It's only natural when we are stretching beyond our comfort zone that we look for inspiration and encouragement. We save quotes that we can relate to and share memes and sayings on social media that we find encouraging.
That's all fine and good.
But if I hear one more person casually brush off the financial, emotional and mental devastation of a failed business endeavor by invoking the "fail fast" clause, well, I'll probably just walk away, but I know what I'd like to do.
You see, I believe the problem with brushing off failure is that it encourages mediocrity. If failing isn't so bad, if it's part of the process and, well, even some kind of badge of honor, it's ok to take crazy-big risks with other people's money and lives and then shake it off when the gamble doesn't pay off.
While failure is a part of the process, the fail fast mantra often downplays the devastating real-life consequences of failing and negates the very valid, very painful experience of those going through it. To celebrate failure as some badge of honor makes it far too easy to quit too soon, and ensure failure when perseverance through the dark valleys of entrepreneurship might have resulted in a very different outcome.
Fail fast is just one of many of the sayings bandied about in the startup world that, as well-meaning as they are, can cause us to focus on the wrong things and even question our own experiences when it doesn't match up to what appears to be the common experience of others.
You'll Never Have to Work Another Day
Another one that can be misleading is this: "Do what you love, and you'll never work another day in your life."
I'd like to meet even one successful startup founder who didn't work harder - often at tasks that were miserable, difficult work - to build their company, work that was likely harder than any other job would have required.
Loving the problems we get to solve as entrepreneurs may make it all worth it, but it can be a real wakeup call for entrepreneurs who believe that if they love their company it won't require difficult work that falls far outside their own skill set. It can also be a surprise if new entrepreneurs somehow think they can build a business without putting in long, consistent hours of sweat equity to create something from nothing and grow it into a sustainable enterprise.
Spend the Rest of Your Life in Luxury
Another startup saying I'd love to see disappear is, "Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won't, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can't."
If the reason you want to start a business is because you're dreaming of that super car you can drive or the luxurious, extravagant lifestyle you can lavish on those around you, please don't quit your day job.
Very, very few of the people who start businesses end up extremely wealthy; they are the exception, not the norm. When you launch a business, you have to be very aware that the money and years of your life you spend can be spent on a company that doesn't survive.
Yes, you'll have gained invaluable experience, but you have to be willing to sacrifice your time and money knowing you might not break even, much less get rich.
Love the Problem
Your savings, your health, your relationships - they can all be collateral damage on your journey to fame and fortune, so don't make it about the fame or the fortune. Make it about the business you want to build, the problem you want to solve. Love it enough that you're in with both feet, not willing to give up when things get hard, not willing to fail before you've tried everything possible to succeed.
Whether you get wealthy or not, if that is your mindset, you'll come out the winner whatever happens.