I rode Lithium yesterday, a challenging single track just off the Teton Pass in Wyoming. Challenging enough that most mentions of it come with a warning to stay away unless your life insurance is up-to-date. It’s just across the pass from a large ski area, so just imagine a steep ski slope without the groomed runs and without any trees removed. To get there, you have to climb about 1000 feet over 2 or 3 miles, which doesn’t sound like much, except you’re starting at over 7000 feet. By the time you climb the first quarter mile, you’re struggling just to find something to breathe. I’ve been less out-of-breath sprinting up Mt. Tam.
When you reach the summit, there’s a panoramic view over Jackson Hole, and over the steep drop that makes you reconsider whether this is really where you want to be. To create the Lithium trail, someone basically carved the straightest line down the face of the mountain, adding in jumps, boulder drop-offs and pitched turns just to keep it interesting.
Riding, for me, is a metaphor for business. I learn a lot about harnessing my energy, managing risk and taking challenges head on. A trail like Lithium pushes the top of my skill level, and it challenges me in ways that remind me of launching a startup. Lots of people will warn you off, which means you have to embrace things that many people find too risky to consider, and a lot of the time you’re simply on your own. You have to face challenges that you’re not at all sure you can handle, so you have to trust yourself to plow ahead and use what you know to survive. Most of all, you have to know when to back off, when you’re in over your head and need to find another way forward. A twenty-foot drop off a boulder will remind you of that.
And when you do crash and burn, you have to get back on and ride without losing your confidence. There’s still a lot of trail left to ride.