National Geographic


True visionaries can’t actually see the future – they start with something that they know works and go from there. The way to do really big things seems to be to start with deceptively small things.

In search of the metaphorical startup booty.

No, I don’t mean going to DNA Lounge on a Saturday night.

Like many modern day entrepreneurs, Columbus set out in a general westerly direction without knowing what he would find. Starting a company is quite similar to setting sail on an expedition with a few trusted friends. There are no destinations, ETAs, or even plans for returning. Often the founders navigate solely on blind ambition and are guided by nothing more than an intellectual and moral compass.

The chances of successfully starting a company are about equally as slim as sailing aimlessly westward from San Francisco hoping to find a yet undiscovered island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. If you’re lucky, when you finally reach the island, you just might discover caches of hidden pirate booty.

Your very own Everest.

There are no direct paths to climb Everest. Those who succeed must stop at many base camps to rest, and sometimes even backtrack to find the best path up. Rushing straight to the top is a guaranteed recipe for failure (or even death).

Thinking too naively about the big picture simply doesn’t work. The best ideas empirically start out with solving a very simple problem well and expanding from there. Just like a hundred-year-old Banyan tree started out from a tiny seed, nothing grows huge overnight. Establishing solid roots and foundations are critical to not just long term success, but success in general.

Even the greatest of visionaries don’t become who they are overnight. Only after years of hard work, relentless ambition, and persisting in the face of failure do they become the people that we hear about in the news.

When you are a nobody, no one wants to talk to you. When you become somebody, everyone wants to talk to you. Now go climb your Everest.