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Put Yourself Out There -- Or You'll Never Know

Many of the companies I advise have founders who are perfectionists with high standards.  As a result, they can sometimes be barriers to their own success because they're a bit afraid to put themselves out there in the public eye every single element of their branding and positioning and identity are perfect.  It's got to be:  ready, aim, FIRE.

While that's an admirable trait with bigger brands backed by a track record and resources, most start-ups today cannot operate on the principal of perfectionism as it relates to their company's brand, messaging, and indeed, the functionality of their product or service.  Success now often requires a more iterative process more like ready, FIRE, aim.  Test and tweak.  

It often takes the intestinal fortitude to take calculated risks and the cajones to put something out in the marketplace to get important feedback and inform your direction.

It takes guts and willingness to occasionally jump into the abyss.  Take an example from a personal hero of mine, Rebecca Rusch:  endurance athlete, world champion mountain biker, risk-taker, author and entrepreneur.  I was fortunate enough to get invited along with another media colleague of mine to attend one of her Mountain Biking camps leading up to the USA Cycling National Mountain Bike Marathon race in Sun Valley.  I've been a huge cycling buff, but more of a 'roadie' and triathlete -- I'd been on a mountain bike maybe twice, but there was something about Rebecca made the prospect of trying something new super alluring.  Part of that was she made the whole process less intimidating and scary, and set us up with some terrific expertise over the course of a few days.  The end game was to be entering the race itself -- a 50 mile 2-loop, rocky, steep and technical course up and down Mount Baldy in Idaho.  Did I know what I was doing?  I had a hint, but knew that the real wisdom would come only if I took that risk, and put myself out there.  Cut to:  nearly 7 hours later, I finished, bearing scrapes and caked with dirt and a huge grin on my face.  And even eeked out a spot on the podium (points for showing up and finishing can sometime mean bling!).

Rebecca's approach to life and her profession is both inspiring and informs her many other pursuits.  For example, she seized an opportunity to organize a major event designed to attract a range of cycling afficianados to her adopted home town of Ketchum, Idaho (adjacent to Sun Valley) for an epic adventure called Rebecca's Private Idaho:  a gran fondo-style group ride through the breathtaking, wide-open spaces and often challenging terrain of Idaho, followed by an equally epic party.   She secured sponsors like Specialized Bikes and Patron.  Hundreds of riders registered.  Charity benefactors like World Bicycle Relief and People For Bikes were lined up.  Rebecca reached out to many of her professional cycling colleagues, like Levi Leipenheimer to participate.  

And then the terrible fires that raged in the area last summer threatened to cancel this inaugural ride and the area's annual Wagon Days.  While the fires slowly being contained in the area, and the thick smoke was starting to dissapate, Rusch and her fellow organizers had to make a call:  cancel the event to avoid the small chance that fires would spark again?  Or push forward, knowing the need to get visitors to the area would be a powerful boost to the area?

The ride went ahead.  The event was a total success and a huge morale boost to the community.  It inspired hundreds of happy participants to become informal Idaho ambassadors after returning home.  This video might tell the story best.  

And round two is happening this weekend, bigger and better.  I can't wait to see what happens.

So put yourself out there.  It may not be pretty and you may not 'succeed' in the traditional sense, but you'll absolutely gain knowledge -- and doesn't that qualify as a win by any measure?