First Full Marathon while Getting a Fintech Startup off the Ground: How the two together made it easier

marathon and building start up

In 2014, I saw a crazy and an impossible dream. The dream was to run 42.195 kms Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM). Yesterday, I made it reality – my first full marathon in 40 years of being.

On the flip side, I suffered from painful knees, blisters on the sole of my right foot and a painful Iliotibial (IT) band. But my spirit is still intact. My mind repeated – ‘Bring it on, I can do and achieve whatever I want. Not only will I fight it out, I will win.’

The dream of running a full marathon was concurrent with the passion of building my own startup. The date is etched in my memory – 11th May 2014. In the last 2.5 years, my journey has been down the road less traveled.

Before which I was living a comfortable life. I was a Managing Director with a $7 bn global private equity fund. It was bringing me an assured income and bucket loads of stability.

I see a strong connect between building a start-up and running a marathon. Though the two dreams are in complete isolation with each other.

7 months before 11th May 2014, I had no history of any physical exercise. After several training sessions, I completed a half marathon in 2 hours and 38 mins in January 2014.

Identical to my fitness history, I was a lone wolf when it came to my profession. Never had I managed a team or built any business. Adding to this, I had no technology expertise, nor did I know enough about personal finance. But I had imparted enough advice on how to run companies to promoters of mid to large sized businesses.

The plan then was to begin training my mind and body to achieve both these dreams in the next 5 years. My plans began to get into shape. I started preparing for the journey ahead.

I streamlined finances to ensure a steady income. We also started working on a few start-up ideas. The planning was in place. My co-founder and myself gained confidence in our startup idea. We quit our jobs by mid-2015 and began bootstrapping.

Working on the start-up along with a full time job was never the plan. The human mind is often too weak. With a backup plan, the temptation to fall back into your comfort zone is irresistible. Just like the marathon, you have no choice once you dive in. Once you are in the grind, there is no looking back.

Both of us were training hard for the marathon by now. With a never ending adrenaline rush, I managed to pursue running. I even broke the 2 hour mark during the half marathon.

But the real reward of running a marathon is at the finish line. These are some remarkable life lessons.

Picking the hardest task on the list

In early 2016, we faced extreme challenges while getting our start-up off the ground. What dominated our list of challenges?

– Hiring talented resources and motivating them

– Managing our relationship with our digital partner- PWC India

– Obtaining regulatory licenses

– Creating marketing strategies

But we kept going. Picking and resolving hard to-dos first. The rest fell in place.

Picking the hardest task on the list will ensure everything else is made easy. Click to Tweet

In a fit of defiance, to the ever increasing burden of hardships – I committed myself to run the full marathon in January 2017. This was my way of expressing – “Bring it on and I will fight it out”.

This is a life leading technique which I self-discovered. When faced with many tasks, choose the hardest one first. If you manage to crack that one, everything else will appear easy.

I can tell you there is nothing that has helped me more in my start-up journey than training for the full marathon.

Both these major moves in my life pushed my capabilities.

“I am not my body or my mind”

Another important lesson I learnt from marathon training and applied to my start-up experience.

My body and my mind often complain. Always ready to give up at the slightest encounter with inconvenience. They are lethargic at the core, always chasing the easiest option (which often is giving up). But I have the option to overrule my mind and body. Being in constant conflict with your mind and body is not an easy task. They tell you survival is enough, dragging you back to the start.

My marathon training ensured that I practiced overruling my mind and body 4 times a week. All this while, my body never failed to complain. It told me everyday how bad an idea, training for a marathon was. But almost every time, I won the battle.

My marathon training ensured that I practiced overruling my mind and body 4 times a week. Click to Tweet

This shift in mindset extended to my life in general. In early start-up phases, we chose daring approaches over conventional wisdom. Leading to some wise decisions.

(i) We thought of how we need to appeal to our user group. We see ourselves as a consumer brand rather than a financial company.

(ii) In our hiring – many of our early tech hires were not IIT grads. Some did not even have a conventional IT degree.

Scaling up to the size of a challenge takes efforts. I try to play games which are bigger than me. If only winning gave us a feeling of achievement, we would all be competing against 5 year olds. Or we would stay stuck playing Candy Crush level 1 all our lives.

Challenge yourself.

You are more capable than you ever thought you were.

shiv nandan negi

Written by Shiv Negi
Shiv Nandan Negi, co-founder, MintWalk - Fintech startup working to Simplify Financial Lives. Previously, he was Managing Director - Mount Kellett Capital Management LP and has over 16+ years of experience in finance.