Fumbling Forwards

The other week Justin Jackson shared a quote, one that I desperately needed to hear. It was from a Paul Jarvis post, with the basic premise that success is no scientific endeavour.

No-one likes to feel like they don’t have a clue what they’re doing. But that’s pretty much what starting a startup is like 24/7. Every day you wake up, and work on a bunch of tasks you were never trained to do. You attempt to solve a bunch of questions that you’ve never answered before. None of us really know what we’re doing, but it never looks like that. You look up at those who’ve experienced success, and wonder, do they have something I don’t?

Comparing ourselves to others isn’t the answer. Sure, it’s great to learn lessons from those we admire, but expecting to be able to compare the inside view of me now, at this point in the journey, to those towards the top, towards the peak of theirs, is never going to be much use other than to stress us out and demotivate.

The key to success isn’t having everything together with a five year plan of how you’re going to take over the world, but rather, it’s not letting the unknown, the new, put you off from moving forwards, instead using that as fuel, pushing you forwards into your next adventure.

It’s not ok to feel like you’re blagging your way through your startup. It’s essential. Anything else is delusion.

There are no rules, you see. There are only best practices, that apply sometimes, not others, and evolve over time. It’s great to learn the basic rules of the game, but these will only serve to give you blurry guideposts to prompt further thought. There are no easily digestible ‘unpack and add water’ tips that will immediately push your startup forwards. There are just a bunch of ideas that have worked in the past and will probably give you a rough nudge in the right direction when you’re unsure which path you should be on.

We’re all fumbling forwards in the darkness, desperately trying to find the path forwards. And most of the time we don’t even know where forwards is, with nothing more than a very general sense of direction.

Your ducks will never be in order. You don’t one day graduate from startup school and receive a nice simple business where all the questions are answered and the path forwards is easy, simple and clear. The view from the top isn’t what it looks like from down here.

You don’t have less problems as you go forwards, you just have a different set. You graduate from one set of problems to the next.

If you’re like us, searching for the right problem to solve and product to build, then listening, brainstorming, testing and iterating are huge. Later, should we get there, customer service, scaling, hiring and leading likely await. Each step has its own challenges.

Right now I feel pretty lame about where we’re at. We’re committed to starting our own startup, and it being successful, but we don’t even know if what we’re working on now will be what we’re working on in three months time.

But we’re learning. Learning about the audience we want to serve, about problems we enjoy solving, about ourselves. That’s all that can be said. We’re in a better place now than we were six months ago, that’s what matters.

Progress is incremental, remember that.

If you’re struggling with your startup, understand you’re not alone. Be sure to get accountable with where you’re at. I highly recommend joining a mastermind group that meets weekly to discuss current successes, failures and issues. If you’re not in one already, having this accountability, support, and outside perspective will be huge for you and your business. Reach out to a few like minded people on a similar path to you and see if they’re up for it too.

But most of all, don’t be ashamed of where you’re at, or what you’re doing. Be like us, just skeletons with flesh doing laps around the sun, desperately trying to work out what on earth we’re doing.


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