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What mindset does it take to succeed in the world of start-ups? Well, it’s all about you!


Congratulations! You’ve started a company. You’ve built an “MVP”. You’ll no doubt gather “feedback” to “validate your hypothesis” and “test assumptions”. You’ll probably “pivot” at some point too. So, you’re across all the Lean Startup principles and you might even have an idea of the sorts of tools and knowledge you’ll need to accumulate to succeed. There is, however, one thing that will set you apart on your journey and that is the realization that this is all about you.

I work with a number of young entrepreneurs every year. Most of them are just embarking on their first venture, some simply looking to forge a living they have some control over, others with a much bigger vision in mind. Whatever the venture, I find that most of my efforts go into helping them understand their true ‘self’ better.

Furthermore, I help them understand that the self they know today is going to be vastly different to the future self they will become. This is probably true in most things in life, but it’s much more heightened for an entrepreneur.

After all, if the shit hits the fan, it’s all on you.

Keeping it ‘hundred emoji’

I don’t want to get too “guru spiritual” on you, but I will say this; there is very little in life you can actually control. Yet, basic human nature leads us to believe that we can control everything. So when things inevitably go wrong, we can become frustrated and wonder why it isn’t working out like we thought it would.

After all, that start-up over there had already raised a seed round by now and that other startup has already established a market, surely my startup should be similar? Wrong. Your start-up is nothing like any other startup has ever been and that is because it’s uniquely yours, and this is all about you. This is your opportunity to develop as a person, a leader, a provider, a caregiver, a philosopher… and a spiritual guru if you so choose.

In the past five years, as I’ve been forging my star-tup into the USA, I’ve experienced more ups and downs than I experienced in the previous 34 years I spent on this earth.

I quit my job when my wife was five months pregnant because I knew I would chicken out once the child was born. I bootstrapped the early days with consulting work. I raised an angel round of funding, which landed in my bank the very day my bank balance hit zero. I got caught in the middle of an investor feud that threatened to end everything.

During the depressing lows, I cursed the universe for not forewarning me that I could possibly feel so depressed. And during the radiant highs, I held on to a glimpse of what this is all about. Often, this all happened within the space of one day.

It’s important to remember these feelings, but never advised to hold onto it for too long, lest you lose sight of the bigger picture; that this journey is all about you and your chance to grow and develop.

You’ll meet many wise people along the way, as I have. One such person is a man called Bonner Paddock. Bonner was born with Cerebral Palsy and grew up constantly reminded of what he couldn’t do. At the age of 11 he was told that he wouldn’t live beyond 20. Not willing to accept this diagnosis, Bonner decided to live life by his own rules and became the first person wither Cerebral Palsy to climb Mt Kilimanjaro and to complete the Hawaiian Ironman, unaided and within the time limit. Seriously.

Bonner’s principles on life, which now adorn my desk as a reminder to myself every day, are these:

  • Attitude is everything.
  • Fear is a mask.
  • Love yourself.
  • Hope should never leave you.
  • The body achieves what the mind believes.
  • Your excuse is invalid.
  • Anyone can be cool, but awesome takes practice.
  • Don’t compare yourself to anyone.

As for this venture you have started? Enjoy it, every bit of it and enjoy the next one as well. The only thing within your control is how much you learn about you along the way.

Ben Flavel is a consultant, coach and entrepreneur and the founder of NeoCogs and CheckinLine. Ben will be delivering a 2-day workshop 19-20 May, focused on the mindset of entrepreneurship supported by the skills and tools required to successfully navigate the entrepreneurial journey. For more information, or to register for these workshops, please visit http://benflavel.com/mindful-startup

Ben Flavel