn't following the instructor's tracks - how would I know where to go? What if I got down the run in a less than optimal way?
This time it was different. Perhaps living in the constant uncertainty of entrepreneurship has made me more comfortable with carving my own path, with not really knowing how I'm going to get to the end...because I can just figure that out along the way. Sure I kept a general idea of where I was and where I wanted to go. But if I got lost, I knew there was always a way back - maybe it's climbing up a trail, or taking a lift, or a train or a bus. But in skiing and in life, few turns will ever take me so off course that I won't be able to find my way back. I finally learned that lesson.
I also learned to embrace discomfort and face the danger. Skiing is 90% in your head - if you give into fear, you won't relax into the movement, your body will tense and your technique will fall apart. You must let go and face downhill, with the knowledge that the ground is just right there, and that if you fall, you can get yourself up and keep going.
And if you can't get up, there are always people around you who will stop and help. Sometimes they are people you know but often these are strangers, sharing the same moment and experience with you. Maybe they are more experienced than you are. Or maybe they are new to the whole thing. The important thing is we help each other along the way.
Because we've all been there - we've all hit a patch of ice, or inadvertently crossed our skis or been cut off by a snowboarder (sorry snowboarders!!). It happens. It's life. You get up, shake it off and keep going. You don't let a few unexpected obstacles stop you from having fun.
There is something powerful about overcoming a really difficult run. Looking down from the edge of your skis, taking a breath and jumping in, working hard, powering through the pain in your legs and your lungs, the cold in your hands and your face, getting to the bottom in one piece and looking up. Looking up and seeing - I've done this, I defeated something bigger than me. It wasn't easy, it wasn't always comfortable and sometimes I wasn't even sure I would make it out of there alive, but I did. And it was fun! And I am stronger for it.
Here's to conquering more mountains.