Unwaveringly Believe the Unbelievable
The statistic we always hear is that 90%+ of all startups fail. Even if you are a genius with a spotless track record of success and a board of advisors that makes About.Me drool, the probability of creating a hugely profitable business, or a business you can sell for millions, is still below 50%. However you cut it, the most likely outcome is failure.
As a founder, you are reminded of this every day: subpar conversion rates, rejection emails from potential investors, dissatisfied users…you name it. So — why will your start up succeed?
Your goal as a founder is to have an unwavering and illogical belief in the unlikely success of your company. In other words, you must wholeheartedly believe the unbelievable. And the crazy part? By starting your business in this fanatical and fantastical mindset, you attract support from real investors, real advisors, and real users. As the world rallies around you in this game of social proof, the fantasy becomes reality.
I’ve found that entrepreneurship is an emotional roller coaster. Why does the track of the roller coaster have such deep valleys and high peaks? Because of the amplified feedback loop of the system. A jab from a naysayer investor may put your coaster on the downward track. This may cause you to have slightly bearish view of the next month’s figures. An employee senses your anxiety, loses his own drive that day, and as a result spends the next hour on his Facebook newsfeed instead of on managing the company’s Facebook Ads, which results in lower adoption. The negative investor’s prediction has come true and thus the downward cycle continues.
The only way to break the cycle is to remain unabashedly positive — to brush off the speed bumps and focus on the wins. If you logically consider the probability of success, you will sink into a professional depression and most likely fail. But the dogmatic belief in the success of your start up creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of victory. Others (investors and employees) will be attracted to your positivity and help you execute.
Caveat: If you are a first year investment banking analyst and decide that you’ll build a new rocket ship prototype in the next 12 months, you should be cautious with irrational optimism. The last thing you want is to lose credibility by spreading a (truly impossible) gospel with too much vigor.
But if you have a real product with a real market and a realistic path to completion, keep your head high and watch the support naturally build around you. Success begets success.