I have not been writing as much as I would like so going to fix that starting now. Writing allows me to think and there were 2 blog posts that has pushed me to write about my experiments with truth. The first was a blog post by Fred Wilson about Grinding and second one is by Brad Feld on the video by Lux Capital on how technology evolves. So, you are wondering what is the above 2 posts have to do with the truth? I can say that you have not read the post by Fred or watched the video yet… go do that now, this blog post will be waiting.
I have been working with founders in building companies for more than a decade now. Here are my experiments with the truth. The truth is, the purpose of why someone is pursing a goal is more important than what they project. This becomes increasingly evident when you start putting money to work with founders. Hard part is figuring out why this person is willing to commit to the next 3 to 5 years to grind on a problem or go through the humbling process of learning that there is no magic bullet, there is no one way or there is no recipe to build a company. It is a lot of hypothesis testing i.e. experiments to figure out the truth. One needs to have the patience and conviction to go from a lot of learning to discovering the truth. I have seen that if you are insecure about your own capabilities or if you take yourself too seriously this becomes a much harder thing to do. This is also the reason why people quit, because they started for the wrong reasons. I have realized the temperament of the founder is extremely important. I have made all the proverbial mistake in all my investments and continue to make them, hopefully I am learning. I wrote about Becoming a Mindful Founder. When I look back not much has changed, I still work with founders who are struggling to figure this out and I hope I can help them see the path but if I don’t that’s OK too.
People and teams are more important than many founders think. Building a great team, a great culture and giving them the space to really figure out the path is paramount. Coaching them and working with them to really unleash their potential is hard to do. Leadership is hard to do when you are struggling to find answers to how to keep things going. Moving from a efficient operator to an effective manager to a leader is a journey that requires a lot of self inquiry. It requires a lot of finesse, empathy and self-awareness than most people understand. Jerry Colonna my friend and mentor has written a book about this. I am sure there are plenty of wisdom in books on how to do this, but like every piece of knowledge it is the practice that counts. Grinding through the problem as Fred refers to requires a level of patience to actually give the team time to work on things.
Since I invest mainly in the early stage of a startup journey I get a front seat view at the troubles and tribulations that a startup goes through. The struggle to get the first customer, the struggle when traction stops working and what you thought was the reason for your existence as a startup is false etc The easiest thing to do is to throw in the towel when the above happens. The founders who start working on themselves to get to a mind state that allows them to objectively start solving these problems is leadership. It is easier written about than can be found. Ben Horowitz’s new book probably talks about this, I have not read it yet but the title says it all – “What you do is who you are – How to create your business culture“. These are hard things because there is no simple management guide.
As Brad asks in his post, are you an optimist or a pessimist? Are you going to work on yourself when things don’t work or are you going to throw in the towel? Usually the pessimists throw in the towel.