Let's Talk About Your Addiction
If you feel overwhelmed with advice and opinions on how to build your startup there’s a good reason.
When I founded my first company the amount of startup “self-improvement” and “how-to” content available online was tiny compared to now.
This was over ten years ago and TechCrunch was the go-to resource for founders — when Michael Arrington was running the show. It was mostly scoops, launches, and funding announcements.
There were also a few other genuinely useful resources like Hacker News and Mark Suster’s Both Sides of the Table available.
Since then the startup ecosystem has grown tremendously and seemingly everyone involved has “their own voice” sharing opinions, insights, experience, how-to guides for success, and cautionary tales.
You know — all of the books, podcasts, articles, online courses, webinars, conventions, consultancies, and “VC twitter” feeds that collectively say what you should do to be successful.
I’m going to refer to this as “Startup Crack” because it can be insanely addictive streaming in through your social media feeds, inbox, and network 24/7.
Some of the content is absolutely invaluable whilst other pieces of content are more noise than substance.
Navigating through it all effectively is pretty much a new skill that founders have to learn to be productive.
It’s practically inescapable if you’re involved in the ecosystem, too.
When content creators and social media platforms learn of your startup interests there’s an ocean of content for them to persistently serve you.
This can lead to a cycle of perpetual information scrolling with no clearly defined goals, which can be a less than optimum use of your time if left unchecked.
If you think you don’t exhibit this behavior I’ve got some news, you’re doing it right now.
Scrolling through Startup Crack can subconsciously feel productive but it’s not as productive as other things you could be doing to build your business.
That’s not to suggest you should stop altogether. Often it yields content that’s genuinely valuable and helpful.
The key is managing your exposure on a personal level so that it’s productive for you and not destructive.
Below I will detail some methodologies you can use to achieve this.
Startup checklist overload
Without a consciously managed approach to Startup Crack it’s feasible to become paralyzed by indecision in an endless pursuit of piecing together the optimum formula for success.
A significant draw of Startup Crack is a fear of failure or constant worry that you’re not on the right path.
Consuming advice and insights from others that have succeeded feels like a tangible methodology to remedy this and win.
There’s value in this, but there’s also an inherent flaw that every founder should be consciously aware of.
It’s rooted in the fact the startup ecosystem continually pumps out tonnes of content that analyzes actionable methodologies, proven playbooks, and essential ingredients of previous successful startups.
The intention is to apply a scientific-based approach to building a high-risk high-reward business, distill the winning ingredients down into a repeatable recipe, and bake this into a new startup from day one to increase the chances of success.
Sounds logical, but every successful startup is unique and the reasons why they succeeded were unique so all founders are really presented with holistically is an “infinite checklist” of ingredients that work, much of which is contradictory or non-applicable.
In reality, for every Startup Crack origin story that revealed an “essential” ingredient to a company’s success, there’s another success story that didn’t have it because the circumstances were different.
Being consciously aware of the “infinite checklist” is something that I encourage you to keep in mind. Otherwise, it can lead to an unhealthy preoccupation with checking off every piece of advice you become exposed too, leading to procrastination or the pursuit of nonurgent goals.
It can become an unproductive feedback loop where you constantly access Startup Crack for another item on the “infinite checklist” to tick off, out of a fear that not doing this will lead to failure.
A lot of the time these ingredients are not applicable to your situation. Consume the information presented to you, filter down heavily, and focus on what matters most to your startup at this current stage. You know what they are.
Balancing your fix just right
My suggestion to make Startup Crack more productive for you is simple.
Before you open Twitter, LinkedIn, an email digest, your go-to industry journal or blog set mini-goals for what you want to achieve.
In life we set ourselves actionable and finite objectives for nearly everything we do digitally— watch a movie on Netflix, reach inbox zero, jump on a Zoom call.
Have the same approach with Startup Crack, otherwise, it’s easy to find yourself scrolling through content endlessly with no sense of closure. Write them down if need be.
Goals can be:
- Catch up on today’s major industry news in 10 minutes.
- Leave 3 replies on twitter targeting VCs/sales prospects in 5 mins. Bookmark content that looks appealing.
- Procure 10 new sales leads from LinkedIn in 20 mins. Bookmark content that looks appealing
- Assign a few minutes to review the last 24 hours worth of email digests and newsletters and bookmark content that looks appealing. It’s helpful to filter these into a separate folder so they don’t distract you throughout the day.
There’s two key themes to the above goals.
First, a time cap. It's easy to become sucked in with content feeds. Accessing Twitter or LinkedIn can be invaluable to build your network but it can also become a huge distraction.
Without a time cap its easy to open the app with the intention of leaving 3 replies and 20 minutes later you find yourself still scrolling through the newsfeed without having left one reply.
Setting a hard time limit forces urgency to complete your task and move on.
The second theme is bookmarking. By practicing this exercise you’re actively filtering the content you want to consume. In all likelihood, it will be a higher bar than if you were to tap and read instantly now.
You may find by later in the day you have lost interest altogether and it was never really that important in the first place.
Carving out a portion of your day to consume bookmarked content will cap the amount of time you spend digesting Startup Crack to a healthy amount.
Remember, social media companies have designed their applications to keep you hooked for as long as possible, using tension and reward cycles just like a slot machine. This means you have to go in with a plan and set cut off-limits, just like a slot machine.
Don’t beat yourself up too badly if it takes time to build up a routine. Just keep at it until you calibrate a routine that works for you.
The key takeaway here is to become consciously aware of your habits, motivations, and productivity levels when accessing Startup Crack.
It’s all just advice. Take what you need and dump the rest.
Set goals to make it work better for you and stick to the routine you develop.
Most importantly continue building with your team, do your own thing, curate your own culture, and blaze your own trail.
Do something amazing and a future Startup Crack origin story could be about you.
Building a business?
Me too! I’ve built two companies from scratch that generated multimillion-dollar revenue. One of them was started part-time when I had a 9–5 job. I write inside tips and advice to help founders like you achieve your business goals through my newsletter.