Starting a business? Like some sports, it’s harder than it looks

By JJ Rosen January 21, 2024
Starting a business? Like some sports, it's harder than it looks

This article originally appeared in The Tennessean.

Well, that was cool. Literally.

For a post-holiday company outing last week, we decided to do something different—curling.

Yes, curling.  That weird sport that you see every four years at the Olympics with a sheet of ice, a dart-board-like target and a bunch of people with brooms frantically sweeping.

Like many, I’d never understood curling and was never sure why it was considered a sport. It’s always been the one Olympic competition that seemed like even someone with limited athletic ability (like me) could quickly learn.  Using a broom is easy, right?

We showed up at Tee-Line, Nashville’s first “curling bar” at about 6 p.m.   My first impression was that the size of the curling “sheets” looked much bigger in person than they did on TV.  And of course, it was very cold.

After being equipped with no-slip rubber covers for our shoes, we divided up into teams of five for a quick training session.

The “thrower” is the person who slides on one knee and aims the 40-pound “curling stone” toward the target (aka “the house”) over 100 feet away.  Once the stone is on its way, the “sweepers” take over frantically using their brooms to reduce the friction along the stone’s path to guide it to the center of the target.

There are a lot of nuances that determine who wins or loses. But overall, the rules of the game aren’t complex. When we finished our 10-minute training session, we were ready to start.  After some friendly curling trash talking it was game on.

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It only took us a few minutes to realize none of us had any chance of making the Olympics.

Most of our throws either stopped way short of the target or just went right over it thumping against the back wall. Sweeping went well, but not well enough to save our off-the-mark throws.  And even when one of our stones landed on the target, our team would accidentally knock it off on the next throw.

After an hour of playing, we’d only managed to land one stone on the target across both teams.  The final score one was one to zero.

Despite our lack of success, there was laughter and plenty of high-fives as we walked off the ice. What a unique and fun way to spend time together.

But it also reminded our team of an important lesson.

Curling, like business, is something that is much harder than it looks.

From the sidelines, curling looks like a sport that could easily be mastered by anyone with a broom and willingness to simply give it a try.  But as we quickly discovered, looks can be deceiving; it only took a few minutes to be humbled.

Business is similar.

When I first got into the business world, I knew it would be a challenge, but it didn’t take me long to discover that it was even harder than it looks.

Sales, marketing, HR, legal, customer service, macro-economics, micro-economics, negotiation, mental fortitude—being good at business takes a lot of skill. And that’s on top of needing a good product or service and a good worth ethic.

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There are some that make it look easy. But for every success story there are hundreds who are just getting by, missing the target more often than hitting it.  Just like curling, in business, mastering the right combination of luck, hard work, and know-how can make the difference between a clean sweep and getting left out in the cold.

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