I had the good fortune to start a yoga class last month and was amazed how stiff I was! After the initial pain of learning the various poses (called asanas) started to wear off, my classmates and I started to see some increased flexibility. In addition, the daily practice of yoga began to reveal striking parallels with entrepreneurship and woodworking such as alignment and building strength.
One of the things our yoga instructor (Thierry Chiapello, see his blog here) emphasizes to us over and over again is alignment. He is always correcting our alignment and asking us what our body is telling us. He stresses that our practice on our own is more important than class. Our practice is where we really begin to listen to what is going on and to develop our muscle memory. If we just go to class and don’t practice on our own, we won’t be in tune with what is going on.
Just as we need to work on our alignment in yoga, and entrepreneur needs to be aligned with their mission and goals. There are not enough hours in the day for an entrepreneur to get everything done which makes it imperative to have clearly defined goals and to make sure that some time is devoted every day to doing something toward those goals. As we wrote about in our post on Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures, there are several methods to creating this alignment. If an entrepreneur is doing something that doesn’t relate to one of those goals, then it’s probably time to evaluate why that task is even being done in the first place. The entrepreneur’s activity needs to be aligned with the entrepreneur’s goals, just as we strive for alignment in yoga.
The same goes for woodworking. If I want to be an expert bowl turner on the lathe then I need to turn many, many bowls and work on my technique in orienting the gouge to the work piece as it spins. It sounds simple, but doing this well takes many hours. The craftsman needs to align his/her activity with the goal of turning a fine wooden bowl.
Holding the Pose and Building Strength
Why do we hold our poses so long in the variant of yoga we are studying, Iyengar Yoga (read more on this method here)? We do it in order to build strength. There is a very popular (sarcasm here) pose we do called Warrior II which makes our thighs burn very quickly. The purpose of holding poses like Warrior for so long is to build strength. Our instructor continues to talk about an ethereal condition we will reach eventually where we are experiencing effortless effort (I am definitely not there yet). We may not have achieved effortless effort yet, but we have built strength over the past several weeks.
Entrepreneurship can also build strength by building capacity. Stephen Covey called it “sharpening the saw” in his book the Habits of Highly Effective People (overview here). Sometimes the entrepreneur and craftsman needs to step away from the daily “doing” and train on a skill or task to build that strength before going back to doing. For more on sharpening the saw, read our post on Teaching a Man to Fish.
At Traughber Design one way we sharpened the saw and built strength this year was to take time out for a WordPress class to learn how to set up a website/blog. This twelve session class was amazing and revealed many more capabilities than we thought possible. Our first website was on Etsy, which was very user friendly, but limited in capability. By taking time out to study WordPress we’ve increased our functionality tremendously, just as we do in Iyengar yoga by holding our asanas.
Gotta run. Those asanas are calling…