Comfort with Discomfort


When the New England cold and rains hit last fall, I jumped for the first time on a Peloton bike. It has been a lifeline for me since. Biking has always fascinated me. Before the pandemic, our family tried to take a biking trip each summer. These days, it is a great outlet through which I can move my body and exercise my mind.

I remember one particularly grueling day in the Spanish Pyrenees (post here). I was behind the main group because of a flat tire and had been pulling our youngest child on a half-bike connected to mine earlier in the day. Nearly all of the other riders bailed on the climb and traversed the mountain in a van. I wanted to try to keep going.

One of the cycling guides kindly doubled back to find me. She told me that nearly every fit rider can make it up the mountain. “The biggest challenge is mental,” she said.

On the Peloton, many of the trainers say the same thing. So much about endurance is mental. For spinning, you need to warm up before a ride to prepare your body and mind. You can’t ride hard every day because you need to rest both your legs and your brain.

I feel in a way that we’ve all been on a ride up the Pyrenees since last March. We, at last, are seeing more hope, but it has been a grueling ride. For me, I’ve learned a lot about myself and the importance of real friendships and community. I’ve learned that some things that can soak up my bandwidth are best overlooked: rude drivers, annoying emails, delayed mail, etc. I want to un-tether myself from those concerns.

It’s too early to say that the pandemic is over. Personally, I believe we’re heading into another Roaring ’20s (post here). And I think variants of Covid-19 will be here to stay, and we’ll need booster shots each year. But I don’t think it’s too early to stay that our societies have learned a great deal.

I addressed some HBS 2nd year students the other week. They all are going into venture capital, and my talk was called “What I Wish I Had Known.” One of the things I encouraged them to do was to develop a strong mental outlook. I only half-jokingly called it “The Jedi Mindset.”

You see, the VC industry is almost designed to break you: nearly 70% of VC-backed companies flop and only a small percentage shoot the moon. The industry is particularly tough on perfectionists, those people who always got good grades, tested well, and pleased bosses. How does a perfectionist deal with a 70% failure rate? Very poorly. At least I did at the beginning. And, it is even more stress for entrepreneurs: VCs are diversified and company founders are not.

In the end, the outputs of VC investing truly matter. But the energy in a job for an investor or that of an entrepreneur, IMO, comes from working with people who give you energy. For me, it is always about the people. When you work with ones with whom you click, magic can happen even if the odds are against you. That is how you attain comfort during discomfort, I think. You’re at least with your tribe.

A Happy Friday to all….

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