What kind of secrets do CEOs and Startup Founders have? [#QuoraQuestions]
I love Lewis Carroll; not only did he write an amazing story in the form of Alice in Wonderland, he created one of the characters I have loved the most right from the time I was a kid — The Cheshire Cat.
For all the creepy appearance Carroll gave to the cat — Vanishing into nothingness, the wide grin vanishing the last — The Cheshire Cat is the best philosopher I have ever read about, and I have read a bunch of them. So, let me tell you of some of the secrets CEOs and Startup Founders today know of, that Cheshire Cat has known all along.
#1. I am not crazy, My reality is just different than yours
Entrepreneurs often believe in things that would seem ridiculous to the common man. If Flipkart (company) (Online Shopping — Shop Online for Mobile Phones, Digital Cameras, Watches, Books & More at Flipkart.com) founders told someone back in 2007 that they were going to start an e-commerce company in India that would be selling books online, people would have thought they were crazy. Zenefits (Zenefits) started only a few quarters back, and if they would have told people that they are starting a Human Resources management SaaS tool that would largely offer its services for free, people would have called them crazy, and that there was no money in this segment. Actually both of companies did tell about their plans to people, and that was more or less the response that they received from most of them. And yet, today, Flipkart is considered the poster-boy for Indian startup ecosystem with thousands of millions of dollars in funding, and Zenefits has just raised half a billion funding a couple of weeks back validating their claim of the potential this segment has to offer. Slack (startup) (Slack: Be less busy) has received billions of dollars in funding for an enterprise messaging app, something that can so easily be done using text messages, popular messaging apps, or even email. And they have raised all this money with a fairly small paid customer of 200k. Why? Because they have already validated there exists a need for a product that they are offering, and since they have not even started scratching the surface, the potential is limitless. That is why investors are pouring in more and more money into the company, because they want to be a part of it before it even starts realizing the true potential this industry has to offer.
Entrepreneurs are visionaries, they typically think ahead of the curve, well before the time for those ideas have come, and that is the reason why they succeed. By the time the market has gotten ready for a product they have been building for some time, they are already ready with it. That is how they are different. So when the whole world is thinking of them as crazy, they know they are not — it is just that the general masses is not looking at things they are able to; but they know that soon everyone else would realize that as well. But they are not willing to wait for that time to come to take action that needs to be taken now!
#2. Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality
Remember your childhood now. Have you ever imagined how difficult it was to answer some questions you used to have when you were 7, which could be easily answered three years later with the new concepts and knowledge you had acquired in that time? Okay, think slightly differently. Take the principle of conservation of energy. So you know that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it only changes from one form to the other. But how could you explain the questions (that required an understanding of conservation of energy) when you were a kid? Heck, how can you even explain them today, to a kid, in a manner that will help him comprehend?
That is the challenge entrepreneurs are posed with (more or less). They are thinking well ahead of their time. So the general solutions the world has to offer, often bears no meaning to them. Because their reality is different than the rest of us. So, they need to get creative in finding the solutions to the problems they are posed with. “Imagination” is their actual and sometimes, only friend.
#3. If you don’t know where you want to go, then it doesn’t matter which path you take
Entrepreneurs are always posed with this one question — which is the road they should follow, and this the question they are posed with more often than you would think. What makes the difference between a successful entrepreneur and a not-so-successful one? The successful ones know the destination. The journey is important — sure. It is quite important, since it shapes a lot of things, most of which can not be quantified in simple terms. But the destination is more important, since the journey shapes up the journey in a large part.
The purpose of a path is to take you somewhere, so no matter which path you take, every single path you take will lead you to a destination. The point is, do you know where to go? Because unless you do know that, everything else is moot. And that is the difference between a successful entrepreneur and the rest of us.
#4. Every big thing starts with a first small step
I use this line quite often, and somehow it feels meaningful to use in this particular context as well — “Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour”. Sure, you want to make it big, but nothing comes overnight — be it success or failure. It doesn’t matter whether you will be successful or will ‘crash and burn’, you will see the signs quite early, and you need to be on a lookout for those signs if you want to modify your strategy accordingly. The best way to go about it all is to start small, and gradually keep on adding on to those small and incremental successes. An entrepreneur realizes that more than others.
#5. Pain does not translate to success!
An entrepreneur realizes that pain (or failure to be exact) rarely transforms to success. It is our actions thereafter that decide whether we would be able to shape up that failure to be an ultimate and gradual success or not. “Fail fast and fail often” seems to be the mantra with startup these days, but they are often used without context, and most certainly without a good (and most of the times even proper) understanding of what it actually means. The meaning of the phrase is to not dig yourself a hole so deep that you can’t get out of it, and most certainly not spend months digging that hole, and then spend even longer time in trying to figure your way out of it. No one likes to fail, and no entrepreneur ever set on a journey to fail. They all want to succeed; it is just that they realize failure is a part of the game, and if they do have to fail, they want that failure to have some meaning. After all, life isn’t fair, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the best out of the scenarios you are presented with.
#6. Start small, but think BIG!! I mean enormously big
Entrepreneurs are dreamers. They like to think of attaining the impossible. This is what drives them, motivates them to action. They will think of doing twenty different things at once, and then once they have carefully thought them over, and weighed the pros and cons associated with each, they would still be left with at least six different things they would want to try right away. And they would have chalked out the detailed blueprint for all six of them. Then they will start with all of those processes — one step at a time, but working on all of them. They simply can’t help it. That is what an entrepreneur does. So, keep dreaming. Never take off that thinking cap off of your head!
At the end, I will offer just one advice. Be like the Cheshire Cat. Sure, he is mad; but then again, who isn’t, really?
Originally published at www.quora.com.