Unrealistic Expectations

I’ve been having a hard time getting re-motivated or at least sustaining a level of motivation in the last week. There are some things unrelated to anything technological that have been on my mind. To help me get re-engaged with my Internet start up thing, I decided to watch some of the video clips from the “Startup Lessons Learned” conference with Eric Ries ( Of those I’ve focused on are the presentations by Aardvark and KISSmetrics.

It’s interesting to go back and watch these videos because they feel like really good equalizers to the exuberance we can feel for launching our first product. A few of overriding perspectives that seem to constantly pop-up are these:

  • We will likely fail
  • No one will use the product
  • We have about a 50% chance of success if everything goes perfectly according to plan
  • Investors may invest, but most are interested in earnings against calendar deadlines to prove product viability
  • We will likely fail

I find myself asking “Why are these guys constantly… endlessly…. taking all the air out of my sail? What the hell do they gain from telling every entreprenuer who has yet to release a product or are in the infancy of adoption, ‘You aren’t going to make it.” I haven’t had any great epiphanies, but I believe these guys are honestly and sincerely interested in sharing these concepts and driving them home because they are real and they happen.

When each one of these guys learned the concept that they were headed towards failure, it was probably accompanied by a larger emotional reaction — despair, sadness, depression, a feeling of loss for the effort already expended, frustration as they pivot…yet again. When someone has one of these substantial shifts in their life or are tragically surprised by an event like this, the standard human behavior trait is to share it with others. Not necessarily because you are interested in helping others avoid the same fate, rather you have this unconscious, carnal need to not feel alone. If you can tell others about something that happened to you, and they have the exact same reaction, your spirit is strengthened by the camaraderie and the shared suffering (or at least another’s feelings of empathy).  And if you can get yourself invited to a conference where hundreds or thousands of people are attentive to what you have to say, the shared experience grows larger.

Then I think something else happens, either as water flows under the bridge or as you are healed from the experience. You develop a warm interest in helping others not fall into the same trap that you did. I think one develops a genuine benevolent outlook towards others interested in your advice and the more interested they are in hearing it, the more detail you put into the stories you have to share. The degree of personal relief felt is directly proportional to the number of people you believe you are helping.

But, there’s another string of thought that I can’t shake. Despite all efforts to mentally dismiss it, despite extensive efforts to don the cloak of humility and open my mind to learn everything I possibly can from the experiences of these obviously successful entrepreneurs, I can’t manage to get rid of the notion that somehow, I am different. My approach is different. My outlook is different. I’m smarter, more emotionally mature, more visionary, I can actually predict the future, I can turn water into wine and spin gold from straw. Everything in my conscious, rational, humble mind is telling me that I am pompous to assume that I am the least bit different (better) than these guys who are running companies that make millions of dollars in revenue or have had millions of dollars in investment or have had exits worth a gazillion bucks. “Really?!?”, I say in my head, “If the odds of being a successful Internet entrepreneur are 1 in 10,000, do you honestly believe you are more unique than that?…that your own venture is not subject to the same potential failures of human judgment or tendencies of human emotion?”

I don’t know how to explain it — really I don’t. But the short answer is Yes. I believe this very thing. If you are the slightest bit human, you’ve heard my answer and have gathered a bowl of popcorn to sit and watch this colossal flameout. Hell, I’m kind of interested in seeing it myself. Perhaps someday, when an explanation for this unbelievable opinion of my own indestructibility comes to mind, I’ll share it. But for now, I can only say that the sense of direction in me is as pure and focused as I can remember it ever being.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is this… learn from those who have DONE IT. Suck everything they have to offer into your mind like a sponge and commit it all to easily recall-able memory. Heed the advice, religiously! But, if after having consumed the wisdom from a hundred sources — all stating essentially the same thing over and over and over — you still feel the tug of a 6th sense telling you something different, PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR HEART!

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