Outside looking only.
Over the course of an Ironman day the biggest challenges are often not the physical ones. Most athletes have logged mile upon mile preparing their bodies for the continuous effort it takes to move their body over the distance of 140.6 miles. Typically the biggest challenges Ironman athletes face are the mental challenges. This is why coaches are often heard saying "Limit your highs and lows. Don't get carried away on the highs and don't let the lows get too low.", as they know this can wreck a well trained athletes day.
This advice is something evenly applied to the journey of launching a business where the ebbs and flows can swing drastically. One day the business shows signs of being on track for the founders vision and everything is rainbows, unicorns and dreams. Then, a day or even hours later, the dream is filled with visions of Freddie Krueger and despair falls on the founder like a ton of bricks. Limiting the highs and lows are perhaps the biggest challenge.
After several months of working with our newly found factory the day for our first samples what approaching. Discussions about and revisions of patterns, fabric selection and stitching had all been covered in countless meetings. Fabrics had arrived from France and Italy. Anticipation was high. The samples were going to be awesome. The world was going to be changed by our fantastic new product. I could barely contain myself on the drive out to the facility.
Once there it was a unique moment, seeing something which had come from my vision. Holding it in my hands, trying it on and seeing it a reality were energizing. I left the factory and made the drive home while calling everyone in my inner circle to tell them all about it.
Upon arriving back to my home office I began to go over the samples closely with my wife and some friends. The closer we looked the less we liked it. At first it was like having a slow leak on a bicycle tire. A stitch here. A cut line there. It kept adding up and adding up until all of a sudden the energy was completely gone. I was in complete meltdown. There was no way we could sell something like this. My expectation is top quality, best in class, fabrics and sewing. This was far from it. I sulked off, too drained to even get in an easy jog that day.
For several hours my mind was a battlefield of two sides. "This is crazy, you are a fool for trying this." vs "You got this. You know what you want. You just have to find the solution." Back and forth from high to low. Then it came to me. I remembered back to the countless times I would be sitting in a factory in Taiwan, China or Thailand. I would be examining prototypes of bicycle tires, bicycle pumps, bike computers or carbon bike frames while the engineer sat across from me and said repeatedly in broken English "for outside looking only ".
The next day when I returned to the factory with a mind sober and free from the high of having received the first samples. Through the discussion with the owner I realized these too were samples just for "outside looking only". The seams were rough and the garment was unfinished because the goal was to just see if the pattern and design were correct. The fine tuning of all the little bits and bobs which combine to make our products world class would all come later.
In an Ironman if you don't manage the highs and lows you might find yourself sitting on the side of the road having quit the race. Thankfully, Ironman and endurance sports have taught me to manage the highs and lows, as i don't plan to find myself sitting on the side of the road having quit this journey.
This was taken from a journal entry written on January 9th 2018.