Starting a Business

The 5 Parallels Between Entrepreneurs and Bull Riders

The 5 Parallels Between Entrepreneurs and Bull Riders
Image credit: Eric Ward |Flickr
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Entrepreneurs are inherent risk takers. You have to be a little bit of an adrenaline junkie to willingly and enthusiastically put your heart, soul and money into a product or service that has no guarantee of success.

If you’ve ever had the chance to ride a bull -- a real, raring 1,600-pound bull -- you can probably see some similarities between that experience and running a business. If not, let me enlighten you.

1. Ability to learn.

Bull riding is thrilling, but it takes skill. It’s nearly impossible to learn how to ride a bull on your own. You might be able to pull it off, but there’s a larger chance that you’ll die trying.

Learning is essential to both bull riding and being a CEO. Having an initial desire to learn will help your business get off the ground, but having a continuous desire to learn will ensure it survives and is able to adapt.

Related: What an Angry Bull Taught a Future CEO About Doing a Job Even When the Boss Isn't Watching

Mentors are key to success in both situations. I went through rodeo school and received great mentorship from the instructors, all for a few seconds of a bull ride. It was worth it because I picked up a new skill and met amazing people who I wouldn’t have spoken to otherwise.

2. Controlling risks.

Be a risk taker, but be smart about it. Preparing to ride a bull is a lot like preparing to launch a business. Both take time and effort even if you think you’re already prepared. It’s a battle of physical fitness vs. fiscal fitness.

I trained extensively for three months before rodeo school. That isn’t to say I was in poor health before, but I wanted to ensure I was in the best shape possible before tackling this challenge.

The same goes for starting a business. Sure, you may have previous business experience, but how well do you know this particular market? Who are the consumers, what are they looking for and what’s the best way to reach them?

You want to do your research and minimize the risk as much as possible. Like in bull riding, your effort during the prep work will make or break you.

3. Out of the frying pan and into the … arena?

There is nothing to prepare you for what a bull will do when released into the arena. Despite the intense prep work and advice from mentors, you can still get thrown for a loop when the gate opens.

Carrying the title of CEO is comparable. Markets shift, consumers change, relationships come and go. On a bull you alter your body’s position to stay on for as long as possible. In the business world, you adapt your practices for the same reason.

There is no way of knowing what obstacles you’ll face once the gates open. The capriciousness, although terrifying, adds to the excitement. Both bull riders and entrepreneurs use the feeling to improve their craft.

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4. If not now, when?

You can analyze a situation to death and still not be ready for the outcome. Eventually you just have to go for it, and things typically only get harder as you get older.

My biggest fear is looking back on my life and regretting not taking a risk because of fear of failure or inadequacy. I don’t want to reach 60 and ask the cliché “What if?” question.

Bull riding might have been impossible for me physically had I waited 15 more years to take the leap. The same goes for my business. Sometimes you just have to take the bull by the horns (sorry, had to) and work toward something that could be really great even if you’re unsure about the end result.

Even if you only stay on the bull for a few seconds, facing your fears and pursuing your passions make the ride a success.

5. Enjoying accomplishment.

I won’t regret risking my personal safety to ride a gigantic bull for a few seconds, but I will always remember the exhilarating feeling of being up there. After months of groundwork, I finally experienced what it was like to ride such a large animal intent on dislodging me at the earliest possible moment and potentially punish me for even trying. This sense of accomplishment is what feeds entrepreneurs.

When all of the hard work culminates, the long hours, latent uncertainty and sleepless nights seem like small prices to pay. Bull riders and CEOs alike thrive in these harsh conditions because they know the thrill that success brings and they’re willing to work for it. Neither occupation is easy or fun all of the time, but the satisfaction they bring makes the sacrifices worth it.

Related: 5 Iconic Entrepreneurs and Their Business Gambles That Paid Off