Guy Kawasaki had a great guest post “On The Other Hand: The Flip Side of Entrepreneurship” by Glenn Kelman, the CEO of Redfin, last week that was a well written counterpoint to some of the “make money fast in your spare time in your underwear” blather that Guy has been generating with “No Plan, No Capital, No Model…No Problem. ” Google Video of event here. Some of Kelman’s observations that really resonated with me:
Lately I’ve been thinking how hard, not how easy, it is to build a new company. Hard has gone out of fashion. Like college students bragging about how they barely studied, start-ups today take care to project a sense of ease. Wherever I’ve worked, we’ve secretly felt just the opposite. We’re assailed by doubts, mortified by our own shortcomings, surrounded by freaks, testy over silly details.
Like the souls in Dostoevsky who are admitted to heaven because they never thought themselves worthy of it, successful entrepreneurs can’t be convinced that any other startup has their troubles, because they constantly compare the triumphant launch parties and revisionist histories of successful companies to their own daily struggles.
“Revisionist histories of successful companies” is something that’s not widely appreciated. Eric Hoffer cautioned against this tendency in his observation “Our achievements speak for themselves. What we have to keep track of are our failures, discouragements, and doubts. We tend to forget the past difficulties, the many false starts, and the painful groping. We see our past achievements as the end result of a clean forward thrust, and our present difficulties as signs of decline and decay.”
Most start-ups find an interesting problem to solve, then just keep working on it. At a recent awards ceremony, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer tried to think of the secret to Microsoft’s success and could only come up with “hard, hard, hard, hard, hard, work.” This is an obvious cliche, but most entrepreneurs remain fixated on the Eureka! moment. If you don’t believe you have any reliable competitive advantage, you’re the kind of insecure person who will work your competition into the ground, so keep working.
If you aren’t doing something worthwhile, you can’t get anyone worthwhile to work on it…You need a big mission to recruit people who care about what you’re doing.
If you can begin to enjoy the process of building a start-up rather than the outcome, you’ll be a better leader.
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