Below is an excerpt from the Introduction of our book Startups Made Simple: How to Start, Grow and Systemize Your Dream Business. Learn more about the book here.
“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” – Steve Jobs
“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” – Calvin Coolidge
I’ve noticed the best entrepreneurs are known for their perseverance; they can be trusted to get through the rough stuff. So many of the great tales in business and in life are about the person who simply did not give up, even after many obstacles and setbacks. Resilience, persistence, grit, tenacity, confidence, and relentlessness are related traits, and in general, overcoming fear is a big part of perseverance.
In my opinion, people have been taught to quit way too quickly. Scammy marketing and advertising has conditioned many of us to expect fast or even instant results. The truth is that many skills take years to develop. Some things as simple as a handstand can take many months of daily practice to master, yet the majority of people give up in a few weeks or if they can’t find a program called “Mastering Handstands in Only One Week!”
This doesn’t mean it will take years to learn how to get your company going; it only means that you shouldn’t immediately give up if you’re not performing like Elon Musk in the first year of your startup. Some startups, the smart ones anyway, may take a year or two to work on their idea, test things in the marketplace, quickly pivot to another product or service, and continue learning from their customers. There will be much more on this in Part Two of this book, and there is such a thing as going on too long. Mostly, the problem lies with giving up too early.
For now, just know that your first instinct, especially when things get tough, may be to quit. Quitting sounds so comfortable (for lack of a better word) when things are bad. I wanted to quit several times in the first couple of years for, in retrospect, completely ridiculous reasons.
Make sure that if you’re thinking about quitting that you’re not closer to victory than you think you are. A lot of entrepreneurs quit on the ten-yard line right before they are about to succeed. This is so common that it’s almost legend now. I’m asking you to carefully consider when you feel like giving up. I’ve learned that some days are just going to be a “shit sandwich,” and you have to take a bite. You will have bad days or maybe even bad weeks, and a perseverance mindset will help you greatly.
Also, business is not nearly as hard as some stories out there about people sleeping in their cars or having nervous breakdowns. In fact, I think a lot of successful entrepreneurs like to embellish their startup stories to motivate their teams and create a hero’s journey for the startup. (I’m certainly guilty of that myself on some occasions.)
However, the business world can be competitive and you can be pushed around if you’re too sensitive or thin-skinned. You want to develop a thick skin and also hire other people who have thick skins. In my opinion, overly sensitive people are typically not fit to be in a startup environment. A lot of business is about not being intimidated by partners, employees, customers, or vendors.
I’ve found a stoic outlook can be best for getting through the rough patches. Winston Churchill once said,“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” I’ve also learned that in business “they can’t eat you” (customers, vendors, competitors, employees, etc.), so some days you have to just smile at the absurdity of worrying about things as if they’re life or death and try to have a good time with it all.
Finally, there is such a thing as having too much perseverance; a good entrepreneur knows when it’s time to quit. This may not always be obvious to us, but a very good indicator is when the product or service is not getting any traction despite your best efforts.
In these cases, you don’t have to admit defeat; only acknowledge that you don’t like working for free and the market is firing you—for now. In Step 1 of this book, you’ll see how this has happened sometimes dozens of times to great founders and is not something that should discourage you.
Remember it’s all a Game
“One of the symptoms of approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.” – Bertrand Russell
In reality, it’s all a big game, and you can’t take any of it with you in the end (regardless of your religious beliefs), so really take some time to consider that you don’t need to take any of this stuff too seriously. If you can take care of your physical and mental health while persevering through it all, you’ll do great.
The universe is inconceivably large, billions of years old, and you’re a tiny organism on a spinning rock orbiting a random star in one of billions of galaxies. Even if your work was actually world-changing and important, the universe would barely notice. Genghis Khan or Caesar were little more than a infinitesimal blip in the universe, and taking yourself too seriously is a great way to be miserable. This is not meant to depress you or to say your work doesn’t have meaning, but to provide perspective for you to remember that all you have is this life now, so do what you can to give it meaning for you and try to have a good time.
This was an excerpt from our book Startups Made Simple: How to Start, Grow and Systemize Your Dream Business. Learn more about the book here or see our previous excerpts here.
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