The Practice of Patience (Founder’s Tip)

Posted on January 11, 2010. Filed under: JumpPost, startups | Tags: , , |

The past couple of days at JumpPost have been an exercise in patience.  This is not a trait that comes naturally to me, nor is it one that I’d imagine most entrepreneur’s are born with.  Sort of by definition, we are a group who wants change to happen faster than it would evolve without our efforts.  I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes (stolen from Fabrice Grinda) by Joel Barker:

“Vision without action is merely a dream.  Action without vision just passes the time.  Vision with action can change the world.”

So what happens when you are long on vision, and stirring to create action, but there is some external force on which your desired action is dependant?  Frequently in a startup, the most important thing in the world to you and your company, is number 15 on the to-do list of an external party (whether that party be a bus dev partner, service provider, investor, or even employee).  There are two responses that a founder can engage in when waiting on external action:

1) application of pressure: you want your answer/data/deliverable and you want it now.  Email/call/hound the external party until you get it.  My experience has been this strategy can yield fruit as a last resort, but more often than not, it will just move you down the list form 15 to 20 (or maybe even remove you from the last all together).

2) Acceptance: the world does not revolve around you and your startup.  Start pushing other balls forward while you wait for this one to unfold.  Nothing wrong with staying in front of this external party, but do it in a way that respects their right to prioritize their own efforts and actions.  This might mean that you let a time sensitive opportunity pass you by, or that you need to delay a number of other actions that are dependent on the outcome of this external event, but building a company is a marathon, not a sprint (note: I do like to sprint some miles when the opportunity presents itself).  In the long run, preservation of important relationships and a healthy working dynamic between you and the parties with whom you interact will yield fruit…so don’t freak out when things take longer than you want them to.

It takes practice to sit down at your computer, stare at the bright red “high importance” item on your to do list, and then to compartmentalize and look beyond it so that it does not distract you from knocking out the 10 “medium importance” items that are sitting behind it.  I’ve written before about the importance of momentum…and one of the biggest killers of momentum, at least personally, is waiting on something that you do not control…The practice I have developed over the past couple of years is a practice in acceptance.  Very few events in the life of a startup are apocalyptic (though they may seem such in the moment)…some things fall your way, some don’t, so staring at this “high importance” item and then saying “have I done everything I can possibly do to make this item break my way? Yes? Okay, what else can I accomplish today?” is a dialog with yourself that is worth developing.

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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