If you ask successful entrepreneurs what were the keys to their success, one of the top 5 answers across the board will be: persistence.
However, I encounter just as many entrepreneurs who are stuck… or worse… falling behind and losing their edge because of their decision to persist, despite all evidence that a change is due.
I think it comes down to the type and source of persistence. Is it logical to be persistent given your current situation and trajectory? Is there data to support that continuing down the current path will yield results? OR Is it an emotionally driven persistence? Are you persevering as though you’re in a Hollywood film where all the odds are against you, but you just have this gut feeling that you will be the .1% that makes it big against the odds? Or even more simply, less glamorous, and perhaps just as dangerous: we’ve come so far, how could we possibly change directions now? Is that the best kind of persistence?
This difference has been exposed to me through a successful entrepreneur and mentor in town. What I found strikingly unique is that each day he reevaluates his position and has no emotional tie to the decisions of the previous day. If it is logical to continue down the path, so be it and he will decide to carry on another day. If not and another direction presents itself and the macro and micro variables support changing directions, then he simply changes directions. There is never an emotional variable in the decision to “persist” or “redirect.” It’s refreshingly simple and super efficient.
Entrepreneurs are by nature extremely emotional animals. Sometimes this can also be our downfall. One more nugget…. I heard this first at the Lean startup conference at SxSW in 2012:
There is no such thing as a 10 year startup. That’s called a 2 year startup plus an 8 year failure.
No matter the phase or age of your business, constantly evaluate the motivation for your persistence. If you have too many emotional ties, maybe it’s time to look for a change.
Another way to put it: I believe that we’re all on a trajectory. And looking at those around us, meeting enough people, hearing their stories, we can predict our own trajectory with fairly high accuracy. Use this framework of thought is helpful to evaluate whether it is logical to persevere on your chosen trajectory or to seek out a new trajectory instead.
For my thoughts on making change for yourself, read this post on Crazy Dramatic Decisions That Aren’t.
Another great read is this one on “The Humongous Difference between Persistence and Perseverance.”