There are a lot of deeply held themes that drive the formation and the operation of the FounderSensei program. One of these themes is your hand, head and heart are all required for an entrepreneur to be successful.
Later in his journey, an entrepreneur needs a team. But in the beginning, it’s just one or two guys who start with an idea and an irrational belief that they can change the world. An entrepreneur, who is literally creating something from nothing, must create his business with his own hand. Only he can do this.
An entrepreneur is an artisan. He sees the world in a unique way. He must study, practice and eventually master his craft. He perfects his craft by mastering his skills.
Of course, not every entrepreneur has the same skill set. In a software startup, there are four areas of craftsmanship: hustler, hacker, designer, and product visionary. These roles have very different skill sets. Ideally, they work as a cohesive team to create, learn, adapt and overcome as they build their business.
An entrepreneur doesn’t have to be a jack of all trades. But, he must be a master in one of the key areas for success. If he’s a hustler, he must become one of the best hustlers in his area. If he’s a hacker or a designer, he must dedicate himself to continuously learning new technologies and developing new capabilities so that he can manifest new ideas into products that delight customers. If he’s a product visionary, he must become one with his target customer. In my experience, learning where one’s natural strengths lie, and amplifying them, is more effective than improving one’s weaknesses.
So, to build a business, an entrepreneur must create with his own hand. He must get his hands dirty. No one else can do this for him.
As Steve Blank puts it, a startup is a temporary organization designed to find a scalable, repeatable business model. In the beginning, it’s all about the search for the business model.
To filter through all the ambiguity and all of the uncertainty, an entrepreneur must use his head.
An entrepreneur must develop problem-solving skills. There are many obstacles keeping him from achieving his goals. So many, if you wrote them down, they would be overwhelming. To succeed, an entrepreneur must learn how to go around, over, under or through whatever obstacles get in his way. Without this ability, an entrepreneur will be stopped in his tracks.
A good entrepreneur must also be effective at recognizing patterns. This is one of the most important skills for any entrepreneur to possess. Most startups are simultaneously inches away from incredible success, and at the same time, inches away from absolute failure. The ability to recognize what’s happening, at an intuitive level, and making course corrections at the right time is essential.
An entreprenuer must be mindful. I love the word mindful. This word defines the best mindset for an entrepreneur.
Be mindful of what you are doing. Be mindful of what you are not doing. Be mindful of what your customers are doing, what they are saying with words, what they are saying with actions and what they are not saying at all. Be mindful of what you are focusing on right now. Be mindful of the impact you are having on others. An effective entrepreneur is mindful of a great number of things and is constantly stepping outside himself to get a clearer view of the truth.
"Get up you son of a bitch! ‘Cause Mickey loves you!" - Mickey.
"It ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how you can get hit and keep moving forward."
– Rocky Balboa
Kirk: I take it the odds are against us, and the situation is grim.
Picard: You could say that.
Kirk: You know, if Spock were here, he’d say that I was an irrational, illogical human being by taking on a mission like that. Sounds like fun!
Startups are hard. If you don’t think so, try one. For some, startups are just too hard. They just aren’t worth it. This is an absolutely rational point of view.
Entrepreneurs are those strange, rare individuals who really like facing challenges. The bigger the challenge, the more excited they get. The more you push them, the harder they push back. The more you challenge them, the better they perform. This is not normal human behavior. But it’s absolutely an imperative quality for an entrepreneur to succeed.
In Star Wars mythology, an apprentice must overcome several trials to become a Jedi. The Trial of the Flesh was the most trying test given at the Temple. It involves the apprentice overcoming great physical pain, hardship, or loss, and the test sometimes resulted in death or dismemberment.
Eventually, every entrepreneur experiences devastating failure and deeply painful loss. For an entrepreneur, the Trial of the Flesh is a failed business, lost money, emotional and psychological damage, destroyed relationships and sometimes divorce or permanent loss of a loved one. The scars may not be physical, but they are just as real.
Sooner or later, life will bring you to your knees. It’s the courage and strength of will to get up and go back into the fight that separates those who succeed from those who don’t.
An entreprenuer must have heart.
"I am hurt but I am not slain.
I’ll lay me down and bleed awhile,
Then I’ll rise and fight again.”
- Sir Andrew Barton
All it takes is everything you have.
An entrepreneur must use his hand, his head and his heart in pursuit of his dream. Using these three elements together creates a powerful force for anyone who wants to change the world and inspire others to do the same.