The Real Truth About Startup Geniuses

Starting my first company was an eye opening experience because it made me realize I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. New challenges seemed to pop up every day and I stumbled my way through each and every one.

The best resources I found to help with my incompetence were books and blogs, but reading advice from successful founders often made me feel more inept. Those startup geniuses must possess a superior intelligence because of their successes. They must be more innately capable of building a company because they all seemed to know exactly what to do in every situation.

The funny thing is, as I eventually met and became friends with a few of those bloggers over the years, I realized everyone is figuring it out as they go. Behind every great success story are mistakes and hard-earned lessons. We just often don’t hear about them.

I try to remind myself now that everyone starts from nothing and it’s ok to suck at the beginning. No one knows how to solve a situation when it’s first encountered. Even impressive entrepreneurs like Drew Houston have knowledge gaps to fill:

“I was living in Boston, working for a startup during the summer, living in my fraternity house. But every weekend, I would take this folding chair up to the roof with all these books I got on Amazon. I would just sit there and read all of them. I would spend the whole weekend just reading, reading, reading. I’d be like, alright, I don’t know anything about sales. So I would search for sales on Amazon, get the three top-rated books and just go at it. I did that for marketing, finance, product, engineering. If there was one thing that was really important for me, that was it.”- Drew Houston

So don’t be afraid to try something new because of fear you might suck at first.

Don’t be afraid to start a company because you lack experience.

If you’re smart, pay attention to details, trust your best judgement, and persevere, you’ll quickly figure it out too.

Or as my favorite cartoon dog once said…

Sucking at something is the first step to becoming sort of good at something

6 thoughts on “The Real Truth About Startup Geniuses”

  1. We usually end up as our own worst enemies. Just have to remember that the best way to learn and grow is to constantly push our own comfort zones. It feels weird and sucking at something is never enjoyable… but the climb from sucking to expert is a fun journey!

    1. Totally agree, Chris. Personally, I often become so obsessed with getting to the destination that I forget to enjoy the journey. Taking a step back and giving myself permission to suck at first really brings out the joy in most activities.

  2. About a decade ago I desperately wanted to know how to make a feature length movie. I read a ton about producing, screenwriting, directing, cinematography, and had access to really successful folks who did all of the above. Books were great in that they gave me some confidence but nothing, and I mean NOTHING, taught me more than throwing myself into the fire knowing that I would get burned. There’s no replacement for the learning that comes from *doing*. Geniuses fail 99% of the time. A willingness to fail gets people to “Genius” status.

    Excellent post Andy.

    1. Awesome story, Sean! Thanks for sharing.

      Loved this quote – “Geniuses fail 99% of the time. A willingness to fail gets people to “Genius” status.”

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