There’s a Difference Between Perseverance and Willing Something into Reality

spoon bending boy

I’ve tried willing my startups into success.

Turns out, it doesn’t work. You can’t will things into reality (as far as I know at least.) And that sounds obvious, but I guarantee you when you’re right in the middle of your startup, somewhere between the post-launch euphoria and the wiggles of false hope (as described in Paul Graham’s Startup Curve), you’ll try and mentally force success.

But it’s a waste of time. And energy.

There’s a difference between perseverance and trying to will something to be true. Perseverance is a must. If I look back at my checkered past, perseverance is what’s pushed me through in most cases. When all else fails and you’re exhausted, stressed and panicked … you keep going. You keep fighting. You persevere.

But push that too far and you’re into the realm of fantasy. Now you’re just pointing your giant brain at something and saying, “Happen. Happen. Happen. Happen. Happen. Happen. Happen. Happen. Happen. Happen. Happen. Happen. Happen. Happen. Happen. Happen. Happen. Happen.” (No one wants to be Jack Torrance.) That’s not going to work and it’s not healthy. Perseverance alone, without a plan and direction isn’t the way you want to go. You might get lucky (and never forget just how important luck is overall!), but you’ll most likely flame out horribly.

There’s a difference between “work” and “smart work.” We often get caught doing work, but it’s not smart. It’s not meaningful or goal-driven. It’s just “stuff we’re doing to delude ourselves into believing this will all work in the end.”

Lean Startup provides a framework for “smart work”. It still drives towards a big vision but reduces the amount of time spent staring at the computer trying to will things into reality. It can give you more balance in a startup roller coaster ride that’s inevitable but doesn’t have to be as painful.

Mentors can also be a huge help. I’m not just talking about mentors that provide advice on your startup. You can also benefit from personal mentors – people you spill your guts to, peel off the “this is a guaranteed slam dunk win!” veneer, and be brutally honest with.

Startups are simultaneously anchored in fantasy land and the real world. When you go too far into the real world, you may lose your vision or not appreciate the bigger scope / potential of what you’re doing. And startups shouldn’t limit themselves in that way. At the same time, get too far into fantasy land and you’ll find yourself pretending you’re in the Matrix and can bend a spoon.

The boy bending the spoon image is courtesy of Shutterstock

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  • logo items

    somehow you have differentiated well the terms and meaning of each because of your good examples. Just like working is different from smart working in a way you still enjoy your task and work. Since we all know that working so hard pays off after all our efforts and struggles. But let’s face it since we are just human beings and capable of having some limitations. We cannot be consistent for a long time since there might be some random events and happenings. And with this scenario our effort streak would snap and break.

  • kurye

    tank you

  • kurye

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  • kurye

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  • Ceiling

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  • Tmclaughlin

    Very useful article…the “problem” that many inventors and entrepreneurs have is their natural blindside to reality when it comes to their “invention”. Not only is the goal-setting and the idea of a clear vision vital to success with a startup, it is crucial that an honest evaluation of marketability is in the works early on to avid the massive costs associated with going to market with an Edsel.  

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  • seventhman

    I love the idea behind smart work and it’s something that takes time, patience and perseverance… and I love that the Lean Startup process makes it easier for startups to fail fast, build faster and achieve a better chance for success.

  • executive gifts

    people should not forget that if there is a will there is a way. Same thing goes for your daily task and work were in you need to be consistent and productive. But sometimes working smartly could lead to longer effects and project point of view. Since it does not just save you some cost and expenses but also some valuable time.