Tenacity is one of the most cherished attributes in the startup community. Having the will to grind it out through good and bad times is the hallmark of great entrepreneurs. Success seems only attainable to those that make it out of the valley of sorrow and dispair.
I am definitely a big believer in this line of thinking. But I came across a snippet of wisdom in a poker forum that made me aware of a potentially dangerous bias:
“…when players are losing, they often go on autopilot and hope to run good. This might have the effect of the losing player not fighting for the small pots… …At times, because of the crazy swings that I have no control over, I think that my decisions don’t matter. I just autopilot and wait to run good. Don’t forget how EV works…” - Phil Galfond
The message was meant as a warning to poker players that their edge does not come for free. You can’t just magically put a “plus X dollars per hour” label on yourself and rake in the money. Expected Value is created by striving to make the perfect decision in every situation.
The notion translates very well to the startup world, where participants are constantly going through losing streaks(maybe not of money, but time and opportunity cost, which is just as brutal in my experience).
Surviving a year or two in the valley is great. But it doesn’t magically make you more likely to succeed in the upcoming year. Your third pivot is not automically better than your previous ones. The Startup God won’t favor you in the next billion dollar exit sweepstake just because you have five failed ventures under your belt.
You actually have to extract value from previous experiences for them to matter.
On a day to day basis, even those with amazing design and product sense have to work really hard to actually generate great design and products. The same goes for “50x programmers”. The ten thousand hour rule only works if deliberate practice is involved.
“Just showing up” is necessary but not sufficient. Don’t get into autopilot mode in hard times.