By Simon Anquetil - October 27, 2014
Tags: business, startups
If you were watching me type this right now, you would agree that I am certainly not the embodiment of the modern athlete. There were many times as a child where I spent way too long trying to pull my parents’ electronic eI spent countless hours as a child trying to pull my parents’ electronic equipment apart in order to learn about circuit boards, and eventually software, rather than being outdoors running, jumping or swimming.
But one particular day stands out in my memory – the day I decided to ride my bike, with my cousins, around my Grandma’s house.
It was a beautiful spring afternoon in Sydney. My grandparents lived in the south-western suburbs, where it was always a few degrees warmer than close to the city. There was no breeze. And the neighbourhood was bustling with children enjoying their school holidays. My cousins had decided they would have a race through the garden which surrounded the five or six villas in this particular complex. They had made it sound like a big deal, and I decided I didn’t want to miss out on a piece of the outdoor fun.
My cousins were all much older than me, so by the time I had made a mere five or ten pedal cycles on my bike, they were all almost out of sight. Already tired, yet determined, I set my goal on making sure that I wasn’t overtaken before the next lap. I fixed my gaze on the approaching corner and decided to pedal harder.
That’s when I realised that my right thong (or “flip-flop” for our overseas readers) had become caught on the bike and had caused me to lose control of the handlebars. Turning the corner was no longer an option, and my bike careered straight into the wall of the outhouse that stood alone in the villa’s garden.
I woke up to a few butterfly stitches, and my parents doting over me in my grandma’s bed. Oh, and countless jeers from my cousins. I had ruined their game, and also managed to make myself look completely uncoordinated at the same time.
As I said, I don’t epitomise agility.
To this day, whenever I rest my chin on my hand, I can feel the scar from that day. Along with being reminded that I was probably right in not pursuing my earlier dreams of being an Olympic Cyclist, the scar also reminds of the lesson I learnt that day. As simple as it seems, I never rode a bicycle in thongs again.
The inspiration for this particular blog post occurred when I was on a conference call with the management team at AppHappening last week. We were discussing the kinds of people for whom we are building apps: the first timers, the come-againers, and the experienced clients. With specific reference to the latter two, CEO Michael Giffney made a comment: “We all have scars, don’t we?”
And that got me thinking. How the scar on my chin affirms that ‘bikes shouldn’t be ridden in thongs.’ Even though I’m sure my parents had previously tried to teach me that lesson, it became very real, and on that fateful day in Spring, I was blessed with a gentle reminder.
Michael was making the point that those of us who have experienced building a business before have earned our stripes and our scars, one way or another. No matter how many stories you read, or lectures you attend, nothing quite improves you like learning the lesson for yourself.
It’s like the first time you get to wages week, and realise that the promised client payment you were counting on didn’t actually arrive.
Or the first time you agree to break your procedures for a client, and they let you down.
Or the first time you need to pay a lawyer’s bill. For anything!
These same lessons apply to those attempting software and app projects. Sometimes it’s good to try your hand at something small, so that you can make the mistakes and earn your scars in a way that will do no more damage than the barely visible scar on my chin.
And with repetition comes improvement. And with time comes experience. And in no time, you’ve learnt from your own actions how to work your way through the process in the smoothest way possible.
We all have scars, don’t we? Try to earn yours in the presence of trusted advisors, only biting off what you can chew, and know that next time will definitely be easier because you’ll have learnt something in the process.