Gymnastics is the only Olympic sport I’ll watch – partly because watching sport bores me, but mainly because I wanted to be a gymnast as a child. Nadia Comaneci was an idol of mine when she somersaulted her way to scoring the first perfect 10s at the Montreal Olympics in 1976.
Now, seeing some gymnastics in the recent Rio games made me think how much running a solo business is like those acrobatic arts.
Gymnastics is a mostly solitary sport – not much team playing going on. And so it goes for solopreneurs. Sure, you can call on other soloists for support and advice, but when you’re out in that arena on your own, it’s up to you to give a performance worthy of a gold medal.
But how do you get to that level?
Just like in gymnastics, you first learn the skills from mentors, coaches and peers. You plan every move in your business and have to stay focused to succeed. You take plenty of leaps of faith and yes, many times you’ll bend over backwards for clients. You’ll definitely stumble and fall, but you get back up, dust yourself off and get back in the arena. That’s how you learn what to do – and what not to do. That’s how you grow.
So how can you channel your inner gymnast when running your solo business?
Flying through the air from one success to the next, you’re soaring: clients love you, and you’re scoring perfect 10s with every move you make. Sometimes though, you miscalculate your timing and fall flat on your face – cash flow and job enquiries dry up, you make some misjudgments, don’t plan well or (shudder!) a client’s not happy, despite you doing your best. It happens to all of us. Go easy on yourself, shrug it off and hop back up on those bars.
The balance beam
Do you walk the fine line of balance in business? I know I do. Running a solo business is a balancing act. Not just the work-life stuff, but how much time and energy you devote to things like your marketing, admin, finances and of course, the actual paying work. How much do you do yourself and how much do you outsource? Whenever you falter, do as a gymnast on the beam would do. Stop. Consider your next move. And experiment with different approaches, timing and techniques to find the right balance.
Now this is my favourite men’s gymnastics routine – those rippling arm muscles the only thing supporting the gymnast as he somersaults or holds a pose in mid-air. There’s a fragility and vulnerability too especially when they let go on the dismount – will they land in the right way? Running a small business is a lot like that – sometimes you’re the only support you have, and drawing on that takes a helluva lot of strength. Letting go of stuff you’re finished with is risky – whether it’s work you hate, bad clients or tired old routines. But if you don’t let go of some stuff, you won’t have room to explore new and better routines. Think like a gymnast on the rings – take that leap, let go and trust you’ll land safely, even if it ain’t perfectly.
This is when you’re in flow; every move you make is graceful, measured and smooth. But often, small distractions can rattle you, or life gets in the way, making you lose your rhythm – and then you stuff up or put in a poor performance. Yup. Been there. Don’t cower in the corner, channel a rhythmic gymnast and keep smiling (heavy make-up optional), get some new choreography and keep moving!
And just like a gymnast salutes the judges at the end of their routine, regardless of how they performed, go on and do your own salute, arms outstretched and beaming triumphantly no matter what day, week or month you’ve had. It’s worth extra points, you know!
How do you channel your inner gymnast in your solo business?