Resilience is one of those terms that often gets bandied around when people talk about starting up a business. But aside from off the cuff comments, what does it really mean and how far do you really need to push yourself to turn a great idea into a fully-fledged startup?
Having played a career in the NRL and now launched Eggy, a life admin startup with my wife, I can say that the blood, sweat and tears on the pitch are just the same as those in the boardroom.
At its core, the foundation of resilience is risk and what you’re prepared to put on the line to make something happen. In the world of startups and professional sports, this is compounded because you work in a low probability of success environment. Nobody expects you to make it, so they don’t see the sacrifice and price (risk) of what it takes to achieve big things.
When I was trying to break into the NRL everyone told me I “didn’t have what it took”, but I risked it all to play the game at the elite level. From working at The Broncos Leagues Club and living off spare change and tips from patrons on the pokies, to training day and night for feeder clubs on the chance I get a call up to the NRL first grade team, I gave it everything to achieve my goal and convince others that I did have what it took.
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The same goes for growing a startup. My wife and I have been knocked back by venture capital firms for funding and told we didn’t have the experience or skills to get a product to market, let alone commercialise it.
We risked our life savings on a life admin app because we had the resilience to keep going until we instilled others with the confidence we already had in our idea. It seems simple when written on paper, but the courage and sacrifice needed to make your startup dream come true is something that requires hours of hustling and rejections.
The other core part of resilience is your ability to roll with the punches and find new ways forward through adversity. It’s a common cliche, but it’s remarkably true of both sport and founding a startup. On the footy field I’d have an incredible game and then next week play rubbish for 10 minutes and snap my calf.
In business I’ve raised money with investors who believe passionately in what we’re doing, only to be laughed out of the room after meeting the next 25.
Failure is ever-present in both worlds and your ability to develop a thick skin and use disappointment to motivate you to go again and find another path is what will lead you to success.
That ability to see another way to make things happen I learnt playing sport.
But in founding a startup it has prepared me for the real ups and downs you face everyday. It means I never let setbacks consume me.
When it all boils down to it, a life in professional sport has given me the mindset to succeed in the more cutthroat world of startups. I went from a starry-eyed country boy playing in the backyard to the stadiums of the NRL and I’ve done it all again with Eggy. My biggest asset in setting up this growing tech startup has without doubt been my resilience and I imagine many other startup founders who have found success would say exactly the same thing.