“The default state of a startup is failure”
Is happiness defined by success? It would be naïve to portray the dynamics between success and happiness in purely black and white terms. While happiness can create the right conditions for success, success doesn’t always lead to happiness. So why then, are we drawn to success? What does success create for us? If we develop a habit to reflect on these questions periodically, we can increase our likelihood of experiencing both success and happiness.
Success is essential and elemental to our living. But success should be used as a tool for our self-discovery to lead a more fulfilling and meaningful life. It requires tuning into our relationships and priorities to create the kind of environment that breeds success.
Founders and early employees at startups often have a very tumultuous relationship with success. Their sense of purpose, self-identity, and singular focus are so tied up with the daily ups and downs of their respective roles that it’s easy for them to slip into the mindset of success-at-any-cost. This leaves little to no wiggle room for self-reflection because you never planned for setbacks.
So how do you define what success means to you in a startup and how do you increase the odds of achieving it? The first step is to isolate the myths from the facts. Here are 7 pointers for success that every entrepreneur should know.
1. Don’t be a Perfectionist
I often lean towards perfectionism. Yet I have also learnt to identify when perfectionism becomes detrimental. Making do with the “good enough” is less stressful, but it doesn’t lead to innovation or inspire higher achievement. Nonetheless, excellence and perfectionism need healthy boundaries. Perfectionism is when nothing and no one ever seems good enough. It destroys motivation and has psychological drawbacks.
2. Learn to Handle Setbacks
Is there such a thing as ‘no setbacks’ or a straight line to success?
I don’t believe this to be the case. The truth is, you will have setbacks often in your journey. The only way forward is to work your way through each roadblock, learn from it, and not let it define you.
3. Success Won’t Happen Overnight
It is a statistical impossibility to achieve your goals overnight.
Success only comes naturally to those who put in the time and effort.
Of course, when someone finally achieves success (after pushing the pedal to the metal), most people will see it as a story of ‘overnight’ success. The reality is, we’re never truly privy to the years of struggle, rejection, and pain that successful people go through. Most people will never understand this and hope to replicate success without the heartache. It is not how it happens.
4. Watch Out for Complacency
Then, of course, there’s the complacency factor associated with success.
Our fascination with success is like a double-edged sword. The positive side of success is that it inspires and energizes you to push the envelope for what’s possible. But there’s a major downside. You risk becoming complacent. And complacency breeds failure.
5. Success is About You
Success is personal — measure it from a personal perspective instead of relating it to others (learn to understand what success means to you). In the startup context, a change in perspective about success can lead to building a bigger legacy. In a personal context, it could mean achieving more happiness and building meaningful relationships.
6. Set Impact Goals
Many people create a list of goals that are either too unrealistic or don’t carry enough value. Instead, what you need is SMARTER goals and an action plan on how you’ll achieve it. Without a plan, your chances for success are minimal. This is why so many goals end up in failure.
It’s worth pointing out that a goal should be meaningful and give you reasons to be proud. It shouldn’t be exclusively driven by materialistic factors such as wealth, sales, or conversions. Here are a few high-impact goals to consider:
· How did you make life better for others?
· How many young people did you mentor to become leaders for tomorrow?
· What is the customer experience that you’re most proud of?
When you improve other people’s lives, you set yourself (and them) up for long-term success.
7. Leaving the Comfort Zone
Successful people are not afraid of leaving their ‘comfort zone’. How okay are you with failing? The answer to this question will determine the mindset to achieving success and overcoming failure.
· When was the last time you made an unconventional career choice?
· When was the last time you tried something new?
· When did you last have in-depth conversations with random people unconnected to your work?
Success demands a transition to change — and that means having the courage to leave what you are good at and trying something new.
The “Complacency” Factor
Think back to Kodak and their refusal to accommodate changing digital trends. Customers wanted digital products, but Kodak rigidly held on to their film business. Their stubbornness to change paved the way for emerging online markets. Social media gained a sizable portion of the market until Kodak was reduced to a husk of its glory days.
This is the story of what complacency does to success — it erodes everything you’ve built.
People often become complacent when they’ve achieved a high level of success and realized their most important goals. But this state of mindset often lays the groundwork for failure to set in.
With the world changing at breakneck speeds, successful people need to evolve, adapt, and improve, or risk getting left behind.
My Personal Perspective
My personal journey with failure and success has taught me many valuable lessons. Here’s what I’ve learned.
Defining Success by Impact
I try to set my goals at different time intervals. A good starting point would be 1-year, 2-year, and 5-year goals.
The key is to keep these goals intrinsic. They will guide your choices through sheer motivation instead of materialistic achievements that often fail to keep us happy. Try not to rely on extrinsic goals, for instance, “I want to have 20 new customers”. On the other hand, “I want my customers to speak about the innovation of our product and thought leadership in our niche” is a type of goal that can increase impact and hence your self-esteem, well-being, and happiness.
Clarify the “Why” Behind Your Achievements
Very few of us can discover a solid answer to “why”. The answer to this rather intimidating yet simple three-letter word has mostly to do with matters of the heart. Your own feelings will serve as a guide. How do you feel when you visualize your end-goal? Do you feel a sudden rush of emotions? Do you get butterflies in your gut? Does it push you to the brink of crying?
This is the part that is not easy. Remember to find the reasons what success means to you and why it matters so much. Because this is the single most important piece of information that can help you face the toughest storms.
The Ultimate Price
There’s one brutal truth that most of us only learn through experience: nothing in life comes free. To get something, you have to give up something else. It’s the same with success — it comes at a price, often a very steep price. What are you giving up for your success?
To achieve your goals and objectives, you will need to work hard and make drastic sacrifices along the way. It won’t happen overnight. It won’t happen with wishful thinking. And it won’t happen without giving something up. That’s how it works.
There’s so much more to discuss about success and failure in the context of startups and entrepreneurs. For now, take this tiny bit of advice to heart: Success isn’t final and failure isn’t fatal. It’s the courage to continue that counts. Use success to create happiness for yourself and others.
What myths about success, according to you, are the most dangerous? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below.