We are getting to that point in the semester where students (and sometimes instructors…) are losing a little steam…and as a result losing the ability to creatively solve problems or perform work. They’ve been pushing hard for ten weeks straight and now the road blocks or dead ends are creating a much stronger impact mentally and emotionally than they did in the beginning.
This is where some give up; but even more important, this is where some get stronger.
The past two weeks in Semester to Launch have demonstrated the proverbial “roller coaster ride” of entrepreneurship in an overwhelming way. Class two weeks ago brought a day of incredible victory:
· Speak Toomey, a social media service company earned 2 new clients while performing customer discovery and was faced with the opportunity to create a strategic partnership or joint venture.
· Repair Report, an online tool to get multiple quotes for auto repairs, gained its first tow truck company partnership.
· All Societies United, a clothing company aimed at increasing awareness and action with non-profits FINALLY nailed its value proposition!
· MOCA Spot, an off-campus housing company for community colleges, got its first lease signed!
· Iced for Life, a specialty cake company, secured a retail partner to sell cakes from its pastry counter.
· Little Black Dress, a clothing design and manufacturing company, secured a meeting with an idol…a very motivational milestone.
There were other small victories as well; safe to say I couldn’t have been more proud and I was thrilled for how much progress had materialized in eight short weeks. Customer Development was working! I was on cloud 9…they were on cloud 9…it was magical.
Until it wasn’t.
I had my greatest number of absent students during class last week. It was one short week from the Day of Victory and they had dropped like flies. One needed a mental break, three were late with looks of sheer exhaustion on their faces, and two more were just MIA.
The lack of energy and excitement in the room could almost be felt. The weather had started to cool down and the demands on the students to get outstanding work completed for other classes or put in a few more hours at work before the holidays had grown. Not to mention that the process of customer development was getting more challenging…they needed more substantial validation to make it to the next level. And getting to these points of validation requires energy and truly commands creativity.
Steve Blank’s guidance and handbook have provided a lot of helpful information for getting through some of the struggles that students in these classes face. Exhaustion is not necessarily one of them. It happens to all of us in various facets of our lives…we push and push until there is nothing left to propel us forward. Putting in those extra hours and dedicating our lives to our startup is what separates from those who “just hold day jobs,” but at some point at this speed, a crash is inevitable.
So how do we pull from within and make it past the point of no return to the place where we do actually get stronger…get better…and make it back to that euphoric entrepreneurial ecstasy once again?
Honestly? I think you go for a walk.
I think you give your body and your mind what each needs.
We are no good to our business, or to anyone else’s, if we are sick and exhausted.
If we are angry at our customers or disenchanted with the process.
If we are over it.
If we give up.
While it is harder than it sounds to stop working (especially when you feel like your to-do list will never be eliminated) I personally find that when there is a proven scientific reason behind something, I can buy into it much easier. As such, there are multiple articles and interviews that support the biological impact of exercise such as walking on a person’s creativity and on the brain overall. I have linked a few at the end of this post for you to explore for yourself. And there are tons more.
In general, walking helps your mind wander, and as your mind wanders it can connect seemingly unconnected things (things you won’t allow it to connect when you’re thinking so darn hard!), and lead to “ah-ha” or innovation moments (check out Where Good Ideas Come From video or book). These can be big “ah-has” or teeny tiny “ah-has” that you need to merely make it past that task staring you in the face.
Some entrepreneurs think that if they are awake, they should be working. I like to think of exercise as a part of the entire process. More blood and oxygen to the brain, more innovation, more sanity. Simple enough.
Recently I’ve been making sure to get a good hike in once a week (ASU’s A Mountain at sunset, above and Albuquerque’s La Luz trail, below) and I try to get a 2 mile walk in on a (somewhat) daily basis. I can’t speak for you…but for me, it works.