Thursday, April 14, 2011

Leadership Lessons from Mountain Bike Racing

Although I never quit my day job to race full-time, I have ridden my mountain bike regularly for over 25 years.  I raced competitively for more than 10 years in the amateur circuit and now ride on a team in endurance races.  I am particularly drawn to the combination of hard physical effort and high-speed adrenalin involved in off-road mountain bike riding and racing. 

My day job is an entrepreneur in a technology startup. 15 years ago, I founded ZTEC Instruments. At the time I did not have a business strategy or plan, nor any true understanding of what I was getting into. Along the way I have had many excellent mentors and have learned many valuable lessons. Fortunately, ZTEC has grown into a great organization of people doing challenging and rewarding work. 

I believe that there are two personality traits suited to both mountain bike racing and entrepreneurship: (1) being able to make things happen through sheer will and determination, and (2) being comfortable with a high level of risk and uncertainty. Similar to a startup where the challenges are daunting, riding uphill near your physical limit requires the attitude of doing whatever it takes to succeed. Similar to a startup where you are building a company from nothing, riding downhill at high speed over obstacles requires unlimited and sometimes unwarranted self-confidence.

Many of my business and leadership practices are drawn from the lessons learned during years of mountain bike racing. The four most important lessons are (these are described in detail in the linked posts):

1)      Strategy matters

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