What I’ve learned about Business from Skateboarding
Throughout high school and beyond I was a keen skater. I loved jumping on my board, heading off for adventures and interacting with my mates through our shared activity.
For me skateboarding was a great way to hang with mates and an extremely enjoyable sport that kept me fit and constantly challenged. I always wanted to perfect my style and master my skills. I now look back on it and believe it helped me with my business and contributed to the person I am today.
Being in business now for over 10 years, you begin to reflect and wonder what were the crucial values that helped my business succeed. Especially when the statistics for starting a new business are not so great. I also get to work with a lot of new business owners in helping them to develop their brand and find their voice and for many people they are leaving the comfort of a 9-5 wage, they are taking risks and they are backing them selves. I see a lot of parallels in this with skateboarding.
When skateboarding you develop your skills in front of people, on display. So you need to learn self belief to get over the self perception of failing in front of others. A classic example of this is when you ride a half pipe, you are doing solo tricks in front of others so you need to get over the fear of failure and give it your all in front of the crowd!
This is the same in business and design as you are operating in the public domain. You are not creating something for your eyes only everyone can see it. You need to overcome any self doubt issues, learn to block out criticism and get the job done with confidence in your own ability.
Getting a Handle on your Fears
Whilst skating you are taking risks, doing large jumps or working with speed and obstacles. You develop acuity, balance and instinctive focus, traits you need to be aware of in business. When participating in the sport you can’t be scared you’re going to fall off and break something (even though I have), this is not enjoyable and the fear will probably disable you from achieving the skills you need to master. You need to get out their, confident and determined to give it a red hot go. Same goes for business, life will be a complete stress if you constantly worry about what could go wrong, embrace you business and get on with it confidently with strong determination.
In my business I took a big risk starting up in the first place, quitting my job and venturing out on my own. I constantly need to overcome challenges, keep my thoughts sharp and focussed and work with speed. Whilst flying around on a skateboard seems far from sitting in front of a computer I often feel like the two are very closely intertwined.
Not Giving Up
Tricks are hard and you hurt yourself learning how to do them, concrete is unforgiving. You need to persevere and learn from your mistakes, not giving up on the task at hand. Same goes for business. If every time you had a failure at work, any kind of work, and you shut down or gave up then you probably wouldn’t last long in the workforce.
I always wanted to master a new trick and persevered until I had perfected it. Same goes with my business. If I find somewhere I am lacking, like an imperfect trick I find a way around it. For example when my time management was lacking I found a new system that worked. When my office was cluttered I discovered a new style to fix the problem. I am constantly finding a new ‘trick’ (vision) in my business that could be better and I find a way to perfect it. I don’t give up on it and settle for less and this is what makes my business grow.
Skateboarding has a large graphic or artistic culture so you get to see different interpretations on ideas and illustrative styles. As a young kid I would copy and be inspired by deck and t-shirt graphics and skateboarding branding. Many hours were spent (when I wasn’t out skating) sketching designs for boards, creating logos for made up brands and drawing cartoon skulls and creatures.
Whilst I didn’t know it at the time my skills as a designer started there. Sketching board designs and cartoons in my spare time. I still love getting out the sketch pad and doodling with the kids and freaking them out with crazy ideas.
Skateboarding into my Career
While all this was not obvious to me at the time the skills and challenges that are based around skating certainly contributed to my career success. I was able to confidently do a rail slide and I am able to present and proudly show a design work and strategy to a room full of people. I was able to do a kick-flip on the street and get my fears under control and I was able to take the leap and start my own business from the ground up. I never gave up on a trick and I never give up on a project. So overall skateboarding was fun, social, graphically stimulating and it helped me grow a great business!
If you have kids that are skating I hope that this article has shed a different perspective on Skateboarding and the treasures it can hold. If you are an ex skater I’m sure upon reflection, you would have a golden nugget or two to share. I’d love to hear from you.
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