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