Growth 101: The 5-Step Growth Hacking Process I learned from 250 sommersaults as a NCAA All-American Diver

What do 250 sommersaults as an NCAA All-American Diver have in common with growth hacking?


If you live in the Bay area or if you’re a tech Founder you hear it everywhere. Growth Hacking: the process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most effective, efficient ways to grow a business.

Well, 14 years ago I wasn’t either of those. I was an amateur springboard diver that walked on to the Northern Michigan University Swimming and Diving team with a BIG goal…to earn a full ride athletic scholarship in 1 year.

My coach smiled and said, “Well then. Drop and give me 250 sommersaults on that old, beat up blue gynmastics mat.”

I gave him a quizzical look, shrugged my shoulders and got to work. About 50 sommersaults in, I stopped and asked him “what do 250 sommersaults have to do with diving? Shouldn’t I be diving off the board or something?”

No answer.

I got back to work. 50 sommersaults later, as I rolled down the mat, I heard him say “now point your toes.” At 150, he said “spot 6 inches in front of you.” At 200, he said “squeeze your tuck tighter so you can roll faster.” At 250, he said “Great workout. You’re done for the day.”

Say what?! But I didn’t even get in the water.

He sat me down and said “Michelle, if your goal is to earn a full ride scholarship, you must become an NCAA All-American first. And in order to become an NCAA All-American, you must learn how to do a forward 2.5 sommersault tuck off the 1mtr diving board for 8’s. And in order to do a forward 2.5 sommersault tuck for 8’s you have to train your body to do 2 rotations while training your eyes to spot where to STOP the rotation so you can have a clean entry. Now, I could have had you get on the board and do it, but then there would have been a good chance you wouldn’t come back tomorrow due to injury. So, instead, I chose the 250 sommersaults on an old, beat-up blue gymnastics mat route instead hoping you would come back hungry for more.”

His strategy worked. I did come back hungry for more and with a renewed confidence that I was going to reach my BIG goal. I also learned this *5-Step Growth Hacking Process from it:

Step 1. Create SMART Goals. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Bound goals should drive all of your growth hacking efforts so that you are not like a butterfly flitting between one thing and the next without any direction.

Step 2. Measure progress toward your goals. Because SMART goals have measurement already built in, you should know what analytics you need to achieve them.

Step 3. Treat each tactic as an experiment. Although you can’t always control all the conditions of a marketplace, thinking of your work as an experiment sets the right frame of mind for trying new things and tossing away the things that don’t work.

Step 4. Tweak, enhance, optimize. Experiments are flexbile and should be continually fine-tuned for performance. Just like a coach on the sidelines, observe your experiment, make tweaks to certain variables periodically but do not give up until you’ve reached a point where you can’t improve the results further without a significant amount of time or money.

Step 5. Repeat. And do it all over again with another channel strategy, product or idea.

2 years later (and countless hours of sweat equity and iterations to the process) we achieved my BIG goal and I earned a full ride scholarship. Even though my “glory days of diving” are over, the life skills I learned from ” those 250 sommersaults” can fuel your fire to relentlessly pursue your BIG goals in a strategic and process-driven way.

Do you have a “250 sommersault” story to share? What other youthful experiences taught you back engineering or growth hacking? Post a comment in the section below, and let’s discuss it!

Joy & Coffee, Michelle

If you don’t have a Growth story to share and want one, contact us anytime for immediate consultation.

*Author: Jessica Vionas, Smart Bug Media

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