Normally the first thing I encourage any newly minted founder to do at the beginning of their startup journey is throw away any concept of certainty. Especially if they are tackling a big problem, something with real weight behind it and deep meaning for their potential users.

The path to doing something meaningful with anyone’s startup requires extreme ambiguity. The ability to let go of all preconceived notions of how anything will work out for the entirety of their life as a founder. From how any week will go (I’ve had the best day and worst day of my startup life in the same week), the result of any meeting or business deal (until the ink is dry or the money deposited, never trust it’s done), the outcome of new product launch (results of a great launch do not indicate long term sustainability), the success of a new hire (the way they interviewed vs the way they work can be Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde), etc…

The earlier the startup, the more extreme the ambiguity varies from day to day. Even as you progress through each level of success, ambiguity is always tagging along, the unwanted companion on your journey.


 

The clarity of startup life can only be found in one thing. What is certain as you build your startup, will be the purpose and drive you feel to build something your customers care about, to feel like you are doing something that matters. That part will be as clear as day and night.

Think of the great pioneering ocean explorers of centuries past. They had no set path, just the insane determination to find one and discover the unknown.

As a founder there is no path, there is only an ocean of ambiguity surrounded on all sides by the frustration of tempting shorelines that promise the allusion of a safe harbour. Shorelines that are merely there to tease founders onto the rocks, whom have lost their perseverance to sail onward. Those looking for certain paths and shortcuts. Those who think a safe harbor exists in the hostile ocean of startups, where 90% of the ships sink before finding their destination. It takes unrelenting courage to stand behind the wheel of a ship, sailing into the fog day after day, never knowing what is coming next. The pioneering founders who do make it across the ocean, do so because they long ago accepted that they wouldn’t know what their destination was until they saw it with their own eyes, felt the sand in their hands. They embraced ambiguity as if their life as founder depended on it, because it did.

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