Down and Dirty Business

down and dirty businessYou might have noticed some…conspicuous absence on my part over the past week or so. Between workity work (shut up, yeah, I work), a heaping load of writer’s block, the July 4th holiday and moving from one ghetto to another, I’ve been a bit preoccupied. But today, we get back to business and yeah – it’s down and dirty.

Who told you business would be clean?

When you started your business (or in business), it’s quite possible that someone told you it would be a white glove affair. College degree in hand, perhaps. Job somewhere posh. If you started your own business, you were surrounded by singing meerkats and triple rainbows (because the double ones are LAME) because you would never, EVER report to The Man again. Let me share a little perspective I got this last weekend on business, down and dirty.

I shuffled off to Winter Park, Colorado for the July 4th holiday with friends and was introduced to downhill mountain biking. Now, it’s possible that your perspective of mountain biking was a lot like mine and it looked like this. Well, the reality of it is that downhilling looks more like this.

If you’ll notice the ever-so-attractive photo of me above, you might understand why I said something to the effect of, “I don’t know if I should be doing anything that requires full body armor.” And for the record, many of the runs in the video above are just where this redhead’s bike ended up on Sunday.

Now, down to the business of business being dirty. I can hold my own on a track bike (one gear, no brakes) and a road bike, but I hadn’t been on a mountain bike since 1999 in Japan. I’ll fess-up that I was scared shitless. Not only was this bike 30 pounds heavier than anything I’d EVER ridden, it shifted differently and…well…you don’t really sit down a whole lot. Oh – and then there are trees, roots, dropoffs and branches waiting to kill you at every turn. So at the top of our first run, I sat there with Tom, Doyle and Jeff and just said “fuck it,” rolling into what I was certain would be my death and a lesson in what this behemoth of a bike beneath me could do.

And ya know what? I did just fine. I kept the rubber side down and was cool as a cucumber until the bottom of that first run where it looked like the trail was designed by a drunk snake on blotter acid.

(insert Erika losing her cool *here* and yelling something to the effect of goddammit, expletive, fuck, another expletive)

Apparently I had been under the impression this would be easy. And yeah – when I collected my proverbial shit and apologized for being a gargantuan pussy and yelling at people who didn’t need to be yelled at, the humbling began. Business is dirty, and you can’t expect to come out of it with those prissy little white gloves you thought were proper attire for downhill mountain biking. And humility? Yeah, that’s a must-have. Humility hurts when you let it in, but the pain turns to a slow, satisfying burn when you decide to let it warm your soul and open some doors your shitty attitude has the potential to close.

And Then…You Crash

Now, not only is the business of being in business not a clean endeavor, you’re going to crash. I’m typing up this blog post with what I’m convinced are two broken fingers and some sprained whatevers in my left hand, the product of four awesome downhill runs followed by one that was not so awesome.

When I started my business, I was in triple rainbow land. Freedom, ownership and a huge middle finger pointed directly at corporate America. I hadn’t come across any of the 19 Things I Wish I’d Known When I’d Started My Business yet. Ignorance was bliss. Downhill mountain biking was much the same way – it’s super terrific until you go from 40MPH to zero in about 3 seconds flat.

Barging down one of my favorite parts of Long Trail or Green World, I came off a dropoff the fastest I’d ever gone that day and realized I’d overshot the immediate right hand banked turn following. Here’s what it sounded like:

This is fucking aweeeeeeeeeeeso –

UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

There’s Tom, walking back up the trail towards me. “You okay?” (insert picture of redhead laid over on her right side, still griping her bike)

“Just…gimme a minute,” she whispers.

Let me tell you – thank Christ-shaped popsicles for full body armor. Within a minute, I was back on the bike and headed back downhill to end one of the most epic runs I’d ever had. Yeah, my hand was straight fucked and my elbow was brewing up something bruise-flavored even with the elbow pads, but I fell. And I got back up. And I bombed the rest of the way down the hill.

WE CRASH. You’re going to fail. If you go into business and life expecting to do anything but, you’re only going to end up disappointing yourself way more often than necessary. Fail big, fail fast and fail differently, I say. If I head back to Winter Park and eat it again on that turn, maybe it’s operator error (which it certainly was the first time). Operator Error is a bitch but it’s going to happen. You’re going to get back to your condo and realize that there’s dirt in your bike chamois (for the non-bike riders out there, that’s dirt all up in yer bidness) and you can either bitch about it or wash it off and get back on with business.

You Don’t Have to Bomb Downhill on a Full Suspension Mountain Bike

But you do have to start somewhere. You have to start. Last week, I was honored to be a part of a panel at University of Colorado, Denver that spoke to non-business major students about the business of owning a business. An interesting theme came up in discussions: where do I begin? With so many options facing you, how do you know which one is the right one? The bottom line is that you don’t. But if you pick something and go with it and own the decision (ownership is key), you can then make the next decision. And that next decision can be:

  • Fuck this – I’m outa here.
  • This ROCKS – more, please!
  • I kinda like this, but I’d like it more if it were ______.

The world’s your oyster. But you can’t start making decisions until you decide to begin. If you’re a skier, you know what a black diamond stands for – an expert run. Well, this redhead took a left at Albuquerque on Sunday (on her FIRST DOWNHILL RUN EVER) and ended up on a black run. After a few murmurs of, “Ummm…I don’t think this is a green run. Are we in the right place?” it turned out I was right. But you know what? I survived. I did it. And I decided to get my ass back on the green run.

So where will you start? How will you embrace the filth that is business and will you piss and moan about the dirt in your shorts or will you wash yourself off and get back going again? There’s nothing clean about business, whether you are in it for someone else or yourself. The best business that gets done is the stuff accomplished from getting in it up to your knees and elbows.

You’ll find dirt in places you never knew could get dirty.

You’ll cry when you thought you should be laughing.

You’ll feel the surge of adrenaline when “normal” people are watching you do what you do, thinking you’re a flaming idiot.

And at the end of it all, you’ll be making decisions about what can happen next. What you can start. You’ll be making crazy KA-KAW! KAW! bird noises when you see a baby fur seal — because you CAN.

And in my case, you’ll be looking at your road bike with a bit of disdain because it doesn’t have a full suspension.

Now go. Start something. Get dirty.

21 comments
Elliot_omid
Elliot_omid

boss article. finally a professional who openly reps all us gravity riders out there!

Caroline McGraw
Caroline McGraw

Oh, my heart goes out! Hope you feel better soon, Erika...but glad you could turn your experience into a helpful post. I can relate ~ having actually learned to water-ski this weekend (and learned many, many different ways to faceplant, get water my nose and get sore in places I've never been sore before.) I'm going to be turning that grueling experience into a post...so thank you for the inspiration!

Kenous Carrington
Kenous Carrington

Really liked this article.  You should add a +1 button to your post though.  Oh yeah, and get yourself on Google + I'd love to follow you there  

Shad Boots
Shad Boots

 Unless you count my playing sports for years, I don't have such a strong story to correlate with business. (No experience quite yet.) I think that's what I'm most looking forward to: failing. People tend to look at me like I'm crazy when I say that, but it is honestly the one thing I'm excited most for... because it means I'm doing something. Plus, nobody ever learns from success. Thanks for the article, Erika. I'll have to bookmark it.

The Redhead
The Redhead

We all learn in different ways, so who am I to be stingy with my broken bones, foibles and falls? :) Always great to see you here on the blog!

The Redhead
The Redhead

This is a good point. And I could always go Stephen Hawkings with one of those voice things.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Couldn't have said it better, Doyle. Thanks for being part of the adventure this past weekend! Hells yes to more downhill...one of these days, I'll look forward to leading the way ;)

Julie Kraus
Julie Kraus

I LOVE mtn biking. And yes, it's a sport where you have to understand from the get-go that YOU ARE GOING TO CRASH. I go through phases of learning where I'm fine with the crashing and excited about the getting back up. And then there are THE OTHER DAYS. Unfortunately, right now the phase I'm hitting is one of those OTHER DAYS. So, I'm going back to basics and today's workout will be figure-8's in the parking lot.... Back to the basics is where you took me here in this post. And now, I'll be seriously taking a look at that not-for-profit womens mtn biking group that I'd like to start but was too afraid to. So, I figured out that I need to get going on the bike in order to figure out what I need to learn. You just helped me to see that it's no different in "business". Don't be afraid of what I don't know. Just get rolling and apply loose brakes to negotiate my path when necessary - cause you ain't got nothin' if you ain't got momentum. And if I crash, just make sure I didn't maim anything and get rolling again. THANKS!

MegCarpen
MegCarpen

Great story. There's a saying amongst motorcyclists that there are two types, those that have fallen off and those that will. I took my first fall on a motorcycle when I was 13, and got right back on. I didn't even think twice about (and it probably helped that it was low speed, I got thrown off, but that probably was a good thing).  I keep forgetting that the same applies to building my business, though I got a reminder recently myself. What I wanted to do just wasn't working, and after some deep thinking I realized that I had taken a wrong turn. I think I know where the right turn is now, so I've been spending the past week readjusting, and just plain backtracking a lot. And just as I was starting to feel like an ass for going the other direction, here you come with this terrific post reminding me that it's okay to screw up, just try to learn something about why I screwed up. I know why, I know where, now it's time to dust off. Thanks Erika!

Rick Copper
Rick Copper

And while you were doing that I was whitewater rafting Clear Creek. Right now it's running like a river in a creek bed and there's NO RESTING. She was a bitch, but I manned lead oar and tamed her. Congrats on surviving. Downhill Mountain Biking can be a bear!

AmyVernon
AmyVernon

My favorite line: "You’ll be making crazy KA-KAW! KAW! bird noises when you see a baby fur seal — because you CAN."

Erroin Martin
Erroin Martin

Erika, A wonderfully written article and proof of why I don't want to try downhill mountain biking.  I'd rather get concussions from playing soccer, thank you. My work with many different businesses has proven correct a number of your points:    -- You have to start or you will never know if your idea is great or not. -- Your assumptions about your business will change the minute you do. -- You are going to fail in so many different ways you will learn to laugh, cry, smile, and be angry all at the same time.  You will also learn from them as well. The key is to maintain focus on why you started the business in the first place and what your end goals are.  Those goals cannot be broad or you'll never achieve them.  It is when you lose focus and get caught up in the minutiae a crash occurs.

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