We as entrepreneurs have a jaded view of the world we live in. It’s a disease actually. We look out onto the horizon seeing opportunity, wealth, fame, fortune or whatever gets us up each day and disregard the inevitable barriers which lay in our way. But it’s not always up and the the right, within our journey failure sits awaiting; steps forward and steps backward. It’s natural and should be expected.
Already for me, this summer has been a microcosm of the entrepreneurial journey. Courageously leaving a full time job at the beginning of May, quickly learning what I thought was my next gig actually wasn’t, setting out on my own to make ends meet, continually reaching out and connecting with various CEO’s and local entrepreneurs each week, starting to write daily and beginning to reach people like yourself, interviewing everyone from CEO’s like Bryan Trussell of Glympse to entertainers like Sir Mix-A-Lot, being approached to cover topics and startups I never would have imagined a few months ago, being approached by numerous startups with offers to join, and ultimately accepting an offer that is currently forming into my next venture.
Yea, I know… all that in about 90 days. Words cannot describe this experience, but somewhere in between exhilarating and terrifying would be accurate.
As you can see by my short summer filled with opportunity, the entrepreneurial path is always 2 steps forward, one step back. The important thing is at the very least you are always moving forward. If it were one step forward, two steps back – you would be sinking. Let’s hope you aren’t going that way.
It’s times like these I grab my copy of Founders At Work, a book which has helped me through similar challenging times. As a collection of startup and early day stories of some of the more well known technology companies from the past 25 years, it is my entrepreneurial medicine. It gives inside perspectives on the founding of various companies starting with Lotus, Apple all the way to Flickr and Craigslist, almost like you are there with them. You can feel their pain and experience their triamph all the while secretly wishing/hoping you will one day grace similar pages. Through reading incredible stories like overcoming insurmountable challenges , founder disagreements, backstabbing, near bankruptcy, exploding revenue, and going public you realize every entrepreneur faces an uphill battle and your situation, although unique, is not impossible.
You will also see that each is a unique story of two steps forward, one step back. Apple was founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in a garage in 1976 and got initial steps forward because of the Homebrew Computer Club. Paypal, founded by Max Levchin, was a security and cryptography service for transferring money between PDA’s before becoming a web payments company. Founders like you and me need to understand all these large and successful companies we read about each day all started with a lot of hard work and as just an idea. Usually that idea wasn’t what you see today and those billoinare founders were a lot like you – scrappy, dissatisfied, hungry and motivated.
Tw0 steps forward, one step back.
Another way to think about it is what Seth Godin calls The Dip. Put bluntly, he visually describes the path people encounter in life, where to be great one has to go through the challenging trough to emerge on a higher level. It’s a book about avoiding temptation and gravity and becoming the best in the world.
I’m amazed at how quickly people will stand up and defend not just the status quo but the inevitability of it. We’ve been taught since forever that the world needs joiners and followers, not just leaders. We’ve been taught that fitting in is far better than standing out, and that good enough is good enough.
Which might have been fine in a company town, but doesn’t work so well in a winner-take-all world. Now, the benefits that accrue to someone who is the best in the world are orders of magnitude greater than the crumbs they save for the average. No matter how hard working the average may be.
I’ve never met anyone… anyone… who needed to settle for being average. Best is a slot that’s available to everyone, somewhere.
Two steps forward, one step back.
That’s how we roll as entrepreneurs – somehow, someway moving forward. I believe how you approach the one step back will make all the difference in your life. Knowing it is a natural step in your evolutionary process as en entrepreneur will help you use it as a stabilizer, not a fall backwards.
These are exciting times, and although constant talk concerning the economic health of our nation is getting louder, I am not going to let it deafen my voice. Neither should you. Take the backward step in stride and then look forward as you readily take your next one.