February 21st, 2013

Wisdom isn’t always about winning: You can’t recreate the same success. But you can avoid the same mistakes.


Wisdom isn’t always about winning: You can’t recreate the same success. But you can avoid the same mistakes.

Serial entrepreneur and all-around awesome guy Kyle Kesterson of Freak’n Genius wrote a great piece for GeekWire today about sharing true experiences with your startup peers. Not about “Killing it!” or “Everything’s awesome!” But truly sharing what’s happening with your company.

And perhaps more importantly truly sharing what’s happening with you, personally.

[W]e have all been inundated and overwhelmed, kept up late at night worried about crunching those dwindling numbers in the bank account, flustered and frustrated that communication has broken down with a co-founder. We have all hit some severe roadblocks that truly shows what kind of person you are in how you can recover from it. Hiding it or avoiding it doesn’t make the issues less real or you any better.

Why then do we put so much energy into wearing a plastic face, staring at another plastic face who could be experiencing, or who has experienced, the same exact issue? I’m guilty of this myself, but it’s time to stop. It’s killing us.

And it struck me that this was very close to something about which I’ve been trying to remind folks, be they mentors or startups or would-be entrepreneurs:

You can’t recreate the same success. But you can avoid the same mistakes.

Entrepreneurs love the war stories. To talk about how they battled against all odds to win. About how they managed to string things together and come out on top.

It’s part of the culture.

But fact of the matter is this: No matter how much planning went into that success—no matter how methodical and procedural it seemed—there were a ton of other factors at play that resulted in that success.

It could have been the market. It could have been the timing. It could have been, well, luck.

And while those stories are great and inspirational and all that. Sometimes, they’re simply not helpful.

You know what is helpful? Talking about naive decisions and stumbles and screw ups. Sharing awful fucking mistakes. And heartbreaking failures. They aren’t pretty. But to other entrepreneurs they are way more important than recounting the completely random lucky set of circumstances that landed you where you are today.

Because unlike that celebrated and yet unrepeatable path to success, avoiding those failures and mistakes can be critical to your peers.

Wisdom isn’t always about winning.

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