The Journey Is The Reward

Let’s face it: most startups fail. Founding a company is not for the faint hearted. Only a very small percentage of startups realize their potential and make it beyond the early stages of life. Why do then entrepreneurs risk everything when the chances of success are so little?

A thousand things must go right in a startup for it to survive the first few years. There are so many things to learn and understand, so much to read and absorb, so many concepts to grasp, and then execute them to excellence, or at least execute them to a high standard. It takes up a lot of time, energy, hard work, focus and attention. Starting a startup is like a roller coaster ride — a ride that takes a huge toll on the physical, mental and emotional health of the entrepreneur. Frequently they stare in the eye of failure, get paralyzed with self doubt, deal with a variety of problems on a day to day basis, and yet they must show a brave face to the world. There are many reasons why startups fail, and most of those reasons could be easily pointed out. The reasons most difficult to point out are internal and psychological. Getting prepared for the madness of starting a company, and understanding your psyche as well as you understand your technology or market can mean the difference between success and failure. Get psyched!

And then there are things beyond one’s control and understanding. There’s always the ‘x-factor’ as Marc Andreessen mentions in this classic post : Why not to do a startup. Luck plays an important role too. Some people would argue that there’s no such thing as luck and that we are the architects of our own destiny. But let’s be humble (a must-have characteristic for a successful entrepreneur), and admit to the fact that we are ignorant enough to not know every factor that could be decisive, much less control it. We tend to come up with simple explanations for complex problems.

Four hundred years ago, Francis Bacon warned that our minds are wired to deceive us. “Beware the fallacies into which undisciplined thinkers most easily fall–they are the real distorting prisms of human nature.” Chief among them: “Assuming more order than exists in chaotic nature.” Now consider the typical stock market report: “Today investors bid shares down out of concern over Iranian oil production.” Sigh. We’re still doing it. – Chris Anderson, former editor-in-chief of Wired magazine and author of The Long Tail in his review of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s latest book The Black Swan.

Statistically speaking, it would be better for most entrepreneurs to just keep the money in the bank and save themselves a lot of headache and uncertainty.

But as i am discovering first hand, true entrepreneurs are not reasonable people. They want to do what they want to do. They are dreamers possessed by their dream. They want to go out there, defy the odds, and live their dream. Even though they know it will not be easy, they are filled with optimism and hope and the future looks bright. They want to build great relationships while they give shape to their dream, creating valuable memories in the process. They do what they love and love what they do!

“The megalomaniac pleasure of creation,” the psychoanalyst Edmund Berger wrote, “produces a type of elation which cannot be compared with that experienced by other mortals.”

Whatever the outcome, they know it will all be worth it in the end. They understand that the final goal is not the only reward — that the biggest reward is the journey itself.

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