Presently I can see Twitter headquarters across the street from the AirBnB condo I rented for the week here in San Fran. On the roof top they’ve got a really cool patio area setup for employees to break free and also apparently play “Cornhole” and kick back in some cool outdoor seating. I sure hope they turn it around.
Walking around downtown I’ve been overwhelmed at the plethora of new and exciting startups that you’ve probably never even heard of. Few of them have likely barely closed Series A funding, and fewer still will get over the hump before the clawback terms kick in, their funding gets sucked back, and they inevitably fade in to the background as another failed startup.
So it made me think about our current venture and the mini emotional seasons I’ve been through already on our journey.
By 25 I had already secured a 6-figure salary and was being promoted rapidly. By all American Standards, I “made it” early. But corporate America is a great place for people with drive to take their ideas and passion to die – after 6 years, I knew I was built for something more. Something that required a little more drive. A little more ingenuity. Something with a little more risk, and hopefully a lot more reward. So I left.
When we started our brand, being driven was easy though. It was new and exciting. Failure wasn’t even a conceivable plausibility in my mind – working 80-100 hour work weeks for months to get it up off the ground wasn’t even a big deal – we were probably going to get acquired before we even launched, if you had asked me back then.
Boy was I naïve.
3 years in and on an exponential growth path, we have been very successful. We’re the fastest growing company in our region by a long shot – we’re proud of that and thankful to be where we are.
Still though – there are days where I would kill to be that naïve again just so it’d be easier to show up and keep grinding it out.
That’s the problem with experience. Once you have it, you can’t lose it and you can’t neglect it when you evaluate next steps in your plan (unless you’re an idiot).
Now more than ever we’re grappling with the reality of the challenges that lay ahead of us on our growth journey. There’s no more warm fuzzies, no more raw excitement to carry you through the long nights and weekends – just unbridled reality: there is a ton of thankless work ahead with very little tangible payoff to be had for a long time.
Now is when we’re faced with the daunting reality: Are we really driven, or just naïve? Being naïve is easier, but being driven is better.
When you’re naïve, it’s easy to be excited, easy to push, easy to think it’s all going to work out. Statistically speaking though, your business will fall in to the 80% that crash and burn or the 95% that fail in the first 5 years.
It’s costly to be naïve.
When you’re driven, you know it likely will not work out. You know there are a ton of unforeseen challenges ahead. You know you may fall flat on your face. You know that there are likely a million things you don’t know. You’re excited but somber. Motivated but realistic. You know every decision counts and that failure is lurking.
Most importantly – you’re honest. You’re honest with yourself that hard work doesn’t always pay off. That failure is a
option likelihood. You’re not foolish enough to think that running a business is actually about something grander than putting more dollars in your bank account then went out today (and by a decent margin at that). You know how businesses in your space are typically valued, and you’re not putting fanciful ideas in your head that your business will somehow be valued differently just because it’s yours and you feel great about how awesome it is.
Yet despite all of that – you keep showing up. You keep hustling. You keep pushing and driving to hopefully make it passed that next bend in the road, no, matter, what. The driven folks know that hardship lays ahead and they embrace it. That’s why they’ll ultimately succeed in life – they thrive on overcoming challenges.
One thing I’ve observed that I believe to be true is this: There are dreamers and there are doers. Both categories can and do fail in business. The difference is that it’s easier for the doers to get back up and start hustling again because they knew all along they were just outrunning the likelihood of failure.
So which are you? Are you driven, or just naïve to the fact that your business isn’t that great, your idea isn’t that original, and more than likely, you’ll fail and your business will fade in to the background?
Sorry to rip the band-aid off, but it’s true. The sooner you start sobering up, the sooner you can start focusing on addressing the real issues your business is facing, and start laying the true ground-work to sustainability for your growth and business for years to come.