There is this moment in the experience of every entrepreneur where all seems lost.
Whether it is an investor declining to come in on a desperately needed round of funding, a pivotal customer choosing to leave, or a myriad other scenarios going wrong - we all face dark moments when progress or even survival looks impossible.
But I firmly believe that it is our self-talk - the way we choose to frame our circumstances in the darkest moments - that ultimately determines which startups survive and which ones die.
It isn't that I am advocating for all of us to wear our rose-colored glasses and pretend the world isn't collapsing around us when we are in the middle of extremely difficult experiences. When we pretend nothing is wrong, that is not the same as knowing things are wrong and making the conscious decision to maintain a positive outlook.
The biggest battle we often face as entrepreneurs is the one inside of our heads - and one of the most important skills we will ever have is our own audacity to hope, to see the opportunity even in the midst of crisis.
Hope allows us to believe that our vision is worth pursuing. And when we face barriers and difficult circumstances, it is hope that fuels a relentless pursuit of a solution. Hope is what helps us believe that there are other options available than those we currently see, and it is what elevates our vision above current circumstances to see what is possible just beyond the immediate problems we're facing.
It isn't that I don't understand the value - and necessity - of being a realist or being pragmatic about the problems we're facing. In many ways, it is just as dangerous for teams to not have a negative thinker among them. We need to be reminded of the potential consequences of our decisions, and it is often the negative thinker who quickly identifies disingenuous motives when we are focused on the benefits. The negative thinkers among us are an invaluable voice of reason and caution.
But when the loudest voice our team hears is negative, our collective response is to slow down, be cautious, and give into fear. Startups are built on the belief that striving for the impossible is worth it, and when we start to doubt whether the sacrifice and work is worth it, we lose our edge - and we lose a lot of traction in the process.
When negativity is not kept in check, it becomes a toxic elixir that can poison our ability to work together and can prevent us from taking the very necessary risks to move forward despite difficulties.
Hope allows us to see the possibility within the impossible; negativity sees the impossibility in the possible.
When we allow ourselves to lose hope by giving in to negative thinking, we make even the possible completely out of reach.