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When starting a business, people are often flying blind and setting their own set of rules, priorities, systems, and culture without a real frame of reference — which might sound absolutely bonkers to someone outside who’s looking in, even if they seem perfectly fine with you. Why? Because we’re naive and foolish. And that’s okay, because there’s really no other way to learn.
You tend to behave like a kid in a candy store where every piece of colorful toffee looks lucrative enough to eat. Every quirky idea, eureka moment, and side project seems to have immense potential in your head. You tend to be (idiotically) enthusiastic and passionate about so many different things that you find focusing on any one thing to be stagnating.
That’s precisely where I think many go wrong. I know, I did. I was a squirrel chasing too many nuts and consequently ended up putting my energy & time into way too many things without thinking objectively about a successful outcome — just because they all “felt” like great ideas at the time.
Sometimes, my intent to try did not convert into action. I felt like I was ‘talking the talk’ but not ‘walking the walk’. It disappointed me that I was not able to find the right person/team to execute it with.
Other times, I (sort of) tried but not hard enough. I backed out just before reaching the finish line. Without a shade of doubt, that added another layer of disappointments.
Yet there were times when I felt like I tried hard enough (at least in my book), and the results were simply underwhelming.
What the heck was going on? Was fate throwing up a red flag? Was my gut trying to say something? Or was I being blatantly complacent and indecisive?
As it turns out, it was all of the above.
But at the time, these “broken” resolves to myself felt like quintessential failures to me, where I was the one breaking a promise. I was starting to wonder if I was on the verge of having more failures than successes under my belt, and I really wasn’t sure if I knew what I was doing or even supposed to be doing. The air of self doubt at one point was most certainly stifling.
Laughably, I even have a small quote in The Huffington Post to prove it. Sure, we’ve all heard amazing quotes that talk about failing 1000x times and succeeding only once. Oh well.
It took a lot of patience, self-reflection, observation, and mentoring for me to understand and break out of this sense of failure. Here’s what I learned:
Discover what your definition of ‘success’ and ‘failure’ are. Everyone has their definition, depending on their value system and environment. It’s a matter of personal opinion, but don’t let it be ambiguous. The clearer, the better.
Not every idea is worth executing, and not every project should see the light of day. Even in established companies, multi-million dollar projects get shelved, sometimes without prior notice, and good people are left without a job. Under no circumstances is this expected or ideal, but it happens.
It’s important to collaborate with good intentions, but sometimes, people and priorities change. Promises are made. Promises are broken. As a result, some bonds strengthen and some break. Some will feel grateful and some might feel cheated. This includes yourself. Try to not make any flamboyant promises to begin with.
Keep the camaraderie alive and the passion going for the common cause as much as possible. Disputes and misunderstandings may be part of the game. Healthy & constructive discussions should be greeted with open arms. Respect is always a two-way street.
Over-excitement and under-planning can kill a good thing. Sp does over-promising and under-delivering. Be realistic and set expectations well in advance.
Don’t just be a dreamer. Execute your dream no matter how small it is, and take the right people along with you on that ride. Bumpy rides bring out true character and separate the best from the rest.
Some people move fast, others move slow. Move fast & deliver at breakneck speed, or go slow and deliver something meticulously. It’s a very personal decision, and there’s no right or wrong. But it’s important to find people who resonate with your process.
You can’t avoid making mistakes. You just can’t. This is especially true for first-generation business owners. Don’t feel guilty about making them either and don’t let the fear of failure stop you from making some more. If you knew better, you wouldn’t make them in the first place, right? Own up to them, make amends if you can, and try not to make the same mistakes again.
Surround yourself with people who make you better, celebrate you, and push you to have high standards. Let go of anyone who berates you, feels resentful of your actions, and sends you on guilt trips — despite your best attempts at reconciliation. Open the doors to people who can teach you and bring out the best in you.
Don’t chase people, money, or fame. Your actions will either bring everything together or drive them away. Whatever you are left with is what truly matters. The rest is just noise, drama, and politics :-)
Rohan Chandrashekhar is the Founder of BUZZVALVE - a boutique content production firm serving ambitious brands and startups. He brings over 6 years of failure & success working within the virtual economy as an independent business owner. Besides contributing to The Wall Street Journal and Live Mint, Rohan’s opinions on solopreneurship, business automation, and thought leadership marketing are frequently quoted in major national and international media publications.