5 Startup Founders on How to Find Startup Success

When I interviewed my favorite founders for my book, Startup Series, to gain better insight into their road to success, I got some honest, inspiring, and even harsh answers.

Speaking with the founders of reddit, Indiegogo, AngelList, and Kissmetrics, just to name a few, about their biggest accomplishments and hardest lessons has been eye-opening. What’s been most surprising and reassuring is that these founders are just like us. Hard work and heartache got them to where they are today — and the journey for the rest of us will not be much different.

From hundreds of answers, here are my five favorite tips from founders that will inspire and guide you along your own entrepreneurial path.

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The Lasting Power of Slow Gains

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You’ll never walk into the gym and hear someone say, “You should do something easy today.” But after ten years of training, I think embracing slow and easy gains is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned.

In fact, this lesson applies to most things in life. It comes down to the difference between progress and achievement.

Let me explain:

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Does Anybody Listen to You? 4 Steps to Becoming an Influencer

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The things we do at work matter, but our achievements alone don’t necessarily add up to a successful career. For people who have reached a certain level of success through sheer hard work (as many high-achievers do early on in their careers), this can be a hard lesson to learn.

After all, if you’re putting in long hours and knocking critical tasks off of your to-do list every single day, shouldn’t you be the most successful person on your team? Unfortunately, many people reach a plateau in their careers because their hard work doesn’t carry them forward the way it used to. So what’s missing?

Communication and influence.

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3 Surprising Reasons Why You Need to Rediscover Slow Growth

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We all have goals that we’d like to reach. And, if we had the choice, we would prefer to reach them sooner rather than later.

There’s nothing wrong with achieving a goal quickly, but the insatiable desire to enjoy results now — with little regard for the process — is hurting our health, our happiness, and our lives in general.

When we continuously glorify the end result (earn more money, find love, win the Super Bowl), it becomes dangerously easy to think that the goal is what validates us and not the struggle of the process.

If you want to fulfill your potential and become better, then you need to rediscover the power of slow growth. Here’s why:

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Dr Seuss’s Surprising Strategy For Success

In 1960, two men made a bet. There was only $50 on the line, but millions of people would feel the impact of this little wager.

The first man, Bennett Cerf, was the founder of the publishing firm, Random House. The second man was named Theo Geisel, but you probably know him as Dr. Seuss. Cerf challenged Dr. Seuss that he wouldn’t be able to write an entertaining children’s book using only 50 different words.

Dr. Seuss took the bet and won. The result was a little book called Green Eggs and Ham. Since its publication, Green Eggs and Ham has sold more than 200 million copies, making it the most popular of Seuss’s works and one of the best-selling children’s books in history.

At first glance, you might think this was a lucky fluke. A talented author plays a fun game with 50 words and ends up producing a hit. But there is actually more to this story — and the lessons in it can help you become more creative and stick to better habits over the long run.

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The Risky Mentality that Made Jeff Bezos So Successful

Success often feels like a chase, especially in the startup world. You scrabble to gain ground, obsessing over features and metrics and competitors, and though you think you’re moving fast and hard, sometimes it feels like you’re running up a down escalator.

For Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, success isn’t a pursuit or a race to the top. It’s an adventure. You don’t just buy The Washington Post when you think you’re in a race. Rather, his key to success is maintaining a mindset of exploration rather than conquest. Bezos told Charlie Rose in 2012:

Jeff Bezos explorer mentality

Some companies have more of a conqueror mentality. If you look at their annual strategic plan, it starts with their three top enemies, who they’re going to crush this year…. We have an explorer mentality, so we like to go pioneering. We like to find dark alleyways and wander down them and see if they open up into broad avenues, and sometimes they do. That pioneering, explorer mentality is really what drives us. That’s the core of the culture.

For all the lip service paid to innovation and disruption, the conventional quest for business success can translate into fighting shy of risk and looking to just do better than your neighbor more often. The explorer mentality changes your lodestar. You’re not looking to catch up to others, but looking to forge new paths, and that frame of mind makes a huge difference.

Wandering in and out of unfamiliar areas can be perilous but two complementary aspects of Amazon’s company culture make the explorer mentality click — and that’s a long-range orientation and an obsession with customers.

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You’re Not Good Enough to Be Disappointed Yet

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Dan John is a weightlifting coach. He is well-known in the fitness world for keeping things simple (and you should always fear a man with two first names). Recently I heard Dan John say:

I often tell my new athletes: “Sorry, you just are not good enough to be disappointed.”

In other words, in the beginning you need to get comfortable with feeling stupid, uncertain, and unskilled.

You’re not allowed to be disappointed by your performance because you haven’t developed your skills yet. It’s only the professionals that are allowed to be disappointed because they have put in the work to be better.

  • J.K Rowling is allowed to be disappointed if she writes a bad book because she put in 20 years of work to get good.
  • Kobe Bryant is allowed to be disappointed if he plays a bad game because he put in 20 years of work to become amazing.
  • Jack LaLanne was allowed to be disappointed with a bad workout because he trained for 60 years to stay fit.

But you and me? We’re not good enough to be disappointed yet. We’re bad enough to get to work.

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4 Nourishing Routines for Your Success and Happiness

Whether it’s a nice cup of tea or coffee or reviewing your diary, regular routines and rituals help forge the discipline, energy, and mental space to consistently make progress.

We reached out to some productivity superstars to ask:

What is one routine or ritual that contributes to your happiness and success?

Everyone’s response focused on nourishment, nurturing health, relationships, and mind.

Routines and rituals are inherently very personal — what works for you won’t necessarily work for somebody else — but the main takeaway here is that they’re also about prioritizing aspects of your life to create balance.

Here are four of those balancing routines:

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Your Only Sustainable Competitive Advantage: One Vital Lesson for Success from 99U Pop-Up School

imageIt’s hard not to feel like the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland these days, perpetually anxious and reaching into your pocket to look at your gadget and fretting, I’m late, I’m missing out, I need to catch up.

This anxiety only intensifies when you’re trying to get a project, your business, or even yourself off the ground. It’s tempting to always look outwards as you try to launch, because that seems like a smart, finger-on-the-pulse competitive approach. “Am I getting further than them? Am I catching up to them?” you wonder while looking into your telescope.

But all this fretting and fussing can be as much of a distraction as the always-receiving-information, always-working, and always-have-to-be-doing-something-itis that’s afflicting our culture. And when you pay too dearly for these distractions with your time and energy, you never get to really soar.

Then how do you take flight? These days, “self-awareness is the only sustainable competitive advantage.”

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