14 lessons on running a business after going over 250 km on foot
Camino, in other words, a walking route to Santiago de Compostela is a bit like a business. Some of you will probably think that it is inappropriate to talk about business in the context of Camino. I think that regardless of the intension that you go there with, you can draw conclusions useful in various areas of life. And since business has a lot to do with travel, so 14 lesson came to my mind.
We have walked over 250 kilometres from Porto in Portugal to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Every day we covered from 20 to almost 40 kilometres (also in the rain – one day it rained all the time ), a large part of it by the ocean. We covered the route in 9 days. We had only what fit in our backpacks. We did the washing when we found some laundry, on average every other day. Most of the time we slept in so called albergs for a few euros per night, i.e. places for pilgrims, most often in dormitory rooms. Some people sleep for free because they take a tent with them. We made food ourselves from what we found in the supermarkets or we went to buy something on site (sometimes they were really delicious things).
Here are the lessons:
1. It’s not always what you expect.
We went on this trip for the first time two years ago. At that time we took a bit longer route, entirely in Spain. On the day of our arrival to Madrid, at midnight, it was 40°C. One day during the trip the temperature dropped almost to 0°.
Now I was hoping that the temperatures would not be that extreme. Especially that the weather forecast was rather sunny and with temperatures above 20°C. The first five days were great, but on the sixth day, on Saturday, it began to rain. Water poured out of our shoes and our trousers, we were extremely cold. The wind was blowing all the time. The worst thing, however, was the fact that the weather forecast for the whole following week looked like that:
It strongly clipped my wings and at some point I began to wonder if we would reach the end…
2. The worst may be the best.
But despite the harshest weather that day was the best. At that time we were walking on the wide beach with the view of the ocean. The haze of sand was floating above the beach. The view was like out of this world. The wind was blowing hard but in our back and actually helped us. Although it was the hardest part we really remember this day very well.
It’s worth appreciating what you have and trusting that sometimes difficult information can eventually be a blessing.
3. Sometimes fear only has great eyes.
The weather forecast is just a forecast. Next day we woke up and it turned out that the weather was completely different. We took the ocean route again , this time it was much greener. It was warm and sunny, everything we had dried out.
And again I believed that we could easily cover this route.
Both in travel and in business it often turns out that bad news does not always come true. More than once I was terrified of what awaits me and eventually it turned out that it was quite good.
4. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to do great things, at least to start doing them.
When I started the startup, it scared me how much money and effort it takes to bring this idea to an end. Everything seemed very complicated to me. I was terrified by the number of things that you have to deal with at once running your business.
We went on our walking trip to Santiago only with what fit on our backs in our two backpacks.
Along the way , of course, you had to eat, find a place to sleep, wash etc . But basically what we had in our backpacks was enough to start that journey. On daily basis we were wondering what we need for a specific day.
The most important thing in business and in such a travel is the right attitude to challenges. Often, what is available at the moment is just enough.
5. From time to time it is worth lowering your living standard.
During our trip we sometimes slept in such conditions:
In the kitchen we came across such worms:
And the road looked like that:
And it was great ?
It shows how little you need to be happy.
Those who have achieved a great financial success often show the pictures going back to the beginning of their business activity with affection and tender emotions. Man quickly gets used to comfort. It is not that wealth is bad. But it is worth remembering that it is not needed to be happy.
Not everything is going smoothly in business. When it is harder , it is worth rethinking your current activities and strategies. Maybe it is worth working on reducing costs, maybe you should look for new customers in a different way or offer other products? This difficult time makes you reflect and can be very fruitful.
6. Momentum helps a lot when covering the route
Lech Kaniuk, Polish startup owner, wrote about momentum in business. In fact there is something like momentum, a certain force, that when given to a team in the company, helps to overcome even the greatest difficulties.
As long as we were walking we didn’t feel so tired and we didn’t feel the corns on our feet and we could go long kilometres. But when we stopped everything started to hurt again.
7. But you cannot cover the whole route without stopping.
One day after a full day of walking I took a shower, went to bed at 6 p.m. and I completely set out for a few hours. It got me off my feet completely. I woke up and had dinner, and went back to sleep again and I slept until morning.
You cannot run a startup nonstop at the high capacity. There are more engaging weeks, but you have to rest one day.
8. Your hard work makes others open to helping you.
When on that most rainy day we passed people walking with heavy backpacks, I had the feeling that others sympathized with us and were more open to help. A cafe owner offered each of us a free coffee!
I have the impression that it is similar in business. Of course, the effects are important, but achieving them is possible thanks to simple involvement and hard work. Others, who see your work, are more eager to help you achieve your goals.
9. Accept your limitations and weaknesses.
Some can do more than me , others less. Some people can walk a few thousand kilometres , others have enough just after the first day.
I try to compare myself only with myself from yesterday. If someone does something better, I get inspired and I wonder what to do differently and how to do it. And if someone gets worse I try to help him if he wants to.
Not always everything goes smoothly. And sometimes it is even hopeless. During Camino we were trying to move our boundaries a little, reach our weaknesses, but not to cross them too much. This made us understand what our capabilities were at that time. If we chose too long route for one day, our knee could get injured and we could not make it to the end.
10. On the way it is worth making sure you are going the right direction.
It would be difficult for us to reach our destination without knowing the directions. At a given moment you only need to know the short section, at least to the nearest crossing. Camino is well-marked, on the way there are arrow showing the number of kilometres to the destination all the time. It’s enough to follow them you don’t even have to think too much. But it was enough to lose the sight of one of them or stop trusting that they were showing the right direction (because it looked like the route started to turn back – then it turned out that it was only for a moment to bypass an obstacle) and then every hundred meters took a lot more time and nerves. We began to wonder if that was in fact the right direction, try other routes , we lost time and energy.
It is the same in business. Having a certain idea in your mind (e.g.. creating a product) it is much easier to follow the path, verifying this idea in some way. This may be a conversation with potential customers , some awards, and the best possible confirmation will be the sale of the prototype or the users, who use the product themselves.
11. In business the most important thing is to know the real needs of your client.
How does it relate to Camino?
People walking on Camino think primarily about three things – rest, food and stamps (to a special passport) confirming , that you have walked the given section of the route.
Those two boys on an ordinary bench in the forest were putting stamps into people’s passports, selling bananas ( in fact they sold them all out) and they let you rest on the bench. In order to build trust they showed passports that proved that they had walked the Camino themselves ?
12. Everyone walks the route differently.
Some get up at 5 in the morning, arrive at the next stop before noon, and then they rest for the whole afternoon. Others leave at 9 or 10 and arrive at the destination in the evening. There are also some people who take some sections of the route by bus. Some people walk 40 kilometres a day, others a dozen or so. Some accost everyone along the way while others are silent . Everyone has their own way of walking the Camino. And each of these ways can be good .
13. Never lose hope
The longest route in one day was almost 40 km long. As we were approaching the destination we called to various places asking if there would be accommodation for us. Everywhere everything was already occupied or it was very expensive. It was almost 9 p.m. and we were afraid that we would no have a place to sleep.
Finally, it turned out that on the way we came across a very modest place, which turned out to be a private house of some winery owner. It was the best place we slept : quiet, by the stream , with food and wine from the garden ( a watermelon from the garden :)…
14. Even a difficult journey can be beautiful.
Maybe it is not about the destination at all but about the journey itself?…