Summary: Ironically enough, starting a company with a long-term goal has helped me achieve success faster than having short-term goals. Want to relieve some startup anxiety? Think about what you want to do for the next 20 years – you’ll be surprised how many of today’s problems look easier.
I spend a lot of time helping entrepreneurs through my Startup Help calls, investments, and mentoring. A benefit of working with so many awesome people is that I get the opportunity to see a reflection of my own thinking, my own decisions – both good and bad – over the last 20 years.
I’ve also started to notice a pattern: patient entrepreneurs are enjoying their entrepreneurship journey more than impatient ones. Strangely enough, they also seem to be the ones who are going faster and with more initial success.
How can this be? So much of the startup world is currently focused on speed and overnight success stories, and yet the people I meet who are going the fastest are the ones focused on the long term. As I reflect over my own career I’ve come to realize that my best decisions, my happiest times, and my successes have come from having long-term goals.
Having Short-Term Goals Slowed Me Down – and Gave Me More Startup Anxiety
6 years ago I started a company with the goal of having a quick – within 3-5 years – successful exit. I found what I believed to be a great opportunity to achieve this goal: seed funding, the support of additional capital, and a large initial customer with executive sponsorship for the solution.
Anyone who has started a company with a similar perspective could have predicted what happened: Plan A (or Plan B) didn’t work, the industry changed overnight, and without a passion & vision I slowly failed over the course of a year. I “slowly” failed because my short-term perspective didn’t allow me to get closer to my customers and see that Plan A wouldn’t work. Moreover, others didn’t want to take the leap with me because they could sense my lack of determination. I worked myself to exhaustion and made too many personal sacrifices because everything was taking longer than I expected.
For a full year afterward I was pretty hard on myself, but since then I’ve met hundreds of entrepreneurs with similar stories – starting a company with a short-term perspective almost always leads to disaster.
Ironically, Long-Term Goals Have Helped Me Go Faster Today
Last year I decided to take a different approach. I started with the plan of spending the next 20 years building a company that creates solutions for entrepreneurs, the people I want to work for. In the past 6 months I’ve successfully launched the SoHelpful MVP, built new critical relationships across the world, and increased my blogging audience by 10x.
Of course I’m working as hard as anyone who tries to create something new, but everyday I work with a determined sense of calm that I’ve never experienced in previous ventures. Whatever happens today isn’t nearly as important as what happens 5 years from now. Mistakes, wrong product bets, and competition are just an expected part of the daily journey.
I now realize I’m going faster because:
- I first picked the market I want to serve – a market where I already had tons of relationships.
- I’m working on solutions I want to build for problems that resonate with me.
- Other people can see how happy and determined I am, so they’re not afraid to take the leap with me.
In short, I’m focused on my values and the people who share them – and not trying to quickly achieve success.
Creating Real Value Takes Time
I want my startup to be an overnight success and I hope for the same for you. Sadly enough, TechCrunch and the rest of the Startup Entertainment industry is focused on what is happening now – the hot startups, the big round of funding – and it gives us the impression that success happens overnight. Creating real value takes years.
It takes lots of experiments and failures to get unique insight into a market need. Product development requires many iterations to create something that solves real problems.
Most customers won’t trust us enough to buy our products until they’ve been exposed to them multiple times. And the most talented people won’t join us until they can see us overcome adversity and know we’re worth their time.
Want to Take the Pressure Off of Yourself? – Think in Terms of Decades
If you’re currently working on a startup or planning to start one I suggest starting with this question: What would you like to do for the next 20 years?
Confronting this question will force you to think in terms of your values, your passions – and who you want to work with. Just think of all of the challenges you’re facing today – funding, getting that MVP built, finding co-founders – that no longer seem so scary when time is on your side.
If your experience is anything like mine, ironically enough you’ll find that a long-term vision simplifies a lot of short-term problems.
Feeling Stuck? I’m Happy to Help You Think Through Your Options
In the past year I’ve helped hundreds of entrepreneurs around the world like you during my free 30-minute Skype calls. Just pick a convenient time when I’m available and I’ll be happy to help you.
About the Picture
I took this picture with my iPhone at the Great Wall of China a few weeks ago. I know of no other human achievement that symbolizes what enduring beauty we can create with enough determination.