When people use analogies of your co-founder being like a wife, a startup as your baby, and employees as family, it shouldn't be a surprise to find a startup has a massive effect on your personal life.
I founded Teknically three months after I turned 18, so I already was growing at a fast pace becoming an independent adult. Being a founder put me in unique circumstances to force me to grow faster than I would have before. I am the man I am today because of Teknically, here are 7 personal lessons it helped me learn.
That being said, I also learned two key things about people that I have hinted at in previous posts and talks:
"The average American reads 1 book per year. The average millionaire reads 1 book per week."
This has always stuck with me and I've seen the consequences play out repeatedly when I forget to feed my mind. Read anything, read everything. Over the course of 2014 I averaged one book per month. Since January 2015, I'm up to one book every two weeks, still aiming towards the goal of one book per week.
I've found the books I've read in the past 16 months have kept my mind alert, open to new ideas, and helped me grow as a person (wondering what those books were...find out in an upcoming blog post).
I started with interesting biographies and relevant startup books. I soon branched into non-fiction, history, and even fiction (which I used to rarely read). Start reading with whatever you're comfortable with and expand after that. Once you make reading fun, learning will be too.
He suggests in his book that leadership isn't simple like a straight line. It's not just leading those below you by setting goals or casting vision; as a team leader, club president, or even startup founder. True leadership extends for 360º.
It involves leading by example and helpful words nudging in the right direction those beside you; as peers, classmates, or good friends. Leadership includes proving by example a better work ethic, a better way to live, addressing those above you respectfully; your bosses, executives, or elders.
What really resonated with me though was the revelation that none of these three areas is the most difficult to lead. The most difficult task is leading yourself.
It's the area where most leaders fall off the path, when they let themselves off the hook, don't hold themselves to a higher standard, or don't take the time and energy to keep improving themselves. It can be easy to settle into a complacency and prideful self-righteousness when you don't lead yourself with the same vigor that you lead others.
When I have failed, it has almost always been as a result of a failure to lead myself. This failure is unforgiving and like a toxic oil spill, the effects eventually spread to all other areas of your leadership circle and life.
If you want to be serious about becoming a great leader, be serious about leading yourself now.
In February 2014 we competed in the Laurier Entrepreneurship Competition and blew away the crowd with a very polished presentation. Compared to others who presented in terms of their idea and presentation I was sure without much of any doubt that we would win.
That's the assumption that makes you feel that third place was a failure.
I was shocked and kept desperately wanting to know what did we do wrong? How could we have presented better? Which aspects of our product and business plan weren't made clear? My parents and others helped me realize that we didn't do anything wrong.
Life isn't fair. Judges don't always pick who should have won. The best don't always win. Just accept it.
It took a while but I have. When we competed later in Halifax and Provo, my mindset going in was very different. I didn't have any assumption that we would win simply based on being the best, we needed to tailor to the judges. In Halifax we successfully did that and won first place. In Provo, we weren't as successful. Regardless of the results I was still very happy with how we did, separate from our place in the standings.
In November 2014, we interviewed unsuccessfully at Y Combinator in Mountain View, California. My reaction then was different. I began to think back over everything we had accomplished; competitions won, mentors impressed, co-op students hired, innovative software designs, overflowing waitlists of customers. Had it all been false positives, had it all been for nothing?
Again I was letting the final result determine the binary judgement of the journey. If we had succeeded, the journey was a success; if we had failed, the journey was a failure. I was shortchanging myself by trying to reduce the complexity of our startup journey to a binary result.
We had succeeded in so many different ways. We had learned so much. No, we didn't get into Y Combinator. And no, we wouldn't be continuing the business. But by no means had we failed.One of the greatest legacies of this failure will be not my complete rehabilitation, but the beginning of a new journey to root my self-worth in a foundation that doesn't sway in the winds of failure or the rising tides of success.
I wouldn't be honest with you if I didn't bring this up. Any founder will admit to the anxiety that can sink in late at night or right before an important presentation, the stress that can seem to compound with each day, the doubts of whether this is all going to be worth it.
I don't think these feelings are necessarily limited to founders. In life all of us must deal with failures, stress, anxiety, fears, doubts, feelings of inadequacy. Some founders I've known have found relief in yoga, meditation, and regular exercise. Though I've also found relief in exercise and dance, I've only found one cure to these worries.
My faith in Jesus Christ has been the rock on which I can stand through the storms of life. In Him I've been freed from the chains that held me when I based my self-worth in success and my own abilities. I no longer feel like an addict looking for the next hit of applause, success, or recognition. I no longer feel the need to maintain appearances of having it all put together. I don't have a monopoly on the right way to live life, so I'm learning to better respect people from all walks of life. We're each on our own journey, none of us are in a position to judge.I hope each of you finds a strong foundation to build your life upon. Christ is that rock for me.
As university students in the West, we already are among the top 0.5-4% of the world. We are equipped with resources and time that very few people in the world have. I don't have any perfect answers on what we should be doing, but I feel we must do something.
It's easy to ignore the facts, to just stay busy with clubs, class, and parties. Most people don't get the opportunity to live an easy life. The few of us that do, have the responsibility to not settle for it.