Biceps curls neither build great companies nor great bodies
Competing in a bodybuilding competition is like launching and running a startup. This might sound crazy, but hear me out.
You work on something laser-focused with 100% dedication for years at a time, just to be judged by others to see if the "product" that you are "delivering" is great or not. I am sure you are wondering now "is he talking about a bodybuilding competition or launching a product", well it could be both. Let's dive in.
My twin brother and I have been working out for the past 12 years consistently and always had "participating in bodybuilding competition" on our bucket list. This September ('22) we finally participated in a "men's physique bodybuilding competition" in Barcelona. The weeks leading up to the competition really showed me so many parallels to the startup world, that I decided to write this article.
1. Mediocrity is the worst enemy of greatness.
In bodybuilding, if you are just going through the motions but never challenge your muscles it is close to impossible to achieve anything on a competitive stage. People get satisfied with their "level of fitness" and switch to maintenance mode.I strongly believe that is the same for entrepreneurs. Some are getting comfortable with their current skill set, that they stop growing personally. This tends to result in growth stagnation of the startup, especially in the early stages when it is just the founders working on it. In the end, the startups that win in a market are those that stay competitive and keep pushing themselves. This also brings me to my next point.
2. Living outside of the comfort zone.
Most growth happens when we push our body for these extra 2-3 reps that burn like hell. Or add some weight that gives us that soreness the next day. The same is true for being an entrepreneur. You nor your company will grow if you don't push yourself from time to time outside of your comfort zone. This might be reaching out to portfolio companies of your dream VC just to get an intro potentially. Or going to an evening startup networking event instead of watching the latest season of your favorite show. All these things might feel awkward at first, but let me tell you from my personal experience these things helped me grow the most. We are still early on our journey and of course, hope there will be plenty of people and situations that help us push ourselves to spend more time outside of our comfort zones.
3. Biceps curls neither build great companies nor a great body
This might sound hilarious but it is kind of true if you think about it. With this statement, I want to visualize some of the shortcomings that many startups are facing. This might be obvious when you are looking at it from the far or having it explained in terms of bodybuilding. We as well had to learn it with our own Startup Gazoom. Let's jump in.
In bodybuilding, if you only work out your biceps they will grow to a certain size but then they just stop growing no matter what you do. You can increase the volume or play around with drop-sets, pyramids, etc. In the end, they will reach a point when they stop growing due to overtraining, etc.
Now taking a look at the entire organism, well it is clear to tell that your biceps might be a "B+" but the rest is a solid "D-". You will never be able to go on stage and have any chance of competing.
At the MVP stage, it is perfect just to see if users like the product or not, might even be better than working out and trying to grow all the "muscles" in terms of company building.
As soon as the MVP is out though and the feedback is coming in it is time to do these squats & deadlifts to get those extra growth hormones that help your body to grow overall. Those hormones that the body produces while working out other muscle groups do not only have an impact on the muscle that was targeted but on the entire organism.
This means the biceps that stopped growing suddenly started growing again due to the hormones that the body started producing due to work on other parts inside the system.
In a startup only being focused on paid user acquisition could be seen as only doing biceps. It can start the process but it is very hard to scale without working on organic traffic sources/SEO. This is something we also had to learn personally, which makes this a great example.
4. Data is king
We all have heard this saying, but how does this work in this case?
In bodybuilding tracking your macronutrients, the hours of sleep, as well as workouts are key to optimizing your body for muscle growth as well as getting shredded for the competition. Too little sleep and your body might not recover fast enough and your workouts might not be challenging enough for stimulating further growth. Your best friends are the scale to weigh your meals and yourself, measurement tape, and constant progress pics to make sure you are pushing towards that "stage body"/north star metric.
In a startup, it is quite similar. You have your north star metric, this can range from DAU (daily active users) over MRR (Monthly-recurring revenue) to total watch time. This depends on the industry. For both, startup as well as bodybuilding tracking as well constantly making sure that you are working towards your north star metric is important.
5. Consistency is the name of the game
Whether you're trying to become the next Arnold Schwarzenegger or Elon Musk. Being inconsistent results in NOT hitting the optimal window for muscle growth, messing up a sales lead, or the next financial round. To quote Joe Rogan "If I only worked out when I felt like it, I'd be a fat fuck". If Arnold switched every few months from working out to riding a bike or surfing do you think he would have won 7 Mr. Olympia titles?
I highly doubt it, so why do startup founders switch so often between ideas and start chasing them instead of being consistent with one?
My answer is, actually building something is hard and requires consistency and discipline whereas constantly chasing a new idea allows people to live in their dreams.
Of course, if a product is not working out and you have tried everything possible to get it working, then it is time for a pivot. We ourselves already had to do a few pivots in order to get closer to product market fit.
These were my 5 quick similarities between bodybuilding and building a startup. I hope you liked and of course, feel free to share this or reach out to me or my twin.
10 Sept. '22 qualified for National Championship in Men's Physique Natural bodybuilding in Barcelona and yes those are crocs 😜