February 23rd, 2022 | By: Wil Schroter
What if I told you that you and your startup have all the time in the world to do what you need to do?
Perhaps you'd exclaim "Heretic! How dare you question the gods of startup urgency and scale!"
Yes, yes, I know. Time is our enemy and it's slipping through our fingers by the second. If we don't get
What if instead of assuming that time is running out and killing ourselves to beat the clock we tested those assumptions to determine how much time we actually have? What if we actually had a ton of time?
"Good hell, I'm almost 30! If I don't get this startup scaled and sold, what will possibly become of my life?" No matter what stage we're at in our life, we always seem to create this silly pretense that we're going to run out of "age." We create these artificial age milestones and insist that this specific age is the "do or die moment" in our lives and careers. Then those ages come to pass, and we realize, sure enough, we've got even more of them!
We need to think of our careers in much broader terms. We have our whole lives to build something amazing, and this is just one day/year/decade within that entire story. There's nothing critical about this particular year or decade, it's the story we tell over all of them combined that defines us.
Every time I think that I'm running out of time in life, I talk to someone twice my age (which is becoming harder to find, admittedly) and they remind me that I've barely made a dent in my timeline. Depending on how long we all end up working, and I think that will be a long time hopefully, we may be 10% into our careers and thinking as if they are almost over.
Of course, the clock is ticking and if we don't "win" in our marketplace soon, we're totally screwed. But wait, how do we know that's actually true? If it's the case that we don't win in the marketplace in the next couple of years, does that mean every remaining competitor just fades away like a Thanos snap?
It doesn't — at all. In fact, we're going to be competing with these same jokers forever. And we'll compete with new entrants after that. The truth is if our market is any good, there's going to be room for us to compete in it for years to come. If one company was going to take all of the chips all of the time, we'd never have Apple, NetFlix, or Tesla. It doesn't work that way.
So guess what? We can take a breath. If we love this market, we can take our time to build something wonderful within it. We have a minute, seriously. The only reason we don't realize that is because we haven't been around long enough in this market to know better — but we will.
Ah yes, we need to make F-you money as soon as possible so we can live out the rest of our days without worry and apparently flipping the bird to a lot of people for whatever reason.
Look, financial security is paramount and we should all do what we have to do to achieve it. However, the probability that our financial security will all be generated in a single life event is insanely low. It's part of startup lore, but it's not a guarantee like our 401k.
If we focus on stacking our wins over time, we'll get to the same outcome as a likely big win will get us. The only difference is we'll more likely get there at all. In that case, we actually need time to make it happen, so time works in our favor.
When we really test our "Anxious Advisor" in our head that keeps telling us "Time is running out!" the more we push back, the more we're going to realize that this notion is not only flawed, it's mostly a fallacy. As Founders who will spend the rest of our life building, we need to know exactly how much time we really have to do it.
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Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes Bizplan, Clarity, 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.