Business Lessons from the Bicycle (Seth’s and Mine)

Two weeks ago I gave a speech titled Three Lessons I Learned from Riding a Bicycle. Today, Seth Godin has a post called Winning on the Uphills, also about lessons learned from riding a bicycle. The gist of Seth's post is that the uphill sections are where you make the most gains, on the bike or in business. I like the metaphor, but I take it a little bit further (and I disagree with one point, but that's for later).

Climbing hills is a grueling way to spend your time. Your heart rate shoots straight up to your max, your body starts generate lactic acid, and all the systems of the body begin to inform you that what your doing must stop. What's worse is the voice in your head. The voice tells you that it is too hard. It tells you that it isn't worth it. It tells you that you should quit. If the hill is steep enough, and if you pedal hard enough, your heart, your legs, your lungs, and your bladder will tell you the same things.

Over time, you learn to enjoy the pain, to settle into it. You learn to love the struggle against yourself and against the gravity that pushes against you, trying to force you back down the hill. You either learn to turn the voice off, or you teach it to say something else. I have learned to shut the voice off completely, but I have friends whose voice talks trash to the rest of our group (they try to teach your voice to tell you to quit). 

Whatever happens, you have to keep turning over the pedals. Even if you are crawling. You can get to the top and conquer the climb, but to do so you must keep pedaling. 

The uphill struggle is where all of the personal gains are made; it is what makes you physically stronger, and mentally tougher. The same is true in business, especially in sales.

Where I disagree with Seth is on the downhills. They are fast, they are crazy, and they can be dangerous. But you still have to keep turning the pedals fast. The science is that while you are climbing, the legs fill with lactic acid. To get the lactic acid out, you have to pedal so the blood keeps being moved back through the heart so the lactic acid can be removed. Coasting doesn't allow the acid to be removed, and the results is tired and heavy legs, and poor performance.

For me, the business and sales metaphor is this: Right now we are deep in a recession. All of us in sales are working incredibly hard turning the pedals to climb what is, for many of us, a mountain. We will be breathless and tired at the top, but we have to keep pedaling down the other side to remove the after effects of our effort, to restore a state of normalcy. If you keep pedaling, the downhills allow you to make up the time you lost on the climbs.

Coasting downhill makes you weaker (and we will eventually get to the top of this hard climb). Sometimes, if you can get enough speed up on the downhills, the next hill starts off a little easier.

Filed under: Sales 3.0

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