Entrepreneurs, Consider Yourselves Professional Athletes
This article was published in the Spring 2021 issue
by Isaac Freckleton, Founder and CEO, Eve Financial
Why do some of the greatest ideas flop, and other basic ideas dominate? Why do some entrepreneurs seem to find the stresses of startups more manageable than others?
As if starting a business wasn’t already hard enough, every entrepreneur felt the effect of dealing with COVID-19 and the aftermath of re-imagining business in a worldwide pandemic. Yet opportunity blossoms from the ashes of difficulty for the entrepreneur who’s willing to pick up the pieces and keep going. Every successful entrepreneur I’ve ever spoken to agrees - success is never accomplished alone. As my namesake, Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen farther [than another], it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” After squeezing advice out of a personal network worth of over $10B have I distilled the most powerful personal advice down to two principles, which I believe make all the difference anywhere it is applied, regardless of industry.
In November 2019, Eve Financial launched with nothing more than the belief that we could help consumers and business owners find access to fair money. Entrepreneurs are especially aware of just how difficult it is to find money, and even when found, funding is almost always followed by crushing interest. With that vision and a bright idea of how to solve the problem, we set about raising money. Within 4 weeks, Eve Financial had raised $950,000 only weeks before the world plunged into the middle of COVID-19. The chaos forced us to obsess over one thing - product. Two of my personal mentors, Sean Rad (Billionaire founder of Tinder and one of Eve Financial's earliest investors) and Dustin Freckleton (my brilliant older brother) taught me that even the most amazing idea isn’t enough to revolutionize an industry. Plenty of great ideas have flopped. What truly mattered was to take that idea and then obsess over the product and user experience.
Think of Tinder - dating has been around for centuries, and online dating for decades. Why was Tinder able to enter a crowded market and so quickly dominate in their space? Because they were able to simplify the human desire for love down to a swipe left or a swipe right. While I am painfully aware of the fact that our product is no where near what we hope it to be, I’m fortunate to have mentors that consistently remind me that sales-first companies do well, while product-first companies revolutionize. My experience is teaching me that one of the hardest things about being an entrepreneur is finding the time to step back from the relentless flood of busy-ness and revenue-drive to put product first. Revenue will always follow.
Fast forward through the first year and we can hardly keep up with our growth.
Despite a glut of ‘network brilliance’, the second principal and ‘personal insight’ was taught to me by my wife, Megan. Entrepreneurs are notorious for having wicks at both ends of the candlestick, whose flames never die. Late one night, I found myself frustrated with the combination of exhaustion, a task list longer than it was at the beginning of the day and a mind whose sharpness fled hours ago. Megan closed my laptop and said “Isaac, I think it’s time you treat yourself like a professional athlete.” Professional athletes don’t stay on the field or on the court 24 hours a day. They work hard, but know when to stop and take care of their body and soul. No professional athlete competes at the top of their game without sufficient sleep, proper nutrition and training. For me, the most important thing has been maintaining a consistent schedule. With only rare exceptions, I’m now neurotic about keeping a schedule. Laugh if you want, but I will literally drop anything to be in bed on time (not even a minute late), all distractions away before I’m asleep. When I go to bed and wake up at the same time each day I get more energy and mental-efficiency than after downing a 5 hour energy - and it lasts through the entire 14 hour+ work day. (As a quick side note for other entrepreneurs with little kids - I have 2 toddlers who still find a sick pleasure in waking up at odd hours of the night. You’re not alone - but consistency does seem to dampen the effects of terminal sleep-deprivation).
If you haven’t yet realized it, I urge you to think of yourself in the same light. You too are a professional athlete, whether you’re an entrepreneur, a student, an employee or a grandma. There’s no substitute for hard work, but give your mind and body the consistency it craves, and it will amaze you what you can do.
Humans are beautiful, capable of greatness often unlocked through simple means.
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*Read the latest issue of Silicon Slopes Magazine, Spring 2021