People will often tell you they want to do a startup. 90% of the time it's BS. You want a quick and easy way to assess if they won't be roadkill in a year?
Ask them who their 2 best friends are.
Meet the guys who will become your new best friends if you want success: Mr. Grit & Mr. Determination.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as "Indomitable spirit; pluck," with indomitable defined as: "Incapable of being overcome, subdued, or vanquished; unconquerable."
If you want to do a startup and succeed (otherwise you wouldn't bother to read this far), grit must form the very essence of your being. Why? Because if you are one of the first ~20 employees no one will give you even a puncher's chance of succeeding at your new venture, and there will be a few dark moments when even you will doubt yourself. "Can we pull this off?" "What happens if the funding doesn't come through?" "How are we ever going to get a customer with so much still to do?" These are the questions that will ring in your head incessantly if you let them -- your job is to dig deep, find your inner Grit, and move forward towards your goal?
- Take a look at the picture above. Stare at it for a while. What's the difference between the 3 riders? It's the body language and the thousand-yard stare of George Hincapie, the leader at the time, whose eyes burn with an intensity that says "I will not be beaten on this day." Truth be told, Hincapie didn't win this version of Paris-Roubaix, but that's not the point -- the point is, cold, wet, freezing and near exhaustion, he continued to utterly and completely embodiy the spirit of true Grit needed to win.
- Don't complain. Either do something about the problem or shut up. Complaining doesn't make the problem go away and it sure doesn't endear you to your co-workers when times are tough.
- Focus only on what you can control, and forget about the rest. Do you think Hincapie is worried about getting a flat tire or that it might rain harder? No, because that wastes mental and physical energy and is out of his control -- obsessing about things beyond your control (like what the competition might do, e.g.) has the same draining effect. Instead, has Hincapie spent all his efforts making sure he studied the course ahead of time, planned his strategy, and prepared for everything his competition might do? You bet, since all of these were within his power to control and prepare to face.
- Play whatever song works for you to visualize success. If in doubt, the "Rocky" theme is always a good choice ...
Wrap the very essence of your being around the axis of these tenets and you will have the Grit needed for startup success, not merely posturing. Now on to the other half ...
If Mr. Grit forms the inner core of your being necessary for success, Determination represents the second part of the equation, and it is very much much an if/then equation. If you have the mental makeup to succeed and have done the requisite preparation (Grit), then you need the will to see it through to the end in every battle, day after day after day (Determination).
Determination is a funny thing. Even if you think you have it, you can't really tell until you are in a position to find out. Especially in recruiting situations, people may boast about their "focus on execution" or "ability to get things done," which are all part of Determination, but you have to dig a little deeper. Have they only "executed" in successful organizations? It's a whole lot harder to stay focused and execute when you/your company is consistently getting punched in the nose. Have they personally experienced a major, world-altering upheaval? How did they handle it -- did it shake them so badly that they are now gun-shy, or did they pick themselves up off the floor and live to fight another day?
Take a look at the picture above. Lance's face embodies the Determination you need for startup success. Why? He has the mental makeup and has done the prior preparation (Grit). Now, though, he isn't resting on his laurels; instead, he has put his nose to the grindstone and will hammer all the way to the finish line, and get up tomorrow and do the exact same thing, each and every day for the entire month of the Tour de France.
So, there you have it. It gets real simple, real fast: Grit + Determination = startup success. You may survive for a while with less, but the minute something goes awry or a bubble bursts, you'll be in the trash heap with all the rest. My advice: look inside yourself to see if you have what it takes before you make the leap to a startup. If you don't, then either work to hone those skills or come to grips with the fact that a startup isn't for everybody (why put yourself through the torment?).
If you do have what it takes -- welcome to the club!