I told you so.
You may remember almost a year ago I wrote about The Washington Redskins and the failure of their team leadership when dealing with Robert Griffin III and his knee injuries. During that post, I detailed their game against the Seattle Seahawks in which the Redskins – wanting to win and advance in the NFL playoffs – kept playing their highly talented rookie quarterback even though his was visibly hurt, risking his future at the same time. One specific part of the article I will share again:
RG3 went down, and the future of the franchise lay on the ground to the disappointment of the silent stadium full of Redskins fans. Although the injury is not career threatening at this point, it’s arguable if RG3 will actually be able to play at the level he was before the injury.
So whose fault is it?
Not RG3′s. The problem is the person involved is not thinking clearly or wisely at the moment. They are focused on themselves, considering only the moment and the short term, not the long term. They do not understand the long-term ramifications of their actions. Even though RG3 said he could still play the responsibility to make the right decision ultimately falls on the coach, the leader of the team. He should be realistic enough to make the right decision.
Well, I told you so.
This year, The Washington Redskins – once favorites to win their division and challenge for the Super Bowl – are 3-10. They will not even be making the playoffs and their coach is under intense scrutiny. Their quarterback RG3 has looked awful this year and it seems he still isn’t fully health, hasn’t regained his speed and quickness from before the ACL injury.
CBS reports Coach Shanahan is contemplating shutting RG3 down for the rest of the year so he can get healthy and concentrate on next year.
Though Griffin hasn’t been nearly as good in his second season as he was when he was a rookie, Shanahan said this isn’t an instance where he’s benching his quarterback because of performance issues. Instead, he’d do it to keep Griffin healthy going into the offseason.
Hmm, maybe something he should thought of last year before he chose to risk his future investment.
The point here is to not make fun of a struggling team (ha, the Seahawks are league leading 11-2) nor pick on an injured player. It’s to review a huge leadership lesson from a year ago and look at it from the framework of what has transpired.
As I predicted last year, keeping Griffin in the game risked not only that season but they ended up losing the next one (that being this season). It was a risk and they took it.
The thing is, as a leader our decisions have major consequences. Sometimes the most drastic affect the immediate, such as the choice of throwing the ball to the wrong team as to cause an interception. But sometimes – and often most times – our decisions have consequences we cannot see or aren’t even aware of yet. They are long term consequences.
That last statement is the hardest part of Leadership. Being a Leader is all about taking risks – albeit calculated and well thought out risks. During a time of decision, you must be able to inuit enough about the future to understand the long term consequences of the choices right in front of you. And unfortunately, maximizing for the immediate usually comes with a huge price tag in the future.
In this case, it might even be a shortened career of one of the most gifted quarterbacks to come out of college.
It’s tough to watch a highly talented athlete struggle like how RG3 is currently. But it’s even harder to be in the leadership role and faced with difficult decisions. Next time you find yourself in a challenging conundrum ask yourself what would you think about each choice a year from now. Almost always, the one you will think higher of a year down the road is the choice you need to make today.
Better take time to think about the future now rather than mentally replaying the past and wishing you made a different decision.
Have you ever thought about this question?
“What’s my story?”
I attended an event last night where the speaker talked about startups and creating a story around them as you build. He then had a slide that simply said “what’s your story?” meaning what’s the company’s story you will be telling others, such as future employees, investors, and customers. His whole point was a major differentiator between your company and all the others is the story behind it. I liked where he was going with it but I think it can be taken to a much deeper level.
What’s your story?
Do you know the meaning of the life you are living right now?
Why are you doing what you are doing?
Does company you are starting or the job your are current in have a strong story and purpose behind it?
Why does the company exist?
Does it connect with people on an emotional level and add value to their life?
Are you doing something just to make money or are you also creating value in the world?
Yes, these are deeper and more serious thoughts than revenue models and exit strategies but they need to considered or one day you’ll wake up wondering what the hell you have been doing for the last decade or two.
I don’t know about you but I don’t ever want to have that feeling. I’m not perfect and nowhere near where I want to be in this department but I am glad I am reflecting on thoughts like these. They are definitely influencing my next moves. I hope they help you as well.
If you need some help in this area, listen to Scott Harrison tell his story about Charity: Water.
I recently sat down with serial entrepreneur Jordan Weisman for a Founders RAW conversation and walked away a changed founder. As we cracked our beers and adjusted our mics – we hadn’t even yet turned on the cameras – I asked him to give me a brief overview of his entrepreneurial journey. Here’s a rough summary of what followed:
So I started out trying solve problem X…. that didn’t work. So we tried something else…
Next, we founded a game company. That was bought by company Y. Boy was that crazy..
After that, I started a few more, one was sold to Disney. Another I sold to….and so on and so on.
In total, Jordan has founded 14 companies over the course of his entrepreneurial life. Many failed. Some very much succeeded and you could sense he was very content with his journey.
I really wish we had captured those few precious minutes on camera! I wish you could have heard it – and seen my face – during the conversation because my jaw was dropping lower and lower each time he said the words “…and then I started” and followed them up with “and that was sold to...”
It was during that specific moment I was struck by something very powerful, I realized I was grasping a strong lesson right then and there. Of course you are going to feel like a failure if you start one company and it doesn’t work out. But the truth of entrepreneurship is it’s a numbers game. Or said differently, if you take just one crack at it most likely you are going to fall flat on your face. But by simply getting back up and trying again you greatly increase your odds of succeeding.
At risk of sounding naive, pollyanna and cheerleaderish, I want to bring up a really important point. The irony is the most successful people in our world have failed more than many of us, sometimes more than many of us – combined. We all have seen the old Nike commercial where Jordan describes how many times he failed, yet he still is arguably the most successful athlete we’ve ever seen. He says: “I have failed over and over and over in my life, and that is why I succeed.”
Look at any billionaire founder (outside of Mark Zuckerberg) and you will see someone who did not make it on their first try at business. Or second try. It might have even taken them 3, 4, or 5 starts before the big one hit.
This is not a “let’s all grab hands, sing kumbaya and make each other feel better for failing” type of post. This is about absolute truths of the world, and ones which are hard to truly understand when you find yourself in challenging moments.
The lesson here is all of us founders must understand the first few times are the most challenging. If you didn’t achieve what you set out to achieve in your current startup, statistics tell you to try again.
Does a gambler in Vegas take just one shot at the craps table?
Was your your first job the best and highest paying you have ever had?
I am guessing no. So don’t think your first startup is going to be your best.
During another recent FR conversation, Matt Schobe told me it took starting 2 other companies before starting Feedburner, which in the end sold to Google for $100 million. Would you grind away at two tough startups before a third one gets acquired for nine figures?
I sure hope so.
And a subtle but important footnote in that story is Dick Costolo. He was part of all of those attempts – there during the tough times and challenging days – which in the end led him to Google, and then on to Twitter where he is now CEO.
Oh and he recently took Twitter public, minting him many more millions in the process. I am wondering if he would be there today if he quit after the 2nd failed startup?
Here’s Jordan’s advice to first time founders.
I recently sat down with Matt Shobe for a Founders RAW conversation over some tasty beer at Easy Joe’s in Seattle.
Matt is a local entrepreneur and seasoned technology vet, he co-founded Feedburner in 2004 and sold it to Google in 2007 for $100 million. Not bad. You should hear what he’s considering starting next.
His story is amazing, entertaining and educational. You will enjoy!
See more Founders RAW conversations here.
In one of my latest Founders RAW conversations I sat down with Seattle VC and managing partner of Seapoint Ventures Tom Huseby to talk about entrepreneurship, investing, patents, and what he looks for in founders he might potentially invest in.
This clip encompasses what he considers a “good” founder – most important is the fact that it’s all about the relationship and the connection/alignment between entrepreneur and investor.
Watch more Founders RAW clips here >
A recent conversation with my good friend Kyle Kersterson of Freak’n Genius brought forth – amongst many other things – one interesting observation.
“Startups are all about momentum” Kyle said during our meeting.
And he’s right, momentum is key to getting over the hump and experiencing startup success. But it ain’t just startups where momentum applies, I think it applies to life in general.
We went back and forth on the subject for a good 10-15 minutes. One of my key takeaways was that momentum is a 2-way street and you have to spend energy to “manipulate” the big mo’ in your life, knowing how to create it and how to direct it appropriately to maximize the upsides.
This requires need a keen observation of what’s happening in your life, the strange but interesting conversations you find yourself in, people you seem to spending more time with and the inevitable opportunities that can result from those conversations.
And then sharpening the ability to identify when momentum is on your side so you can then use it to parlay into circumstances and opportunities otherwise not available to you.
The thing to know is momentum is 100% manufactured, and it starts in your head, your words and your actions. You have the Big Mo’ when you find yourself saying things like:
“Oh, you didn’t know (well known investor X) is participating in our round? We might have room for one more…”
“I’m booked up for the next month or so…. but let me see if I can squeeze you in”
Momentum is an entrepreneurs best friend.
But also know there’s a dark side of momentum, which is the another way of describing the downward spiral. Entrepreneurship, for all it’s glory and celebration, can negatively impact people if they don’t fully understand the dark side of momentum and how to curb it.
This is where emotional and phycological issues take their toll on someone to the point of full on depression. No one is immune to these thoughts and feelings, but the best medicine I have found is to fully understand how to manipulate momentum in your life – taking the wheel and directing it so to minimizing negative emotions and maximizing positive outcomes.
What also sprung from the conversation is the concept of luck, or “lucky people.” I added that I think “the lucky ones” are simply people who are actually paying close attention, and keen of what is happening around them at any moment in time. In another word, lucky people are the one’s who know momentum is on their side and are in control of where it’s going.
Think about how many people go through life unaware of what and who is around them. They hang their head and mope around all the while complaining “nothing ever happens to me” and “why can’t I just catch a break?”
What they don’t realize is luck is simply being prepared when opportunity strikes, such as when you find yourself in line next to a predominant investor, entrepreneur, or attractive person with nothing else to do but say hi and “waste a couple minutes” talking with you. Only then, if you have prepared for this chance meeting, will you actually be able to maximize the opportunity.
Ha, and some call that luck!
I recently sat down for a Founders RAW conversation with Marc Weiser, a VC who started the investment firm RPM Ventures after a successful run as an entrepreneur. If anyone knows a thing or two about the desired qualities of a founder, it would be Marc.
During the conversation I asked him what he looks for in founders the consider investing in. His answer is great, and if you are thinking about raising money from outside investors you need to listen to what Marc is saying. He’s right on the money (no pun intended).