Recently, Rob and I were invited to discuss startups with a group of London school children at Google campus. As we hadn’t launched yet, we weren’t keen to ‘plug’ Shnergle. So, we took a different approach and talked about some insights of our journey so far we thought they’d find interesting. Here’s a little summary…
First point to make was – happy people succeed.
As Blaise Pascal once said, ‘all men seek happiness…’ To achieve this, people will pursue different resolves – spiritually, financially, socially etc. We spend a lot of our lives working and it is enormously important therefore to enjoy what you do. Happy people engage in their work more and outperform the unhappy. They are more cooperative, create stronger team relationships and make for more effective leaders. Having the big house and expensive car may evoke to some as measures of success. In reality, your ultimate measure of success is whether you are happy.
So, pursue the things you enjoy as you’re more likely to be a success at them.
Second, if a startup is for you, then be prepared to step out of your comfort zone.
Tech startups are inherently filled with uncertainty and building it into a sustainable business is the challenge. There’s no guarantee the venture will be a success; the market might simply not be interested and it’s frequently difficult to reduce the risk by testing the concept in advance without letting the ‘cat out of the bag’. It is a fast paced world where risk and excitement are entwined so easily, and fear becomes a frequent visitor; it is all the worse when it is just yourself and no safety net to catch you.
In order to succeed, it is important to overcome this fear; it leads to paralysis and lack of action – the most certain path to failure. For this reason it is critical you ‘don’t be your own worst enemy’ and allow fear to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Fear is however also a positive emotion; it tips you off to risks around you which you need to deal with. In order to succeed you need to become comfortable with fear – a travelling companion who tells you that you are still a balanced human, but that you are pushing yourself to achieve.
The military are experts in training people to manage fear; their preferred tool is Adventurous Training. SCUBA diving for example, to the beginner, may be unnatural or even insurmountable. Applying some determination and encouragement, this will be overcome and they will be diving wrecks at night within the week. The fear boundary has continuously been pushed with every new experience and as a result confidence becomes your defender.
Ultimately, there are many things in life to be afraid of. All the effort could come to no avail and if you were to ‘watch the things you gave your life to, broken, and stoop and build ‘em up with worn out tools’ (taken from Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ poem), you’ll be immensely admired for having the pluck to have given it a go in the first place.
Show me a man who never made a mistake, and I’ll show you a man who never tried anything.