Why Are All My Founder Friends Ahead of Me?

"Why is it everywhere I turn, I feel like everyone is lapping me in life? I'm working like crazy and yet day after day I feel like I'm falling further behind. Are other Founders feeling this way or am I just beating myself up?"

September 21st, 2022   |    By: Wil Schroter

Nearly every Founder feels woefully behind their friends in life.

As it happens, we picked a particularly shitty profession to ever feel "ahead" of our friends and colleagues. Most of our friends have regular jobs where they actually get paid every week, whereas we spend the entire month wondering if and how we'll get paid at all.

The problem compounds when we start to look at our successful Founder colleagues because the delta in success can be so astronomical so quickly. We start to assume that their successes become a reflection of our failures. But what we're missing in that comparison is how the benchmarks themselves are completely broken.

We Fight Ourselves

It all starts when we try to invent where we should be in life as if our path is a forgone conclusion and we're simply behind schedule. As Founders, we are always fundamentally behind schedule. We're building something that has never been created before, with a team that just came together in a market that's totally unproven — in what world would we be on schedule?

The concept of a schedule works in a regular career path. We think of it like a ladder where we continue to ascend with more effort. Being a Founder is nothing like that. Our path looks more like swinging from vine to vine, only in complete darkness, and we have no idea if the vine we happened to grab onto is moving us forward or backward.

We're always going to feel like we're behind, until one day we look around and we're not. The typical signs of progression are incredibly faint in this business, and even when they do happen we're so distracted by what's next we rarely notice them. We have to be OK sprinting into the abyss without any mile markers. That's what this game is.

We Compare our Random to their Random

Oh look, another Founder we know just landed huge funding round! How are they raising money when we can't even get an investor callback? Are they amazing or do we just suck at life?

When we compare ourselves to other Founders we assume that just because we're both Founders, so we must be doing the exact same thing. We're not. While we may both be running startups, that's entirely where the comparison ends. Every facet of building a startup is a unique journey that involves skill, but relies heavily on market timing and a whole lot of bets that no one can guarantee the outcome on.

If it were just a matter of skill, successful entrepreneurs could just keep building successful companies over and over. And yet they don't, because this shit is random. Where we fall down is when we compare our random series of events and outcomes to their random series of events and outcomes. It never stacks up and it's a wasted effort. We always "lose" because we're making the wrong comparison.

Comparison Kills Progress

The worst part about comparing our success to these arbitrary benchmarks is that it distracts us from what's most important — moving our own position forward. No matter how far we get, we'll always find someone else who did better. Every moment we spend beating ourselves up over our invented deltas is time that could be spent improving our own position.

The best prescription for comparison is putting total blinders on and getting laser-focused on our own outcomes. We'll be 100x better served in every aspect of life by removing as many comparisons as possible and diverting all of our energy to our own cause.

There is no ninja move that will ever "cure" comparison that doesn't map back to moving our own meter. And that's all that matters.

In Case You Missed It

The Case for Growing Slowly Instead of going full force too fast early on, take the time to understand whether the bets you’re paying back or not and when it’s time to change direction.

Don’t Work Long Hours, Work Efficient Hours As Founders, we should stop being "long hours" champions and instead start being proud of how much we can do in as few hours as possible.

How Much Should I Be Working? (podcast) Wil and Ryan take a deep dive into the benefits of thinking quality and not quantity when it comes to your weekly punch card.


About the Author

Wil Schroter

Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes BizplanClarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.

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