Apr 9 2012

Ponder This – Yuck, Yum, and Feathers

It’s Sunday so rather than loading you up with another story from another city, I thought I’d pass on two great pieces of advice that I heard recently from Claire Tischer of TechStars. When I reflected on these, they felt like powerful core beliefs that every entrepreneur should carry around with her, especially when working on the very long term mission of building a sustainable startup community. Following are her words.

“There are only two mantras, yum and yuck, mine is yum.” – Tom Robbins. The glass is half full, optimism will get you everywhere – there are lots of cliches that say the same thing and this is much easier said than done. I have heard countless stories from founders about how they were wronged/abused, what was unfair, something that should have gone differently to gain a better outcome, and so forth. The most successful entrepreneuers I know are the people who took a negative experience, such as a bad interaction with a potential investor, and twisted into an insightful, positive opportunity. For example: “Now I know what kind of investor I don’t want. What a gift. Moving on!”

Don’t show me your feathers. This is a peacock analogy. Male peacocks display their colorful plumage when they’re courting another peacock, an attempt at dazzling with an array of impressive colors. The story of ego / hubris as a fatal flaw is a tired and familiar topic in entrepreneurship, yet many entrepreneurs and community members tend to dwell on past accomplishments and successes more than they quietly, humbly work to build new ones. While not minimizing what you have managed to do so far, show people what you are going to do and how you’ll be better at it than anyone ever has been before. Then prove your case and collaborate with as many people in the community as possible. You can show your collective group feathers when you’re finished the second time. The by-product is strong community so it’s a win even if you don’t end up where you tried to be.