I’m learning to ride a unicycle. And it’s not easy.
Riding a unicycle is incredibly simple: you sit on a seat attached to a single wheel and you pedal. The objective is simple: keep pedaling you move forward. Stop pedaling you fall.
I understood the concept so I tried it.
Not so easy.
My youngest daughter and I have a friendly bet to see who will be the first to ride around the block where we live. We started last summer with some pretty wobbly attempts pushing off from a basketball court fence and falling more than riding.
Cirque du Soleil wasn’t calling.
So I turned to YouTube videos to learn more. All the videos on unicycle basics go through the same steps: how to start, why you need to keep trying, how to balance, how to dismount, etc. Watch any one of them and you would think that after an hour, two tops, you would have it mastered. Not so.
BUSINESS IS NOT AS EASY AS IT LOOKS
It’s like business: looks pretty easy in the pages of Inc., Success, and Fast Company. And then you try it on your own. Not so easy. Right?
You have knowledge that other people will value. All you need to do is share that information with them and they will pay you money. What could be simpler?
So you create a web site, set your prices, start blogging, and wait for the phone to ring.
WHAT THE UNICYCLE TAUGHT ME ABOUT BUSINESS
There are three things you need to ride a unicycle: skill, faith, and lots of repetition.
Same with business.
Skill: in business you are rewarded more for being better. The better a coach or writer you are, the more you will be rewarded. The same applies to your seminars, retreats, speaking, whatever. Gaining more skill should be a cornerstone of your growth plans.
Faith: nobody will hold your hand, or call you every morning to reassure you that everything will work out. You have to believe in yourself. You have to have faith, even when the phone isn’t ringing. It’s the double-edged sword of entrepreneurship: you get freedom and you have to be your own boss.
Repetition: success in business comes with a lot of routine. Update your day planner, write a blog, and respond to emails. It’s not always sexy, but it is a part of what it takes to keep the wheels turning (oooh, did you catch that metaphor?)
And there is one more thing you need to successfully ride a unicycle and be successful in business: you need to look up.
YOU NEED TO LOOK UP
The first move on the unicycle is a bit scary. As a guy in his 50’s, rocking forward with one foot on the pedal and pushing down with the opposite all at the same time is a bit freaky. I’m sure if I was 14 and grew up riding a skateboard it would be no big deal. When I try, eight out of ten times it goes badly.
And then it works. A small wobble, some redirections, and I’m off. Glorious!
This is when I discovered the fourth secret to riding a unicycle (that nobody seems to mention in the ride-like-me YouTube videos). You have to look up.
As soon as you have any kind of wobbly, OMG, I’m-doing-it success you have to look up. Set your sights down the road and let your body take over. Looking down throws your weight off, and your reaction time is too slow (as one friend put it while paddle boarding with me this summer: “the body is faster than the eyes”).
SAME IN BUSINESS
Our success in business, long-term, comes from “looking up”, having a vision, working toward goals for the week, and not being mired in the small stuff.
Looking up is also about asking big questions, like: Who do I want to serve? And why? What problems am I solving? What is my legacy going to be?
Sure, we need to “look down” (like when I start pedaling the unicycle) from time to time. In business, that’s when we deal with the routine, but necessary, phone bill, reordering books, and invoicing. But it’s our time looking up that redirects us to what is really important, informs our day-to-day decisions, and gets the best results.
I can now ride the full distance around our block with only one fall. It’s not pretty (lots of flailing arms and scary moments) but I can do it. Every time I get in trouble I remind myself to look up.
We even take the unicycle on trips (it’s a great distraction while stuck in ferry line ups). And I’m proud to say that one morning, on a recent camping trip, a five-year old I cycled past actually asked if I was in a circus.
She didn’t say Cirque du Soleil, but it was good enough for me.
When I start to go too fast, looking up checks my speed. When I’ve wandered off the road onto the soft shoulder or I’m going over cracks on the pavement (yes, you feel everything), looking up saves me.
I’m determined to do the full loop before summer is out. But it’s only going to happen because I’m looking up.
What about you? Are you looking up in your business?