Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Climbing with Xceleration: It's about the Journey
Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Climbing with Xceleration: It's about the Journey

Hannah and Sebastian
From the above photo of Hannah and Sebastian, you may wonder what's rock climbing got anything to do with doing a startup?

If you're familiar with rock climbing, you'll note that Hannah is tied into the belay system as the climber and Sebastian is the belayer.

According the Merrim-Webster Dictionary the definition of BELAY:

  1. : the securing of a person or a safety rope to an anchor point (as during mountain climbing); also : a method of so securing a person or rope. 
  2. : something (as a projection of rock) to which a person or rope is anchored.

Using an analogy, Sebastian as the belayer acts to secure the climber or the anchor point. In a similar manner, Xceleration Labs acts as that belayer or anchor point for our startup teams.

What is Xceleration Labs? 
Sure, in the beginning, Xceleration was formed with the basic idea that we would "accelerate" a startup journey, potentially in some sort of laboratory setting. Like we'd be cooking up some sort of mad science experiment. Show you a couple of shortcuts. Help you move faster toward your success. 

Whereas this may be true with many accelerators, incubators and such, I've found that "accelerating" isn't necessarily what it's about. At least in our experience, it's not the short term project or engagement where Xceleration is the most impactful. Typically, it's hard to affect lasting impact with less than six months of time. Our consulting gets really hands on and is typically engaged on a weekly or nearly daily basis with any given startup team for a long period of time. 
(Certainly not for everyone)

So if it's not "Accelerate" then what do you do?

Chloe making her climb! Still secured by belayer (see rope connected to her harness)
I was once asked this question by your stereotypical Silicon Valley self proclaimed serial entrepreneur aggressive Type A personality. The conversation went something like the following:

"What do you do?"
"I'm a business consultant. I help startup teams," I replied.
"How do you make money doing that?!" smirked the Silicon Valley startup guy.

He didn't ask with the intent of wanting to know how I truly make money doing so (curious - check out our How we are compensated? tab), but rather he meant, "that's dumb."

Since we've already concluded it's not "accelerating" that we're about, then what do we do? To go back to the climbing analogy, like the belayer for the climber, we provide beta. 

According to Wikipedia, "Beta" is defined as:
  • Beta is climbing jargon that designates information about a climb. In rock climbing this may include information about a climb's difficulty, crux, style, length, quality of rock, ease to protect, required equipment, and specific information about hand or foot holds. 

So likewise, at Xceleration, we're here to provide Beta. 

Provide the information about a startups' challenges, help you with the rivers you may cross, tell you what to sweat and what not to sweat, explain what's a consistent reaction from a potential client, and generally help you focus on your North Star.

So What does "Climb with Xceleration" mean?

I think I've known for sometime what it is. . . but it's akin to the natural "high' I get from climbing. That "high" is being PRESENT.

Whereas in many sports, your mind can wander such as while you're running (jogging) or doing yoga poses, in climbing you're forced to be present. In fact, you've GOT to be present. If you're not in the moment dealing with the next tricky hold or the next place to plant your toe, you'll likely to blow it and fall. There's nothing quite like having to deal with the immediate problem at hand to keep you present. There is no thinking about the laundry list of things you'll be doing later or checking an item off a task list while you're climbing.

Therefore, like climbing, I think "Climbing with Xceleration" is about being present. About focus and dealing with immediately what's in front of you. Being present.

Nancy, Chloe, Hannah and Aki
Another component of "Climbing with Xceleration" can also be found in one of the chief characteristics that I've found in climbing. It's humbling. It's you against that wall. Some days it's downright humiliating. 

For me as a beginning climber, it was all about getting to the top. I climbed to succeed. Success vs. Failure was what it was all about.

It wasn't until I was around climbing culture for a while before I learned the truism, it's about "climbing to fail." What? You may be asking yourself? What heck does that mean?

As a climber novice, and perhaps even as a startup person, you may constrain yourself and not attempt the risky or outlandish, because you're about looking good. Being sure that you can climb to succeed. So you'd never try anything that you'd think was beyond yourself.

Besides failure looks bad. So you won't risk trying a more difficult route in a climb, just like for startups sometimes it's safer and doesn't look as bad just to settle for the something that you know you can succeed at, rather than stretching yourself. Stepping outside of yourself.

Climbing to Fail: Rid Yourself of the Success vs. Failure Dichotomy

Without climbing to fail, you'll never know that you could possibly do. In fact, it was after watching world class climbers and many of my climbing partners trying the same moves over and over again and still continually to blow it (falling) that I got that "failure" in climbing is part of the process. Just like for startups, failures, challenges, obstacles, and striving outside of what you know you can do, is part of the entrepreneurial process.

Instead of worrying about success, I started to immerse myself in the process of problem solving, of making it a project, of learning something new about myself and (sounds corny) about the journey. Not just about getting to the top. Not just about success. Sure it's great to reach the top, but the journey became as much, if not more, of the enjoyment. 

Do I wish for a startup to fail? No, of course NOT. But should they potentially adopt the attitude of "climbing to fail," yes. Give "climbing to fail" a try. You never know where it might take you.

Available this Summer!
Besides, who ever heard of a startup guy/gal who hasn't had some failures along the way?