I almost collided with a hummingbird on my morning jog.
I froze in my tracks, the pointy beak inches from my eyeballs. The bird’s body floated perfectly still, while its wings flapped a hundred times per second. We made eye contact for just a split second before it fluttered away.
I had a realization that I knew everyone would call crazy:
Hummingbirds and entrepreneurs aren’t so different.
From their relentless speed to their lean build, they could probably teach all CEOs and business leaders a thing or two about running a company.
Here are some lessons I learned about entrepreneurship from hummingbirds:
Fly hard and focus
Hummingbirds can flap their wings up to 200 times per second. This intense effort allows them to hover in mid-air as no other bird can and achieve speeds of up to 60 miles per hour.
While it looks like all the effort is in the wings, they are engaging every single muscle in their body to maintain their flight. Their speed and agility are supported by a solid, unwavering core.
What everyone can see — your marketing, your client-facing work — doesn’t exist in a vacuum. To juggle all of the incredible external work, you have to maintain a strong internal vision. Know your goals and pursue them relentlessly. Don’t let yourself chase every glittery thing you stumble upon.
The work you do is only as good as the foundation you rest it upon.
Forge a new flight path
Unlike most birds which rely on an up-and-down motion to achieve flight, hummingbirds move their wings forwards and backwards in a figure eight pattern. This is how they can hover, fly backwards, and even do somersaults — all marvels that no other bird can manage. It seems like hummingbirds took a page from the dragonfly’s book, as their flight is a unique hybrid of insect and bird mechanics.
Why the special flight style? After all, a regular up-and-down motion works for every other bird.
The ability to hover means hummingbirds can drink nectar from any plant they find, not just those close enough to a ledge they can sit on. This maximizes their odds of finding food and allows them to take advantage of more food sources than other birds.
All that to say: you can’t reach your goals if you follow the crowd.
If you want to capitalize on opportunities that others missed, you have to find new approaches. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take note of what everyone else is doing — after all, hummingbirds do fly in a way similar to bugs — but you shouldn’t do anything just because “that’s the way it’s always been done.”
Think critically. Use what works and discard the rest.
Trim the fat
Hummingbirds can’t walk — they can only land and scoot a bit in either direction. Their small feet reduce drag, optimizing their bodies for flight.
They also sport hollow bones and fused vertebrae, keeping them as light as possible without sacrificing protection.
Hummingbirds replace all that lost mass in their pecs — more than 25% of their body weight is devoted to those muscles. Why?
Those are the muscles that move their wings.
Hummingbirds have one goal: Flight. Everything about their body, from their bones to their enlarged heart, is designed with that goal in mind.
If it doesn’t help them fly, they cut it.
Set your eye on the prize. Decide what your company does well, and devote every muscle in your body to becoming the best. Don’t add in anything — services, products, team members — that doesn’t move you towards that goal.
You give what you take
Because their flight requires so much energy, hummingbirds feed five to eight times per hour and must consume over half of their body weight in sugar.
A hummingbird that isn’t constantly consuming?
To get all of the nutrients they need, they seek out a diverse mix of food sources — everything from sweet nectar to crunchy bugs.
No, I’m not asking you to eat bugs.
As an entrepreneur, you’re only as good as the sources you’re consuming. Are you always reading about your industry and keeping up-to-date with the latest innovations? Do you turn on a motivational podcast to start your day? When you pick up a book, does it help you become a better leader?
It’s easy to fall into the trap that you always need to be creating — that any minute spent not talking to clients, leading your staff, and selling your products is a minute wasted.
But how do you plan to get those clients if you never read about what others have done?
How do you know the best way to lead your staff if you never listen to other leaders?
Can you sell your products if you don’t know the industry?
What you bring in is what you put out.
The sources you consume are the fuel that feeds your business. Never stop learning and striving to improve.
A huge part of entrepreneurship is looking to unconventional sources and methods to make your business grow.
The hummingbird comparison might seem silly, but the lessons you can glean from it are universal.
So the next time you’re taking a morning jog–
Keep your eyes peeled.
You might just find the greatest entrepreneur hiding right beneath your nose.
Houston is the Founder & CEO of BAMF Media, where he’s led the company from 0-30+ full-time employees and $0 to $3.5M in annual revenue in its first year. At BAMF, we drive ROI for recently funded startups, SMBs, and Fortune 500 companies alike using cutting-edge marketing and growth hacking tactics. Houston has led growth teams and marketing campaigns for companies, including Pioneer, Volcom, Love Your Melon, Compass, Coldwell Banker, Mindvalley, Automobili Pininfarina, Unicorn Snot, Foursixty, TEDx, and many more. He’s a growth hacker with years of startup experience on all sides of the table: strategy, engineering, sales, marketing, fundraising, and scaling operations.