My business partner and I were once talking about the future. Which is a doomed conversation from the get go. After all, I’m a spontaneous improviser who never thinks about the future. Meanwhile, he’s habitually anxious. So he thinks of every possible future, all the time.
“Where do you think we’ll be in a few months with this project?” he’ll say.
“I don’t know, we’ll figure it out when we get there,” is my standard response.
And that’s it. That’s usually the end of the future talk. But there was one time when we were talking about success in general, and the conversation continued. Ever looked ahead to try and find your own success? It’s not always a pleasing exercise. When I do it, I just find all the flaws in our current state that might lead us astray. Then again, it’s an interesting thing to consider: What makes a good early team? What’s the single greatest variable of success?
At first, I thought it was talent. But most talent is a commodity, these days. Anyone can learn anything with time, tenacity, and the internet. Plus, talent beyond a certain point requires lots of supporting infrastructure to do damage proportional to the increase in talent. In other words, talent is hard to leverage because talented people are tricky to set up right.
I don’t think it’s about what you can do. It’s about what you will do. In other words, what are you capable of? How far are you willing to go? Because the further you’ll stick your neck out, the greater the reward. Your success is proportional to how much you sacrifice. How much you’re willing to lose.
But how do you increase that? Commitment to a cause you believe in. That’s the single most important trait in an early team: The commitment to doing whatever it takes. Because in the beginning, it’s so hard that that’s exactly what you need to do. Engineering that and keeping everyone aligned — now that’s a whole different story. But based on the early stage success I’ve observed, this seems to be paramount.