THE BLOG
09/25/2014 11:08 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Small Business Lessons From the Switchbacks of Los Angeles

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I love spending time outdoors. I credit that desire to my growing up in North Dakota where it was too cold to be outside from Halloween until Easter, and too hot to be outside from Independence to Labor Day. That left four months to enjoy the great outdoors. (No wonder I was so pasty as a child.)

Los Angeles changed that for me. It's difficult to tell which season we experience, because they're all about the same. It's as easy to experience 90-degree days in January, as it is 60-degree days in August.

When asked to describe LA, most say it's crowded, congested, and noisy. Although that's true for much of the city, its nothing like that where I live. I walk out my door and immediately have access to bike lanes, hiking trails, and walking paths -- all without having to start my car. What fun!

During one of my recent hikes, I decided to hike a trail I have sidestepped on numerous occasions. In fact, I passed it every week for three years -- intentionally avoiding it. The level of difficulty was challenging (as the sign says). I took the warning to heart.

As I began my trek down the loose stone on a narrow path, I soon discovered the many steep, switchbacks hidden by the cliff's ridge. I lingered for a moment to reconsider my options or, if I were to be brutally honest, I stopped to whine about how steep it was and how hard it would be and how I couldn't do it.

As I slipped and slid down the arduous trail, I chuckled about the similarities between the trail and running a business. Business, like the Switchback Trail, has lots of twists and turns. And, like the Switchback Trail, business has it challenges.

Halfway down the trail, I wondered if I was in over my head. I considered heading back to the top. The switchbacks were unrelenting -- much like the paths we travel in business. And, haven't most small business owners experienced a similar feeling halfway through a tough initiative plagued by uncertainty of success?

Having successfully reached the bottom of the trail, it was time for the real work to begin with the trek to the top. The ascent started quite easily. With an unexpected smile on my face, I reassured myself by saying, "I've got this"!

Immediately, my subconscious reminded me that I didn't have this at all and that I needed to choose a different mantra -- one with integrity and truth -- if I was to make it unscathed, mentally and physically, to the trailhead.

I wasn't alone. Two hikers were quickly approaching. Just like the competition gaining ground, I felt the need to speed my pace to stay strategically ahead of them.

There was only one flaw my thinking -- the capacity to increase speed as the incline grew progressively demanding was rapidly diminishing. It served as a reminder that along the hiking trails, as in business, we have to move at the pace that is best suited for us -- despite what others tells us.

Before long, I emerged victorious. It was a good learning experience.

Every entrepreneur has paths to travel they would rather avoid. Whether the trail appears too difficult or we don't feel we have what it takes to succeed, we dodge the very paths that lead our business to the next level with a renewed sense of confidence.

As small business owners, we don't need to fear the competition as much as we need to fear our thoughts--the ones that prevent us from taking the seemingly dangerous and difficult trails--which are the same trails that lead us to the most spectacular views for our future.

What are you waiting for? Do you have a path to climb? A hill to traverse? A gully to cross? Whatever keeps you on the familiar, albeit uneventful path, it's time to toss it aside.

Lace up your boots! We have a trail to hike.

This post first appeared on Synnovatia.

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