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5 Reasons Racing Across The Mexican Desert Is Like Running a Startup

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If it’s cool with you … I want to share some business lessons that I learned driving 85 miles per hour, in $130,000 machines, across the Mexican desert.

You’re probably thinking, “What could you possible learn doing that?”

First, let me share with you one of my philosophies …

… as I go through life, I’m always looking for different inspirations or ideas to apply to business.

There’s a famous story about Henry Ford where he was visiting a Chicago meat plant and after seeing the way they were producing and cutting all of the different meats, he then applied that to building cars (i.e. the assembly line).

So I’ve been doing this for years… trying to get inspiration for business as I learn about other industries.

Recently I was on a trip with some of my best friends, in the wide open Baja (the Baja 1000 in Mexico), driving these crazy machines for 3 days.

As soon as we got there I started seeing some interesting things that definitely applied to business.

Here are my 5 business lessons learned while racing across the Mexican desert.

1) Have A Lead: Someone Who’s Gone First So You Can Go FAST!

The first day on the trip, we met this guy named Hector.

His job – his only responsibility – was to go first to ensure that there were no oncoming vehicles, washouts or sharp turns with a cliff – and to radio those back to us so we could avoid them.

Essentially… He went first, so we could go fast!

If you apply that to business – it’s important to have an advisor, a mentor or even your peer group – people who can give you advice, people who have been there before, who can give you critical feedback so you don’t make a huge mistake that will put you out of business.

Hector didn’t drive our cars – and advisors don’t run your business – but they’re there to give you that guidance so you can avoid those critical challenges and mistakes that could take you out of the race.

2) Have a Co-Pilot: Someone Who Can Scan The Landscape AND Remind You Which Direction You’re Heading

When we registered for this trip, I think everyone thought we’d each have our own vehicles but  we quickly realized that we each needed a co-pilot.

We needed somebody who could look at the terrain, somebody who could listen for the car in front of us who was radioing back the challenges on the terrain and then make sure that you were slowing down or that you were aware of the situation.

So in business, you have co-founders. A lot of people talk about the value of co-founders, but the big thing for me is to have someone who can pull you up when you are feeling down.

It sounds like such a subtle thing, but as you go through business, you go through these “entrepreneurial swings”… from exclamation mark to question mark… from “I’m going to take over the world!” to “What am I doing with my life?”

Having someone who is there for you to help guide you through these moments is critical – and I saw that first hand when we were driving through this terrain.

For me, having my brother as a co-pilot, ensuring that I was slowing down at the right turns so that we didn’t go off the side of a cliff – was invaluable.

3) Keep It Simple: Don’t Overcomplicate The Business Or It’ll Be Tougher To Fix Things When They Go Wrong (And They Always Go Wrong)

At the beginning we looked around at all of the different cars, and we noticed that they were all built the same. When we asked Rob (the owner), why they didn’t use different parts and why all the cars were the same, he said it was because they needed to keep it simple.

That way, if we were out there in the middle of the desert and something happened, they knew that they had the part.

So every group had a trail car – which had all of the parts – so that if anyone smashed the front end of their car and had to change the whole steering column (much like we did!), they had the parts with them.

Think about this in business… a lot of entrepreneurs try to complicate the way they build businesses. They have so many facets or functions and offer so many products or services.

The challenging thing to do – which would be super impactful – would be to just keep it simple – to not have a bunch of options and instead have just a few. This way, when you run into issues… you know exactly what’s wrong.

I learned this out in the Baja in Mexico, it was really interesting to see how quickly they turned around the whole front end of our car – in 25 minutes they had it fixed and we were back on the road.

4) Build a Team: To Make It The Distance You’ll Need Help

When we started off, I figured we’d only have a lead car – somebody who would guide us through the trails – but I quickly realized that it would take a whole team to direct a small group like ours.

We had a lead car, a trail car and a whole support crew who would meet us on the highway and at different points to ensure that we had water, food and gas. If there were any parts that we had broken – they would give us new parts.

If you had a car that was just no longer functioning properly, they had an extra car in the back of a trailer that they could give you (which was our situation!).

In business I think that it’s the same.

You’ll want to build a team of people who are stronger in areas you’re weak in.

You might be really strong at marketing but not so good on the financial side, so having someone you can turn to – either on your team part time – or as an advisor… especially for the financial part – its critical.

A lot of entrepreneurs think that they have to make all of the decisions by themselves, and that’s just not the case.

You can do a lot by yourself, but it helps so much to have people you can turn to, to really grow your business faster.

5) Scare Yourself: You’re Capable Of SOO MUCH MORE

The biggest lesson I learned out in the Baja was to scare myself.

For people who are adverse to extreme sports or who fear for their personal health and safety, I totally get that you are hesitant when I say this…

…but in the context of business, the big thing I want to challenge you with is to try to do something that scares you every day!

That might be saying yes to a presentation request, it might mean cold-calling customers, maybe it’s firing an employee who you know is not going to grow with you in that role…

…regardless, do it!

This lesson was re-enforced while we were flying around corners and taking on 3ft high bumps.

We thought we were pushing as fast as we could go, but we realized that we had to have faith in the machines, that our beliefs for what these machines were actually capable of were a lot higher!

When we challenged ourselves to go there, the machines reacted and we kept on the road and it gave us more confidence and allowed us to drive better.

It wasn’t about speed for speed sake, it was having faith that the machine could take it and pushing that much further bit by bit.

I think that’s the same in businesses – if you push yourself outside of your comfort zone, you will start redefining your comfort zone and start having a lot more fun!

The Most Important Lesson Learned…

At the end of the day…

…it’s all about the journey – it’s not about the destination.

Even though we got to do some really cool stuff, the real magic in our trip (and in business) is really the terrain and the views you get to experience and the people that you meet along the way.

It’s to remind ourselves that the destination is just a moment in time and to take a moment to look around and appreciate the beauty that surrounds you.

Hope that makes sense.

P.S. Be sure to watch the whole video to see some of the highlights of our trip.

Leave a comment below with your business lessons learned from other aspects of your life… maybe professional sports, cooking, etc… would love to hear from you below.

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