I started playing squash around a year ago with a lot of enthusiasm. Like all sports, on the surface it looked like a simple game. Four walls, two players one ball; first person to miss the ball loses the point and the game is played up to 11. I was like, how hard can this game actually be. So I started off with a coach who taught me the basic rules, how to hold the racket and basic squash etiquette. That took around 3-4 lessons and by the end of the 4th session I was like “Bring it on”. However, he told me at this point that there was a lot more to learn regarding the game and it would take at least another 3-4 months till I got some basic strategy pat down such as serving, placement, running and steps.
That didn’t sit well with me so I told him that I would learn along the way and we should just start playing games and he could monitor my progress. He told me this wasn’t advisable but in the end agreed and we started playing. I noticed another guy who had started at the same time as me and who was getting regular coaching . I made a mental note that I would play him in a couple of months to test how well our two different routes had turned out. Fast forward to 3 months later, my coach told me that I had made good progress and was getting better. So I asked him to set up a match with the other regular. It was setup shortly thereafter and we decided to play a best of three. I sort of crushed him in the first game 11-5 and remember thinking this was going to be a cinch. Sadly I ran out of gas in the middle of the second game and lost the remaining two matches.
With my ego fairly bruised I spoke to my coach and he pin pointed the areas where I was handicapped. My opponent had learnt his steps correctly which directly impacted stamina as you use less energy to move around the court correctly, he had also learnt how to use less power in his shots to get the same impact I was getting, using the greater force I was generating. It was apparent I had a lot of catching up to do and a year into training I am still unlearning all the bad habits that I picked up earlier on.
This holds a very clear analogy to startup businesses. We start off thinking we have got the next best idea after google and begin to pursue it without getting the groundwork settled. We start with a vague or no business plan and without a clear short term or long term strategy. We face competition in our sphere very soon and others appear to be moving faster, more effectively and efficiently as compared to us and we wonder why. Its all about strategizing and getting those foundation blocks right. Don’t just push yourself to get into the game as fast as you can, take a step back and get a better idea of where you want to go and how. Plan diligently and follow it with perseverance. There is no short cut to success.