Everything I Know About Business I Learned from Mountain-biking

As my colleagues at mountain-bike-mad Ventures West will testify, I’ll never be confused with some high-flying North Shore downhiller. Lately, however, I have gotten a little better, having upped my riding again after becoming the proud owner of a Santa Cruz Blur LT. (My five-year-old says he one day want to have a “BLT” just like his Dad, but I digress.)

Anyway, as I’ve been riding the trails of southern California, especially some of the rocky, rutted, and steep ones around Mission Trails Park, I have discovered a few things — all of which, it turns out, are at least as important in business:

  • Look only where you want to go. If you want to go between rock X and rock Y, look between rock X and rock Y. Be aware that the two rocks are there, for sure, but looking at either or both will just mean you crash into one or both. Guaranteed.
  • Embrace crashing. Speaking of crashing, nothing makes it more likely that you’ll crash than worrying about crashing. You ride worse, more tentatively, and generally badly. Assume that falling won’t kill you and things suddenly get much easier, and you’ll likely fall less.
  • Look past the apex of turns. When doing a curve on a trail at speed, looking at the apex of the curve, or the track in front of you, will generally cause you to not turn sharply enough, often result in a high-speed encounter with  trail-side chaparral. You have to look through the curve, covering off the nearby stuff with your peripheral vision. In essence, you need to look far ahead to manage what’s up close.
  • Go faster. It is a continual source of amazement to me how many things get way easier if you go faster. There are these big-ish rocks called “baby heads” all over one trail, and if you try to do them slowly they will beat you up and make you fall. Hit ’em at speed, however, and you go blasting right through. Sometimes you just have to push off and let go of the brakes, and amazing things happen.
  • Assume you can do what was impossible yesterday. Speaking of pushing off, I find I ride much better if I come in with no assumptions about what’s possible, or even what part of a ride I failed to do that last time I rode it. I just go and assume every part is possible. Works miracles.
  • Know your limits. I have limits. I won’t be doing any triple-back-flips off North Shore medieval torture devices any time soon. Make that ever. And I’m okay with that. A man’s gotta know his limitations.
  • Think less. The more I think the worse I do. Sure, I scan ahead, pick a line, and generally work out what I’m planning to do, but then I just blast along and assume I’ll improvise when and where it matters. When I over-plan and over-think all that happens is that I don’t do something the way I wanted, and then overheat the mental CPU trying to recompute the problem, and usually hit a tree.
  • Go slower. There are times when you have to go slow, like realllllly slow, to the point of a trackstand. it used to be I would panic when I was standing still on the trail — there is a well-established part of me that likes to be in perpetual motion — but once you embrace non-movement it’s fairly remarkable how freeing it is to completely re-vector yourself from a standing start.


  1. That post resonated well with me, being a North Shore kinda guy on his 4th tech startup. I might also add:
    — The hardest and most grueling climbs lead to the best runs.
    — Have fun. Enjoy the terrain as it’s going by.
    — When there’s something really sketchy, scope it out, visual it, then commit. You don’t feel rough terrain when you’re sailing 5′-10′ over it, and if you hit the landing right it’s just silky smooth.
    — Respect other riders, unless they’re poaching your line. Take them out. :-)

  2. Jordan — Love ’em, and couldn’t agree more. Especially about the damn poachers.

  3. Cheers cheers! I am currently a business student and we are constantly bombarded with Drucker who I agree with, but it is always great to hear other point of views or analagies. I am not a rider but I can picture myself guiding my own “bike” down the business trail. Great guideline!

  4. >>Look only where you want to go.

  5. Most of these apply equally well for the golf swing – esp. putting.

  6. What I love about crashing in lotusland is landing
    on fern covered mulch.
    In the southwestern states, you land on gravel or cactus. Much worse.
    Much of these points, look exactly where you want to go,
    do not worry about crashing, are exactly as taught
    at a high performance driving school.

  7. Great stuff…I’ll add two more. First: “no matter where you’re looking, look further ahead.” It’s pretty much impossible to look too far down the trail. Kinda like your “apex” rule, but applied all the time.
    Second: have a really great looking bike. It’s what your body will be judged by. :)

  8. Thanks, Despite the title of my original post, I think I agree with your post.

  9. Much of these points, look exactly where you want to go,
    do not worry about crashing, are exactly as taught
    at a high performance driving school.

  10. Most of these apply equally well for the golf swing – esp. putting.