Don’t Get Off The Bike

We’ve had a couple good spring weekends in Seattle, and despite some cloudy days there’s hope for more sun to come: we’re an ever optimistic lot here.

Like many people in Seattle, when the weather gets nice I like to go for a bike ride. There are some avid gear-heads out there that are always riding somewhere. I’m not one of those: if you’re like me, you find it difficult to balance work, friends and family to get out running, cycling, or whatever outdoor activity you like to do. It takes effort to make it into a habit.

It's hard to start, but it's always worth it.

So I don’t go cycling as much as I’d like. And because getting going is so much more difficult than keeping moving, I have a rule when I go: I set a destination for myself, and until I reach my goal, I don’t get off the bike.

Classical mechanics makes a distinction between “static” friction and “kinetic” friction. The first is the force it takes to get an object to start moving relative to another; the second is the force it takes to get that object to keep moving. For most materials, and for most of us, the cost of starting from zero is much higher than continuing to go forward.

Don’t get off the bike. I keep repeating it, as long as it takes. Every time you stop and rest, you expend more mental and physical energy to get going again. You have less willpower to fight the urge to stop again. Your breaks are longer. (Outside of physics, psychologists call this exhaustion of willpower “ego depletion.”)

If I’m tired, I slow my pace, but keep making forward progress. If I’m hungry, I bring things that I can eat while riding. Is it painful sometimes? Sure. But it would be more painful to stop and start up again. Don’t get off the bike.

At risk of being the guy who just writes in creative analogies to entrepreneurship, I hope you see where I’m going here. Building a startup is almost always described as a long grind: there are countless days where it seems like you’re not going anywhere. It’s definitely painful.

Just as all analogies fail at some point, this isn’t to say that you should continue with something that isn’t going anywhere. The point is to set goals for yourself and have pivot or persevere decisions at those points. In between those goals, don’t stop moving. Once you have a finish line in sight, go as fast as you can.

This may not work for everyone, but it works for me. Find your own analogy to keep moving. Create your own destinations, your own goals, and don’t stop. Don’t get off. Just keep moving and you’ll get there.

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