Adeo Ressi (@adeoressi) is a serial entrepreneur and currently CEO and cofounder of the Founder Institute. At Startupfest 2015, he gave a keynote with the theme: “What you do with your startup is your life’s work, ideally your destiny, and you don’t pivot on the purpose of your life.” Here are four key excerpts from his talk with some additional thoughts for bootstrappers.

Don’t Lose Your Purpose In A Pivot

The keynote is a mixed bag but he made several points that I thought were worth highlighting.

Startupfest 2015: Adeo Ress (Founder Institute / – Keynote

Founders Take Out The Trash

“Founders take out the trash.
There are easier ways to be happy.”
Adeo Ressi in his StartupFest 2015 keynote

Leadership as service is not a common theme in Silicon Valley, or at least a reality recognized by many Silicon Valley CEO’s. In the early going you have to sweat the details with your co-founders, then you have to learn how to let go and help the team you have hired do a better job than you could.

Successful Founders Know Why

“You cannot have a good “what” unless you have a good “why.”
What is your life story?
How does your company fit within your life story.
How does your company create your legacy.
You cannot pivot your purpose in life.”
Adeo Ressi in his StartupFest 2015 keynote

This echoes Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why.” It seems to me he missed a chance to stress that startup employees will also be happier i they understand the why behind the company. The purpose has to be larger than individual success if you hope to scale beyond a very small team. The startup founders who are most risk for failing this challenge are those anxious to become wealthy in a hurry.

Not every startup, or every job, or every task, is the capstone of your life’s purpose. I think you have to spend a fair amount of time exploring and exposing yourself to different situations and opportunities to find out what energizes you, what you can become excellent at, and what people will pay for. But I think that’s implicit in his “how does the company fit within your life story?” question. Some roles are preparation, even dead ends are if you learn from them.

“My core skill is inspiring people to do great things” Adeo Ressi

“Became the most successful entrepreneur I knew”
Wanted to give back to entrepreneurs
My core skill is inspiring people to do great things.”
Adeo Ressi in his StartupFest 2015 keynote

This is the obligatory success montage part of the keynote: “you can succeed like I have.” He ends on a better note than most, realizing that he can help others achieve great things. I find his coaching or mentoring style much too negative in many instances, your mileage may vary.

You Can Only Succeed When You Know Who You Are and What You Want

“A company dies when the founder gives up.
You can only succeed when you know who you are.
You can only succeed when you know what you want.”
Adeo Ressi in his StartupFest 2015 keynote

He implicitly espousing a single founder model, but if he were to say that the morale and gumption of the founding team is the critical resource I would not argue. It’s also true that extraordinary efforts flow from preparation and diligence and those require self-knowledge and alignment with a strong sense of inner purpose. This requirement of self-knowledge and clearly defined goals dovetails nicely with an observation by Eric Berne:

“A winner is defined as a person who fulfills his contract with the world and with himself. That is, he sets out to do something, says that he is committed to doing it, and in the long run does it. […] If he accomplishes his goal, he is a winner.”
Eric Berne (see Eric Berne on Winners and Losers for more details)

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