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This article was published on October 22, 2017

What paddleboarding has taught me about being a balanced entrepreneur

What paddleboarding has taught me about being a balanced entrepreneur
Marko Dimitrijevic
Story by

Marko Dimitrijevic

Marko Dimitrijevic is a leading expert on emerging markets. An entrepreneur, investor, photographer, and public speaker, Marko is the author Marko Dimitrijevic is a leading expert on emerging markets. An entrepreneur, investor, photographer, and public speaker, Marko is the author of Frontier Investor: How to Prosper in the Next Emerging Markets.

If I told you that I credit paddleboarding to my success in entrepreneurship, you’d probably laugh me out of the boat, or the board — and I wouldn’t blame you! Founding and running a successful business requires many skills, and propelling one’s self on a board in Miami waters is decidedly not the first one that comes to mind.

That said, as an entrepreneur, I get a lot out of my hobbies. They help me unwind, disconnect, and get my blood and brain pumping in new ways, making me a better leader when I am on the clock. I take photos, scuba dive, travel, and read, but there’s something special about paddleboarding that embodies everything good about what hobbies can do for entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs don’t need to paddleboard to benefit, but they can learn a thing or two about the importance of taking time to shift gears, deriving pleasure in the activities of their choosing.

Here’s how paddleboarding, specifically, helps me as an entrepreneur, and what others can do to achieve similar results.

1. It forces you to disconnect

These days, everyone has their phones on them, nearly 24-7 it seems. Since the rise of smartphones, I’ve been a big proponent of taking time to disconnect however you can, for your mental health and your business acumen.

I’m far from the only one who thinks so. Research shows that constant connection can negatively impact our sleep, or cause us undue stress due to technological overload of emails, notifications, and communication expectations. Personally, I find it incredibly hard to think straight or relax without unplugging every day, at least for a short amount of time.

You know when you absolutely have to unplug, though? When you’re in the water. Paddleboarding forces me to keep the phone inside for 30 minutes, an hour, or however long I’m out there. This time is precious because I know I don’t have to answer to anyone, and couldn’t if I tried. I may zone out entirely, but it’s equally likely that a new business solution will pop into my head as I go through the motions.

Not everyone has the option of taking up a water sport, but most of us could disconnect for an hour or two if we tried. It’s just a matter of enforcing this habit, which any hobby can assist, though wetness certainly helps.

2. It immerses you in nature

People often underestimate the transformative power of nature. Entrepreneurs often live in cities, but whether you’re in New York City or the Bay Area, nature is within reach if you seek it out. And you should! Running a business is a high-stress venture, and nature has been proven to de-stress as well as any medical treatment.

In fact, studies show that nature significantly reduces cortisol, the stress hormone, and can boost creativity up to 50 percent. You’d be hard pressed to find a drug that could do the same as safely.

The great thing about paddle boarding, as a hobby, is that you need a body of water to do it. Water has a healing quality to it, both theoretically and scientifically. As part of the scenery, water has an absorbing quality that helps us cope with our issues and put us in a positive mood.

The value of positivity and creativity for entrepreneurs can’t be understated, which is why it pays to spend time in nature from time to time. You don’t need a paddleboard: take a hike, go for a swim, or even work outside. Even some luscious office plants can make a difference.

3. It requires focus, balance, and agility

The benefits of exercise are manifold for your physical and mental health. Regular exercise keeps your skin young, your body lean, and your mind sharp. Physical activity improves cognitive function in ways that entrepreneurs will benefit from, as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) are released, stimulating neurogenesis (the growth of new neurons) and making you smarter.

Paddleboarding is great exercise for the body and mind, plus, it requires some skills that parallel with entrepreneurship. For example, you have to achieve good balance to stand or kneel on the board without capsizing. This requires absolute focus and control over your body. Learning to do this is empowering, and in my opinion, translates in the business world, where focus is critical, as is balancing a number of tasks, employees, and projects.

Then there’s the matter of waves and position adjustments. When on the open water, you never know what you’ll be greeted with: perfect tranquility, mild turbulence, or full-on waves. As such, you need to know how to take each on, and adjust your position to best meet obstacles that arise. In entrepreneurship, there is also a great deal of unpredictability that requires mental agility.

The point is, besides being a great boost to physical and mental health, exercise helps us deal with challenges without missing a beat. Simply running and switching up your route now and then can do the same. Just make sure you’re working up a sweat, problem-solving, or both.

It’s all about balance

For me, paddleboarding is the perfect activity to disconnect from technology, become one with nature, and work out my physical and mental physique all at once. When challenge arise at work, I find myself soothed and ultimately assisted by this extracurricular pastime.

Everyone is different though. My paddleboarding is Richard Branson’s chessWarren Buffett’s ukulele, and Steve Wozniak’s segway polo. We all need something to take our mind off the work and bring us joy in our free time.

So, entrepreneurs, go out there and find your hobby! If it incorporates exercise and nature while excluding tech, all the better for you. And next time in you’re in Miami, ask me to go on a paddleboarding outing. It may just kickstart your next big business venture.

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