Repeat After Me: “You’ll Never Be Crappier Than You Are Today”

Owning a startup is hard. We all know this. But in the VC culture, we don’t always address the specific emotional and psychological hardships. It’s a big head game. You go from, “Yay, we’re going to win!” to “Oh my God, it’s over” — sometimes within a matter of minutes. Maintaining emotional stability is difficult. And if you’re finding it hard to stay stable, I’m here to tell you, that’s normal.

I remember when Dave and I were building our online dating platform in the 90s. We had to repeat daily, “we’ll never be as crappy as we are today.” And that helped a lot. Our thought was, “As terrible as our product is, it won’t get any crappier tomorrow.” As an entrepreneur it’s discouraging when you envision how beautiful your product could be, but the reality is that with your limitations, budget, and time-frame only a small part of that vision can be realized right now. For Dave and I, instead of driving ourselves crazy, we found little ways of staying motivated. Another favorite mantra was “half ass is better than no ass.” We decided to accept the fact that “you’re a failure until you succeed” — that way, in our minds, it could only get better.

That’s the hardest part, mentally, to being in a startup. You have to live in peace with two diametrically opposed positions in your mind: 1) Everything is going to fall apart. 2) You are going to succeed. You have to see the potential future — to be very positive and moved by that future — and at the same time, accept all the negative feedback about your current product/situation. Accepting the negative allows you to change, iterate, and respond to the marketplace. The positive pushes you forward despite the setbacks.

Most times biz owners only see one side of the coin. Either they’re so positive that they’re oblivious to the current feedback, and it takes them a long time to iterate. Or, they look at the current feedback and get too discouraged to continue. It’s a lot of cognitive dissonance to handle. But much of entrepreneurship is learning to hold both positions to be true without losing your confidence.

So here’s my advice to you. Take a deep breath, and repeat: You’ll never be as crappy as you are today. This mantra will help keep both sides of the coin in balance.

What mantras do you use? I’d love to hear what keeps you positive.

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