Last week was possibly the best week of my life.
I headed to Necker Island and hosted the Business Chicks Leadership Gathering with Virgin Unite for 20 of our Premium members.
Necker Island is the home of Sir Richard Branson. He bought it to impress his girlfriend (now wife, Joan) many years ago (for a reported $180,000) and has since transformed it into a playground, luxury resort, and conservation haven (for lemurs, flamingos and dozens of other exotic creatures). A few years back Branson also acquired the island across from Necker, called Moskito.
Every now and then Sir Richard generously opens up Moskito for groups visiting Necker, and he kindly did this for us last week. We were given the option to kayak, sail, stand up paddleboard, motor boat, or swim across to Moskito. Being someone who loves a challenge, I chose to swim.
I’d done the swim previously a few years before and when I made it across back then, I made a vow to myself that I’d never do it again. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, or feel a sense of accomplishment – I suppose I felt it was just one of those things in life that only needs to be done once. But here I was, doing it again, and asking myself why.
This swim was quite cathartic for me. As I set off from Necker Island and started on the 2.5 mile journey, all I could think about was how similar it was to the journey of an entrepreneur.
Firstly, you start out alone and ask yourself ‘Why am I doing this again?’ Then you find your rhythm and find yourself gaining momentum and you think ‘This is good, I’m heading in the right direction. I can do this.’Really soon after though, you start to get a bit tired and start to doubt yourself. ‘I’ve got a long way to go. This is hard. Why am I doing this?’ Then you start to feel very, very alone. You look behind you and there’s no one else there, and you look ahead of you and there’s no one there either. You start to realise that even though there are people who love and support you, the job of an entrepreneur is a lonely one.
“You look behind you and there’s no one else there, and you look ahead of you and there’s no one there either.”
The next part of the swim is the hardest. You wonder if you’re getting anywhere, achieving anything. It’s just stroke after stroke, hoping you’re moving forward toward your goal. Just as you feel like you can’t go any further, there’s a glimmer of hope. A boat passes by, full of your people and they yell out ‘You can do it! You’re doing so well! Woo hoo!’ and you feel buoyed by their encouragement. You start swimming faster and stronger, and feel invincible. But soon that boat is out of sight and you’re back being alone, and the water looks impossibly deep and you start to think about sharks and stingrays and the unknown of what’s lurking beneath you.
“You wonder if you’re getting anywhere, achieving anything. It’s just stroke after stroke, hoping you’re moving forward toward your goal. Just as you feel like you can’t go any further, there’s a glimmer of hope.”
If you’re strong, you now dig deep, keep your head down and keep going. ‘You can do this.’ If you’re not strong, you look for the support boat, wave to them, and they come and rescue you, which is what happened to one of my fellow swimmers. I felt bad for him, and watched as he was pulled from the water, but it made me even more resolute to succeed.
Soon enough, the island you’re heading toward comes into view. Suddenly, your goal seems possible. It’s within reach. ‘You’re almost there.’ You lift your tired arms out of the water, one by one, perhaps breaking for a second and looking for reassurance from the support boat. They nod in encouragement and you start to feel like you just might have this.
And it turns out you do. The water becomes shallower and shallower and the white sand starts to emerge.‘I can’t believe I just did that.’ You stand up, a little shaky from the swim, and your people are there for the high fives and the celebration.
That swim was cathartic for me, and the eternal question of how to succeed as an entrepreneur was answered (thanks Dory): just keep swimming.
Emma Isaacs is the Founder and Global CEO of Business Chicks. Emma now lives in sunny Los Angeles where she has launched Business Chicks in the US.
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