I keep banging on about persistence and how it’s so, so, so important to be successful in the world of the entrepreneur that I thought I would try and find some additional advice that helps counter this advice!
I found inspiration in the brilliant Marc Andreeson’s blog commenting on Charlie Munger [an 80-something billionaire who cofounded top-tier law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson and is Warren Buffett’s long-time partner and Vice-Chairman at Berkshire Hathaway, one of the most successful companies of all time.]
Charlie has a book about his learning’s about business and one point in particular that marc picked up was this one:
The brain of man is programmed with a tendency to quickly remove doubt by reaching some decision.
It is easy to see how evolution would make animals, over the eons, drift toward such quick elimination of doubt. After all, the one thing that is surely counterproductive for a prey animal that is threatened by a predator is to take a long time in deciding what to do…
So pronounced is the tendency in man to quickly remove doubt by reaching some decision that behavior to counter the tendency is required from judges and jurors. Here, delay before decision making is forced. And one is required to so comport himself, prior to conclusion time, so that he is wearing a “mask” of objectivity. And the “mask” works to help real objectivity along, as we shall see when we next consider man’s Inconsistency-Avoidance Tendency…
What triggers Doubt-Avoidance Tendency? Well, an unthreatened man, thinking of nothing in particular, is not being prompted to remove doubt through rushing to some decision. As we shall see later when we get to Social-Proof Tendency and Stress-Influence Tendency, what usually triggers Doubt-Avoidance Tendency is some combination of (1) puzzlement and (2) stress.
Marc’s comment on this was as follows:
This is probably a good one for entrepreneurs. You’d better not have a lot of doubts about what you are doing because everyone else will, and if you do too, you’ll probably give up.
Of course, an entrepreneur’s doubt avoidance is only a plus right up to the point where it becomes pigheaded stubbornness that interferes with her ability to see reality, particularly when a strategy is not working.
In my view, entrepreneurial judgment is the ability to tell the difference between a situation that’s not working but persistence and iteration will ultimately prove it out, versus a situation that’s not working and additional effort is a destructive waste of time and radical change is necessary.
I don’t believe there are any good rules for being able to tell the difference between the two. Which is one of the main reasons starting a company is so hard.
The key here is the ability to use persistence to your advantage to drive over, around and through obstacles in order to be a success but NOT to do so to the point of delusion and self destruction.
So keep being persistent but do try and make sure you add feedback from others and use basic logic to ensure that you are not going too far in the wrong direction for the sake of it.
A good example of being persistent up to a point is John Ndege’s blog post about closing his company and what he learned below:
Optimism and Denial
Entrepreneurs live off optimism, its the fuel that keeps us going. I once read somewhere that entrepreneurial optimism was like driving from New York to LA only being able to see a few meters ahead at a time. Or to bring the analogy closer to home its like driving from Inverness to Penzance. But optimism can be dangerous when it slides into blind optimism. Though a very limited dose of blind optimism won’t kill, too much can easily lead to addiction. When that happens you start to think problems will solve themselves and that time will fix everything.
Don’t be blind, use a feedback loop you can trust to help you make the right decisions – don’t give up – unless you really have gone all the way to the end of the road, then decide do I go on or is now the same to do something different.