Why Being an Entrepreneur is Much Like Paddling

“You’ve been dealt a lot of waves on your path,” a friend commented recently while talking with me about my first years as an entrepreneur. Without hesitation I replied, “Good thing I’m an amazing paddler!”

(c) Arianna Merritt

(c) Arianna Merritt

Water is an essential part of my life and a great teacher to me. Water has given me some really valuable lessons, about being both in it and on it. After reflecting on my friend’s insight, I thought about the hard work I had put towards learning to paddle and how these lessons apply to other areas of my life. They might apply to yours as well.

Like going out for a paddle, entrepreneurship is a journey. You have to get in the water and start moving.  You start out as novice and learn as you go.  The process takes practice. While acquiring knowledge through observation is helpful, the real learning occurs when you get in the water and experience it firsthand.

As a lifelong paddler and swimmer, I know that for many the hardest part can be actually getting into the water and starting your journey. What can help you achieve this is an unwavering belief in yourself (i.e., truly believing that you are an amazing paddler!).

You are the foundation of your business and in charge of where your boat will go. Your thoughts control your actions. If you don’t believe in yourself and your powerful mission – who will? This self-confidence gets you in the water, gets you paddling, and keeps you going despite waves.

Yes, there will be waves: especially in the beginning – where people can doubt your future and criticize what you do.  Or like many of us, the negative self-talk starts due to self-doubt, fear, comparison to others, and insecurities. That is why you need a strong core.

(c) Arianna Merritt

(c) Arianna Merritt

What you come to realize in those instances: you control the waves by controlling your thoughts. You need to practice the positive self-talk on a daily basis.

You also need people who will help re-ignite your inner light when it becomes dimmed a bit.  Let’s face it, there are those times when you can’t do it all on your own. We are social beings and a kind word or hug from another makes all the difference!

When I started as an entrepreneur, I masked the process by covering up the waves I had encountered and not sharing them with others. I thought that admitting that there were certain things I didn’t know would impact my reputation in a negative way. As a result, I got stuck on my path. What propelled me forward was opening up and voicing the waves to others who really understood what I was going through.  

Surrounding yourself on your journey with an authentic and supportive network of passionate entrepreneurs who understand the process will buoy you up through the ebbs and flows of the tides.  These people will give you honest advice and keep you propelled forward, instead of pushing you back or dulling your commitment to your journey.

That is why I believe being an entrepreneur is much like paddling: they are both about finding your way.  There will be waves during your trek; your boat will get rocked and your strength will be tested. But anchored with a strong belief in yourself and a supportive caring community nurturing you along the way, you will glide through the unsettled waters with ease!  So keep your eye focused on your point on the shore – it’ll keep you steady while you go!!!!

With every stroke on your journey, wavy or not, tell yourself: “I’m an amazing paddler!” Thank you, friend, for reminding me of this beautiful lesson!  Your support has helped me, and others, along our way.