What I've Learned About Surviving the Start-up Cycle
I think about success a lot. I also find myself working really long hours, constantly self-evaluating, and sacrificing my days, nights, and weekends towards something I might not ever achieve. I'm regularly told I need to get a life, which happens once a month when I find time to go out.
I'm pretty damn happy though. After two of the most frustrating, anxiety-ridden, incredible years of my life, I'm beginning to understand two important things:
1. There are two types of people who achieve success at much higher rates than the rest of us--Doers and Makers.They exist to make things that impact our lives and do things that disrupt our industries.
2. Success is not an end result. It is a cycle.
It's surprisingly rare to come across these types of people. What have you done today, this week, this year? While it's practically ingrained in us to rattle off a list of busy-work as if we were answering to a boss, when you answer truthfully to yourself, the number usually shrinks to almost nothing.
A Doer first says they will do something and then they do it. It's a subtle difference, but it matters because verbalizing a goal makes it real. Doers are active thinkers, not passive thinkers. Their ideas are followed up with action because success is in the execution.
These people have an ability to create something new, and in our increasingly service-based world this is becoming a unique trait. From websites to companies, Makers fearlessly enter the void and return with something remarkable... something tangible.
My high school had two paths: technical/vocational and university. It was generally frowned on to choose the technical path and I'm ashamed to think I wrote off the non-university students. I also remember taking several technical classes and learning how to design, build, and test things. Some of my proudest moments happened in these classes.
If you can't make anything, learn how. Understanding how to build things will open your eyes to new opportunities and allow you to lead more effectively. Teaching myself to program has fundamentally changed the way I see the world because I see possibility where others see mystery.
The Cycle of Success
The cycle that Doers and Makers enter is ever-changing, ill-defined, and can't be taught in school. (Ignore your professors who still think a business degree gets you anywhere. Better yet--ask them about 3-D printing, driverless cars, and the millions of jobs that will be lost to these emerging technologies.)
The cycle of success is defined by moments of happiness followed by spells of sorrow, all existing in a constant state of chaos.
The cycle is about being the first one in the office and the last one out. It's about putting the vision and the team before yourself. It's about continually questioning everything you know and every assumption you have made. It's about going home mentally exhausted and falling asleep before your brain can convince you to make dinner.
And it's about waking up and doing it all over again.
The cycle is rewarding, inspiring, and life-altering. It's surrounding yourself with great friends as you go on an epic adventure. It's believing that you are making a difference, that you exist for a reason, and that you can make a difference in people's lives.
Dr. SHELLEY PREVOST is a mentor and early-stage investor at Lamp Post Group, where she hacks into the psychological and emotional side of starting and running a business. She is a co-founding partner of the JumpFund, an angel fund investing in female-led startups with high-growth potential. Prevost also speaks and consults with companies on finding purpose, humanizing work, and growing leaders from the inside out. She blogs about her work at the Glad Lab.
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