Not In Control

In the world of startups and entrepreneurship, we, almost religiously, believe that if we work hard, work with talented people, and get traction, then we’ll come out “victorious”.  Given the general optimistic nature of being a founder, when looking forward, we tend to brush the uncertainty under the rug and assume that outcomes are fully in our control.  So, when things don’t play out how we imagined it would, we are often left in despair and confusion. It  makes it harder to wake up the next day and need to ask ourselves, “How could this happen to me (yes, it’s personal) when things were looking all up and to the right?” I’ve particularly gone through this exact cycle more than once and each time I learn from it. A place where I like to draw inspiration about how others deal with this is by watching elite sportsmen and sportswoman compete. They train their entire lives for something that might last from 10 seconds to a couple of hours. Even though you can be the best and do everything right, you sometimes still don’t win. Yet, you have to pick yourself up, deal with it and go at it again.

Yes, I do realize that this sort of like comparing apples to oranges since in sports the victories are easier to measure, as outcomes have order, and in entrepreneurship, it is not so straightforward but there’s definitely an inspiration to be drawn. In entrepreneurship, there’s definitely a  general sense of progress but you never know when you’re actually winning but you sure as hell know the times when you’re not. That being said, my biggest take away is how these individuals manage themselves in difficult moments but still come back to compete.

A great example of this is what happened to Formula 1 driver Daniel Ricciardo earlier this year. He’s a world class driver and should’ve won in both Spain and Monaco but ended up finishing 4th and 2nd in the respective races. He still had to come back and compete the following weekends.

In Monaco, much like in Spain, Ricciardo was driving a fantastic race and was called in for a pit-stop. For those not too familiar with the sport, a pit stop is a marvellous feat where the old tires are switched out for new ones in a couple of seconds (video). Unfortunately for Ricciardo, when he made it into the pits, the pit-crew took off all 4 tires but did not have the new tires ready. This cost him crucial time and he knew it, as you can see him throwing up his arms here. He did everything he could right yet here he was, in second place, trying to win back the position he had lost for no fault of his own.  For those who care, there was no happy ending. He finished the race in second place.

In his post-race interview (full view below) he talks about this feeling of anguish and anger: “How do I feel? Like I have been run over by an 18-wheel truck for the second week in a row. I took Barcelona (Spain) on the chin, but two in a row? And especially here at Monaco. I thought l was controlling it. A big part is relying on the team and strategy. I don’t know where to go from here or what to do. This win l will never get back. It definitely hurts.”

Yet, he came back the next race, and the race after that, and so forth to compete once again. Similarly, in startups, I’ve found are not always going to go in my favour, the uncertainty will unravel in brutal ways that I never expected, but it’s up to me to stand up and go at it again! Managing one’s own psychology will be 🔑.  I’ve started to have a routine out of working and that’s helped a lot. Now looking into the routines of others to see what I can learn and apply to mine.

By varadh

My general mission in life is to be helpful to people building products that have a positive impact on the world. If you're building something awesome, I'd love to chat: 🤖