September 23, 2014

The Surprising Similarities Between Startups and Yoga

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Since I joined the TechnologyAdvice (TA) team last month, I’ve increased the amount of time I spend in front of a computer screen by almost a third. Working “startup hours” has inspired me to quicken my search for a new yoga studio to help stretch out and unwind after a challenging day when it feels like my brain is working nonstop. While researching various studios, I’ve noticed some strong similarities between startups and yoga. Despite what many people might think – the fast-paced nature of a new business vs. an ancient art form that’s focused on slow, methodical movements – they are more alike than what meets the eye.

Goal Setting

As new companies get on their feet, disorganization and growing pains are inevitable. In order to meet your often ambitious goals, you have to make sure all team members are on the same page. You have to figure out which KPIs should be measured in each department, and ensure that everyone’s efforts are pushing the company forward. Perhaps it’s a certain amount of media hits, the number of calls per week, the conversion rate on your original content, or the number of new applicants hired in a quarter. Whatever the metric, it needs to be measured in order to be improved.

In yoga, the rules are the same. Where do you see yourself now, and where are you in your practice a week from now? A month from now? What about next year? For example, I set a goal for myself last year to be able to do a headstand by January 1. I attended inversion workshops throughout the year and went to at least three classes a week, all in order to meet my goal.

In both instances, setting benchmarks to keep track of your progress is key.

Know Your Place in the World and Be Present

“True meditation is about being fully present with everything that is–including discomfort and challenges. It is not an escape from life.” – Craig Hamilton

Part of everyone’s journey is finding out who you are and where you stand in your surroundings. For a startup, you must be grounded in your vision; confident in your strengths but aware of the areas that need improvement. You often learn from industry leaders, then grow in your own direction. You can’t run before you learn to walk, and building a solid foundation helps keep new businesses from straying too far from reality.

One of the best parts about yoga is that it’s all about becoming confident in your own skin. After getting to know your body and its pain points, you know where to focus your efforts to strengthen your practice. You aren’t able to do that if you’re thinking about what you’re going to be doing for dinner, or the emails you plan to send after class. Your mind needs to be clear and focused, much like the mission of a new company.

Finding Common Ground

Each startup has a distinct culture, a certain team dynamic that makes it stand out from others. At TA, it’s not just our monthly team outings, the ping-pong table in our breakroom, or our catered lunches that make us successful. It’s the individuals that work together each month to meet and exceed ambitious goals. Our teammates have a variety of interests (that we know of thanks to the “Better Know a Teammate” segment at our weekly team meetings) that shape who they are.

Although each person in the yoga studio is at a different stage or level of their practice – from first-timers to those that have been practicing for years – they are brought together for a common purpose every class. Each person finds camaraderie in one another for self-improvement, whether it’s for a good workout, spiritual enlightenment, or to be social. I don’t know many people who would willingly put themselves in Bakasana just for the heck of it!

The Importance of Persistence

Success does not happen overnight. Startups don’t add up to the likes of Google or Facebook in the blink of an eye – high rewards come with hard work. Our unofficial motto at TA is “Work Hard, Play Hard,” and the company has been growing on the foundation that CEO Rob Bellenfant has built over the past eight years, bringing the company to where it is today. Everyone pitches in. Whether it’s working longer hours or coming up with creative, out-of-the-box solutions, determination and persistence have brought everyone to where they are, and it’s only uphill from here.

As with goal setting in Point #1, yogis are in tune with their bodies. There’s a distinct starting point, and everyone must be mindful of where their body is and where they want it to be. Patience really is a virtue, as taking shortcuts can lead to injury, and overworking your body can cause burnout. Everyone goes at their own pace to accomplish their goals, taking it one deep, Ujjayi breath at a time.

Continuous Learning

“There will always be people who can do it better than you, but that’s a good thing! Start to see competition as inspiration — without envy.” — Kathryn Budig

Opportunity for professional development is one of the main draws to working at a startup, where like-minded individuals can network at different events. At TA, one of the many incentives to grow professionally and share new insights with our peers are gift cards. It’s a small reward that encourages team members to share their recent experiences, whether it’s reading a great article, finishing a book, or attending a conference.

Yoga is also an ongoing educational experience. As with a startup, there is always a way to tweak your practice and better your skills. Regardless of how much time you’ve spent on your mat, there will always be something that can be improved. Perhaps you’re recovering from an injury or are having an “off day” and need to take a different approach to your practice. Competing with yourself is the best way to avoid complacency and boredom, both at work and on the mat.

We may not bend ourselves into a pretzel every day, but we work each day to overcome new challenges and achieve new goals, just like any yogi. Interested in joining us? Check out our careers page – we’re hiring!

Have you found similar parallels between your work and hobbies? Let us know in the comments!