Think back to childhood. Of all the fears and frustrations, learning to ride a bike had to be high on the list of scary endeavors.
You desperately wanted the end state — independence, transportation and the thrill of having your own wheels. This, of course, was offset by the fear of falling flat on your face, splitting your lip and getting teased by Rebecca Forman in the second grade (hypothetically, of course).
First-time riders’ first instinct is to ride super-slow. A slow crash would be less painful than a fast one, the logic goes. You’ll remember, however, what happens when you ride too slow: Balance becomes nearly impossible as you shake and shimmy before tipping over. It takes some speed and momentum to stabilize, to make progress on your journey.
The reality is counterintuitive: The slower you go, the more likely you’ll fall.
As business leaders, we face the same fear but too often fail to remember this important lesson. When working to build our companies, communities and careers, a tip-toe approach is a surefire path to failure. In our first-fighting competitive economy, speed wins.
Spending my days with entrepreneurs, I often see this play out in real time. Working hard to preserve cash and avoid mistakes, well-intentioned start-up leaders often fall into the trap of going too slowly. In reality, the most fleeting and scarce resource isn’t capital, but time.
As one company slowly limps along, relying on training wheels, others blow past them at the speed of sound. If a project costs less but takes three times as long, is it really a savings?
Think about the real-world decisions we make regularly. For example, should you hire one salesperson or three? Choosing one may feel safer, but you may actually be adding risk rather than mitigating it. If the one new salesperson has a bad month or takes a vacation, the company suffers, whereas three salespeople provide margin for error. If each salesperson can land six new clients per month, having only one instead of three means 144 customers per year will go to your competitor instead of you.
The same logic applies to our community: Big challenges require bold solutions. Timid approaches that waste too much time studying the problem instead of attacking with vigor end up fizzling instead of flying. If we truly want to reinvent our cities, families and communities, we don’t have the luxury of being sluggish.
After a couple scrapes and bruises, you eventually pedaled your bike assuredly and have been zooming ever since. Let’s do the same in our professional lives in order to seize the tour de force opportunity in front of us.