Be Careful How You Tell Yourself “The Story So Far”

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in skmurphy, Startups

I had a long conversation today with a startup CEO who has been bootstrapping since 2004. It was enjoyable and energizing–I always enjoy talking to folks trying to create something new. We talked about a lot of things that he had tried that hadn’t worked (I was able to recall a few of my own less successful strategies as well, once I put my mind to it). It can take a long time to be an overnight success. That means it’s very important how your tell yourself and others the “story so far” of your entrepreneurial journey.

As we were wrapping up I told him that I had one concern. He had referred to himself as “stubborn” several times. This may be accurate–or what his wife calls him–but it’s not a positive quality. A stubborn person does the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. The Germans say that “stubbornness is the energy of fools.”

I suggested a better phrase might be “persevering and continuing to experiment.” I think it makes a difference in your own outlook how you tell “…the story so far.”

You are the storyteller of your own life, and you can create your own legend or not”
Isabel Allende

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Persevering vs. Tenacious

Update June 27, Ray Salemi suggests in the comments that the word I wanted to use was “tenacious.”

Tenacious has a sense of steadfast holding on, retaining what you already have, with an implication of obstinacy. A defense can be tenacious, but start-ups have to play offense: they have to end up somewhere distant from where they started to thrive. Washington kept the Continental Army viable at Valley Forge, but he renewed their hope–and their vital re-enlistments–by persevering in crossing the Delaware and overwhelming the Hessian garrison at Trenton.

American Heritage Dictionary defines “persevere” as

To persist in or remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement.

Webster’s Revised Unabridged says

“To persist in any business or enterprise undertaken; to pursue steadily any project or course begun; to maintain a purpose in spite of counter influences, opposition, or discouragement; not to give or abandon what is undertaken.”

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