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By Stephen Moore
Focus on what you’re doing and not on what the world is doing
The availability of online content in the modern age has led us to become obsessed with what everyone else is doing and achieving in their lives–and to destructive effect. Teenagers are spending up to nine hours a day consuming media, with some checking their social media up to 100 times a day (Common Sense Media). Research by behavioral scientist Clarissa Silva found that 60% of people using social media reported that it negatively impacts their self-esteem.
In the startup space, this phenomenon has become a toxic problem that is crippling far too many entrepreneurs. Social media has changed the way we evaluate our accomplishments. We’re holding ourselves to the unachievable standards of the hugely successful public figures and business leaders we follow.
I’ve been guilty of doing so, spending too long looking at competitors and idolizing those further ahead in their professional lives than me. It took me a long time to realize that those two situations, one of somebody figuring out how to start a business from scratch and somebody who has ‘made it’ already, are not comparable.
We’ve forgotten that the people who we put on a pedestal are way further down the line than us. Most of these founders you compare yourself to have likely experienced all the struggles you’re going through: money issues, the endless grind, and failure. What you see is the end product, which resulted from years of hard work and kind fortune.
We sit and wonder why our one-year-old business hasn’t taken off yet, and turn to the Internet to tell us how to change the situation, only to be met with an endless sea of content. The result is feeling overwhelmed by the milestones we’ve yet to hit and strategies we’ve yet to try.
Constantly seeking validation is detrimental to self-worth. Not being able to meet the unrealistic expectations we set for ourselves can only lead to disappointment. We then throw in the towel far too early and join in the ‘90% of startups fail’ chant.
The simple fact is that spending time on others’ lives is taking away time spent working on our own. Without focus, you will achieve nothing, feel even less adequate compared to your peers, and continue down the vicious cycle. My advice is:
- Stop trying to emulate famous people or what other entrepreneurs are doing.
- Stop putting yourself down because you haven’t met an arbitrary standard you set for yourself.
- Stop comparing your year one to others’ year twenty.
If we want to gain the most out of our entrepreneurial experience, then we need to be honest about what we are doing, how we are doing it, and who we are–behind it all. Entrepreneurs need to know that they’re not alone in sometimes feeling helpless, lost, and inadequate.
Being honest about what we go through will better the conversation around startup life. Sharing the lessons, experiences, and mistakes we all make allows us to grow as founders.
About the Author
Stephen is Co-Founder and Maker at Roots Furniture, a bespoke fabrication and fit out company. Stephen is also a writer, with his work being featured in Business Insider and Thought Catalog, and is Co-Editor of the Post Grad Survival Guide, Medium’s Millennial Career and Life Publication.
This story was originally published in Jumpstart Issue 29: Back to Basics as Don’t Compare Your Beginning to Someone Else’s Middle.