By Mayke Nagtegaal, former speed skater with the Royal Dutch Skaters Association, current COO of MessageBird and an eternal risk-taker. A version of this article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.
Skating the razor-thin edge between risk and reward is something I’ve learned over the course of my career. Not just from my work as the COO of a startup, or from my previous job as an attorney specializing in international tax law, but from my former life as a professional speed skater, flying across the ice at 30 mph.
To me, speed skating is a balance of both force and precision, power and finesse. Winning and losing isn’t defined in seconds—it’s defined in hundredths of seconds. You could be in the middle of the fastest lap of your life when the tiniest misstep sends you crashing. Yet, you learn to make moves anyway, swerving with the curves of the track to bypass your opponents, no matter the risk. You don’t play it safe, worry about being disqualified, or fear the fall. Instead, you anticipate it. You get good at falling. Or, more to the point, you get good at picking yourself up again after you take a tumble.
It’s the same mindset I’ve applied as I’ve skated along the twists and turns in my career—the idea that risk and reward are two sides of the same blade. When I hung up my skates to practice tax law, there was a sense of stability and groundedness in my work. And I loved what I did. But, when I had the opportunity to join a high-growth startup with a team I liked and trusted, I leapt at it.