Legends will teach you success is a matter of persistence. This post will tell you it’s not that simple. It will tell you that adversity isn’t created equal. It will teach you the different kinds of adversity and how to react to them. In the process you will witness the rise of a war lord and learn how Steve Jobs made predictions. In end, you will know when to give up and when to persist. Knowing is power. Use it.
It was a landscape of rocks, wind and dust. In the middle of this harsh environment, a young woman gave birth to a boy. She named him Temüjin. And he would change the course of mankind.
Temüjin grew up in adversity. His father was killed. The tribe abandoned his mother and the boy to die. Temüjin was captured by an enemy tribe and imprisoned. He was starved and tortured. All of it before he reached the age of 15.
But Temüjin refused to die. He persisted because he had a dream. He wanted to rule the world.
When Temüjin turned 25, he gathered an army to consolidate the tribes. He attacked his enemy. Arrows flew and swords were swung. The battle was brutal.
But Temüjin had survived an unthinkable childhood to come this far. His resolve was immense. But in the midst of the battle, he did something puzzling.
Temüjin stopped fighting. He ordered retreat, and fled.
The hardest decision for entrepreneurs
Today, we know how the story of Temüjin ends. His dream came true. He ruled the world by the name of Genghis Kahn.
We also know that his retreat was a smart move. He was losing the battle and wanted to maintain strength to fight again. It was a necessary “pivot”.
But how do entrepreneurs know when to pivot and when to persist? It’s one of the most important questions that exist.
When to pivot and when to persist
Most stories about success revolve around the theme of persistence. The stories go something like this: Some entrepreneur has a contrarian idea. Everybody tell him it’s crazy and cannot be done. But he persists. In the end, he succeeds.
The moral is this: don’t let anyone tell you that you are wrong. That only those who persist will succeed. The storyline is good entertainment. But it can terrible advice for dealing with reality. If Temüjin had persisted, he would have failed.
In the past years, the Lean Startup movement has enjoyed popularity. The methodology is all about testing and pivoting. To immediately change direction if something doesn’t work. That’s the opposite of persistence. And it confuses most people.
The confusing part is this: If I don’t get immediate success, should I give up and pivot? Or should I keep pushing and persist?
The answer is knowledge. The problem is belief.
What to do, depends on this: whether you KNOW you are right OR whether you BELIEVE you are right.
If you KNOW you are right, you should persist. If you BELIEVE you are right, you should be ready to pivot. Unfortunately, knowing and believing feels exactly the same. Then, how can you tell the difference?
The difference between knowing and believing
To KNOW you are right requires a model. To BELIEVE only requires hope and wishful thinking.
Steve Jobs insisted on a graphical user interface for the Mac because he had a model. The model was familiarity. He knew it’s intuitive for people to deal with familiar things. Typing commands into a black screen was alien. But to move a piece of paper into a folder felt familiar.
A valid model is a proven theory that allows you to make accurate assumptions. Hope and wishful thinking is what illusions are made of. Like Santa Claus.
If entrepreneurs have valid models, they must stay the course and persist. Even when people tell them they are crazy.
If the entrepreneur doesn’t have a valid model, entrepreneurs must be very attentive to push back. They must be ready to pivot.
How to demonstrate you know the difference
If you want to raise funding, you need to convince investors. During these conversations the investor will challenge your assumptions. And there are two ways to respond. One way is disastrous. The other way will create trust.
Entrepreneurs who respond with strong beliefs tends to come off as delusionary. No investors like delusionary founders.
Entrepreneurs who respond with a valid model tends to come off as intelligent. And in most cases the entrepreneur will have a superior model, because he has thought about longer than the investor. And good investors love to be proved wrong by intelligent founders.
- Many entrepreneurs don’t know when to give up or when to persist.
- If the assumptions are based on beliefs, the entrepreneurs must be ready to pivot.
- If the assumptions are based on valid models, the entrepreneurs must persist.
- When talking to investor, demonstrate you understand the above.
Check out Accelerace. We invest in tech startups.