The 4 Ways Roller Derby is Like Owning Your Own Business

March 3, 2016

I am proud to announce I am no longer Fresh Meat… well, sorta.

About 6 months ago I joined a Roller Derby league. They call them leagues, I call them teams. Much to the chagrin of my husband and mother, who were worried I would kill myself, I set out to learn something new. It’s intriguing to me! Who wouldn’t want to be able to skate around and be so comfortable on rolling shoes that you can bash into people, turn around like an agile cat, and stop on a dime? I know this girl does, right here!

There is a process to becoming a Derby Girl. First you have to pass Fresh Meat. You have to demonstrate a set of minimum skills to be able to compete. This include, yes, a certain level of skating. Well,endurance while skating (27 laps in 5 minutes), transitions (the ability to turn around) and, ya know, stopping. They are kind of strict about the stopping thing.

I had no idea how hard this would be physically, mentally, emotionally, all the feels. But last week, I passed.

As I reflected on my achievement and believe me, it was an achievement, I realized Roller Derby and owning your own business were a lot alike. The lessons I learned on the track could also apply to my business – and more importantly, maybe they should.

 

Lesson 1: Pack Up.

Roller derby is a team sport. On the track during the bout, you have 4 blockers and 1 jammer per 2-minute jam. Blockers form a “pack” where you bunch up and form an obstruction for the oncoming jammer from the other team. You have to be within a certain distance to other players to constitute a pack. You have to work together, vocalize what you are seeing and doing, who’s coming, etc.. You can’t play on your own, and you can’t pretend to be the “star” of the team. There is no star. Someone may have a really great bout, but it’s always a team effort. There are veterans and rookies playing together for the benefit of all.

Your business needs a pack too. I mean you need your own cohort, your group of like-minded, like-spirited, like-hearted people to support and encourage you. You need a group of people of varying levels of experience to lend counsel, to give tips, that YOU can give tips to, that YOU can support. Every team has veterans that help teach the rookies, and the rookies bring fresh perspectives and new energy. Whether you call it a mastermind, a tribe, a pack, it’s all the same. My business needs this too, even though I’m an entrepreneur, I’ve realized I need people around me, consistently. I’ve found that recently and the benefits have been huge.

 

Lesson 2: Everyone is Eligible.

There is no “type” of woman that is best for derby. You don’t have to have a certain physique or some certain level of fitness to begin. A woman of any shape, size, orientation, background, profession can play roller derby. (In fact, it’s probably one of the few sports where being a skinny twig is NOT to your advantage and the typical “athletic” shape is NOT the norm. It’s awesome!) All you need for Roller Derby is heart and desire to play. And enough persistence to stick with it!

Business, the same. The opportunity is there for all. So what if you offer the same service or have the same product as someone else. The thing is, it’s not the same. You add your own flavor. You add your own points of view and experiences and humor. It might be similar, but guaranteed, it’s not the same. Comparing myself to the 5 year derby veteran who is all muscley and stuff does me NO GOOD. Nor does comparing myself to someone else who has really found their niche and groove in business. Good for them! I’ll get there… when I’m meant to. And not before. There will always be a place for me, as long as I’m open for it.

 

Lesson 3: Knee Tap and Get Up.

Derby is more about falling than it is about skating. It’s about trying to make people fall, falling yourself, and getting the hell back up. I still struggle with the idea of falling.

Falling hurts, falling is bad, on-your-wheels equals awesomeness.

While some of this is true, most it isn’t. Falling is part of the game. You know the saying, “If you aren’t falling, you aren’t trying.”

In business I am going to fall. As an entrepreneur, I take falling very personally because who else do I have to blame?! But that’s the thing, if I can turn my point of view from “blaming for failure” to “learning from a misstep”, then I’ve won. I can try again. I’m in control of it. Don’t give up! No one is going to stop you from trying. Just like derby, no one is going to kick me out of my own business because I fall. In fact, in roller derby, people CHEER you when you fall. (Especially if you don’t fall directly on your a$$. That hurts!) Just think of it as trial-and-error!

 

Lesson 4: Be Yourself.

In Roller Derby you get to pick a name, kind of like an alter-ego. Something witty, reflective of you, of your personality, your obsessions, and with a bit of an edge. This is hard to do, though, when you don’t know who you are. If you’re floating around without a clear sense of self, it becomes quite the conundrum. I get sucked into the self-analysis void. Admittedly, I get super hung up on comparison and thinking I have to do it “a certain way” or be “a certain way” to get approval, friends, love, [insert whatever] here. But at the end of the day, I am ME, though, and that inherently makes me not them. At 39 years old, I had to reflect on the changes in my life and come to terms with the fact that 24-year-old me is dead. Parts of her live on, but there are very distinct parts that needed to flame out. It was hard. But I came to the conclusion that IT’S OK. It’s OK to evolve. I can be who I am now, and I don’t need you to approve. I don’t have to be like you.

Business evolves too. And that, although difficult for me to wrap my mind around, is OK too. Even favorable! I came to the realization I have been trying to live up to an impossible standard based entirely on some white-knight level of perfect, some type of achievement that only I could see, but would never be able to attain because whatever I was imagining doesn’t actually exist in reality.  

Now that Roller Derby, in large part, has forced me to really look at myself and my life, I have realized that when I listen to my heart, I’m happiest. And that’s pretty cool. I’ve learned a lot in terms of skills and knowledge since I’ve started my business, so to speak. Now I get to really take control and CHOOSE how my business will grow, instead of letting it grow and just hanging on for dear life. I’m excited for the next version! One where I am clearer on what I have to offer, who I want to work with, and how I want to serve and leave my legacy in the world.

 

So what about the “sorta” part?

Well, I passed my minimum skills, but I’m not quite bout ready. There are a few factors at play with this. I’m all good with it. Once upon a time, I would have been a basket case over the asterisk next to my name. But in the practice of listening to my inner voices and following my heart, I’m releasing that. There is no standard I have to meet, in no particular time frame. I am me, and this is how my story is evolving. You go on with your bad self over there. I’ll be here still trying to spin around to the left.

 

 

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