The Shark That Doesn’t Swim Doesn’t Breathe*

Most sharks never stop swimming, even when they’re sleeping*. If they do take a break, water won’t pass over their gills, and that means no oxygen. That means eventual brain death and being eaten by crabs on the sea floor.

I just led two sessions at Starter School here in Chicago. It’s a nine-month program that teaches future entrepreneurs the real-world chops they need to get a technology business started.

The students are all starting something new. They’re learning to code, to think like owners, to market themselves as makers. They’re also learning the culture of living in the unknown. It’s a new industry for them. It’s a new life. It’s a lot of possibilities. That’s a harrowing experience.

As entrepreneurs, we have to live lean, and in some cases entirely without. We need to manage the incredible feat of being here in the present to run a company while simultaneously living in the distant future to design whatever the market needs next.

It’s tiring never being settled, but this is how it will always be. If we’re not feeling the competition, if we’re not worried about how to improve an already stellar product, if we’re not worried about what’s next for us as entrepreneurs, we just stopped swimming. Shark-tartare.

Life only gives us so many chances to lay down a big ol’ bet on ourselves as individuals. Some people never get the opportunity. Others gladly pass it up. As entrepreneurs, we are our own best chance at success, and with that comes the necessity to keep on swimming, exploring, and looking for the next big bite.

*Sharks, such as the nurse and angel, do indeed stop swimming and they don’t die and get eaten by crabs. They use what’s called buccal pumping to oxygenate their gills when they’re at rest. They’re not really entrepreneurial sharks though. Eh hrm.