Seth Godin is smart. I guess this interview would be considered an oldie but a goody since it’s from a few years back but I thought it was reliant given what we are going through in this country right now, particularly in business. In this interview, he talks about the virtues of quitting in a society that very much frowns upon it. I agree with him on this. If you are not prepared to do what its takes to succeed then it’s not even worth stepping onto the metaphoric field. The smarts in the situation is knowing when to not even attempt to play the game and knowing when you are too far in to get out:
The big takeaway here IMO is that you have to be focused on something and not be a jack of all trades. There’s opportunity cost in being spread too thin and that is more expensive than ever these days. There is also a lesson in terms of when to "know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em." This whole concept easily translates for startups and how they govern themselves. One of the hardest things one can do is start a company and when you do that you have to remove the rose colored glasses and look at things like a pragmatist and not a dreamer. Dreaming is for creating the ideas, pragmatism is for making decisions up until and once you have put the wheels in motion. The fear here is always failure. So if you are going to fail, you should fail quickly.
The optimal outcome for a startup is in the following order:
- Succeed quickly – what everyone wants but few get. Who doesn’t want to be Google?
- Fail quickly – what seems to be terrible but actually the second best way to be. Think back on how many times you have failed in your life and think about the ones that hurt the most (see below). To put a personal spin on it, would you rather date someone for 5 years to just find out that the two of you aren’t right for one another or would you like to figure that out after the first few weeks?
- Succeed slowly – although success is always a positive thing, what happens when you are barely succeeding? You are constantly worrying about where the next paycheck is going to come from, who is your next batch of competitors, losing competitive advantage for being first to market, and what happens if the slightest thing goes wrong. It’s constant stress and that can affect other parts of your life. You can easily go from front of the pack to the back and that leads to failure.
- Fail slowly – as I alluded to above, nothing is worse than slow torture. To fail slowly is not an option for any good business person. First and foremost, it’s the most expensive thing to do. You have to set a time when you cut your losses and stick to it. The risk is too high that this failure will bleed into the other parts of your business and personal life. If you think your dog having fleas is bad, just wait until the it is in your house for a while and the whole place is infested.
At the end of it all, when I see an interview like this it makes me take stock of all of the things that I am doing now and forces me to scrutinize them. I think that’s what the point of any good piece is and I hope that this post forces you to do the same.