by • January 16, 2017 • Career Entrepreneurship, FoundersComments (0)3

The long view

If you wanted to be in a band but didn’t know how to play any music, you’d probably start by learning an instrument and finding friends to play with. You would be neither surprised nor disappointed to hear that it takes a couple years to get to where you want to be. You’d just shrug and get started doing a little bit each day.

A whole category of startup problems (especially around cofounders, funding, dealflow, and skills) work the same way[1]. Yet I’ve seen folks show up at startup events for 2+ years who are still hung up on the same problem and haven’t been able to move forward. They’ve spent so long looking for a shortcut that they could have done it properly twice over by now[2].

A more useful attitude than “How do I do it now?” is ”How do I start building the resources[3] so it’s easy later?”

I’m not suggesting you put your dreams on hold for years’ worth of prep work. Only that if you know something is going to be important to you in the future, put the habits in place today to start building it up, however slowly. It may not help for your current project, but it will pay dividends over your career.

[1] The “easy” way to get funding is to forget about the clever pitch and instead build a company that is obviously succeeding. For cofounders it’s to forget about haggling equity terms and instead build a mutually respectful relationship with skilled people over several years. For dating it’s to forget about clever date ideas and first build an interesting and robust life on your own. Etc etc. It takes a while, but is hardly unpleasant and it’s not like you have to put the rest of your work or life on hold to start building toward it.

[2] To stretch our metaphor dangerously thin, a new musician eager to get on stage as quickly as possible might choose to start with an easier instrument, like the ukulele. But try suggesting to someone who dreams of starting a company (but can’t for whatever reason) that they should begin with an easier idea and suddenly you’re the devil at the crossroads trying to lure them away from their ambitions.

[3] I’m using the word “resources” as a catch-all to represent skills, people, insight, audiences (like a mailing list or blog), traction, or whatever else might be holding you back.

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