Well, that sucked…
I’m giving the PG rated version of what I say when a startup I start fails. I just wasted my time, my resources and, potentially, opportunities doing something else that might have worked. I hate the word failure, because it’s not really a failure, even if it feels terrible. I learned a while ago to treat my startups as projects and not properties. In the beginning, any startup is 99% mental and 1% physical. The startup is an illusion in the early stage. Really, this can go for anything new that you start.
Have a new job? Yep, your office and paycheck are real (hopefully) but what you think you’ll do and what you actually will do are very different. Starting a new hobby? Dating a new person? Everything at this stage is in your head and as you progress things begin to solidify, settle and, if you’re not careful, stagnate.
At this stage of 99% mental (even if you do have shiny new incorporation paperwork that says you’re a real boy) you will be selling an idea to investors, to employees, to customers, and most importantly, to yourself. If you’re not buying your own pitch, then how can anyone else? I’ve seen this so many times. Founders who don’t believe in their own idea, trying to get other people to believe in it. It’s easy to get lost along the way, and we naturally look to others to help show us the way, even if we’re the ones at the head of the line.
There is a real danger of believing that your startup idea is something solid, that will last forever. It’s not and it won’t. OK, OK, I know, you’re thinking, yeah, but what about Facebook and Google…fair enough. They’ve each been around about 10 years and may be the exceptions to the rule, but don’t bet on exceptions. Sorry to break this to you, but you’re not an exception. I’m not an exception either. That doesn’t mean you can’t be exceptional. You can be, and have to be to succeed. Exceptionalism is the rule you need to follow.
So what’s exceptional about you? About your startup? I don’t know. You don’t even know to be honest. Not yet anyway. And what is great today, may not be tomorrow. You always have to keep reinventing yourself. If you’re smart, you’ll keep your ear to the ground and constantly speak with your customers. If you don’t have any yet, get some. Your customers will tell you, with their wallets, what they’ll buy.
So what’s the biggest challenge you’ll face? You are. You’re the biggest challenge. Slowly moving from 99% mental to 95%, then 90%, and on and on. All the while battling with your preconceived ideas and notions of who you are, how you are supposed to react and what your company does. You’re probably going to face a ton of firsts as you begin, and until you do, you have no idea how you’ll react and respond. Your business is based on your actions and decisions.
You’ll feel lost. You’ll feel crushed. You’ll feel abused and misunderstood. There will be times you’ll ask yourself if you are a fraud. If you know what you are doing. If you know what your business really does. And there are times you’ll be elated, ecstatic and feel like the world is at your doorstep. Both will be true and both will co-exist. The biggest challenge is you…it’s also the biggest opportunity.
Thanks for joining me on this journey. It wouldn’t be the same without you.