5 Mistakes Every Startup Founder Should Make

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. – Winston Churchill

If you’re building a startup, you probably live in deathly fear of making mistakes. You read every day about the mistakes that cause startups to fail. You lie awake at 4am going over past missteps, and you spend evenings poring over business plans, looking for weak spots.

So what if we told you that there are some mistakes you HAVE to make? That sometimes, it’s unavoidable—that nobody’s perfect, and you really can mess up and still come out ahead? More importantly, that if you didn’t make these mistakes, you’d end up with a less superior product?

Seriously. Here are the five mistakes you should be making (though we do hope you make them earlier than later) and what to do about each.

1. Get Screwed Over

Talk about an unavoidable circumstance. Here’s the nasty truth: At some point, somebody you trust will do you wrong. They’ll break your trust, steal your money, sell your secrets or otherwise just be a terrible, terrible disappointment (and a danger) to you.

There’s nothing you can do to stop this from happening—what you can do is to prepare for it. Mostly on an emotional level. Don’t go around being paranoid and expecting the worst. But do steel yourself for things not always going the way you planned.

After it happens: Learn from it. Yes, the other person did something awful. But looking back, can you see why they were motivated to make that choice, or how you could have overlooked warning signs? How can you be more aware going forward, to avoid going through this again?

2. Get Revenge

Mostly because you won’t be able to resist, after getting screwed over in #1. You have lost money, pride, reputation or something else valuable, and you want to make the other person feel what you are feeling.

Since we can’t stop you: Go ahead and try. But we guarantee it won’t work out as planned.

After it happens: Stop looking to the past, and start looking forward! This experience should have taught you that, no matter what happens, your best course of action is always to keep building, creating, and inspiring something truly positive. Don’t let negativity hold you back.

3. Tell people you’re in “stealth mode”

Of course you will want to keep some things secret (especially after going through #1 and #2), but how secret is too secret? The reality is that, if you’re not excited to tell people about your amazing product, it’s because your doubts and insecurities are eating you alive. No matter how cool the term “stealth mode” sounds—and it does sound cool—industry insiders and potential collaborators will be turned off by your unwillingness to talk about what you’re doing. And you’ll miss lots of opportunities to strengthen your concept by talking it through with the people with the skills and experience to help you most. The results can be pretty dire: a loss of confidence, a poorly thought out product, even a total failure.

After it happens: Open your yap and start talking! Discuss your project openly, with anybody who’s listening. You’ll immediately notice the difference in feedback and collaboration—plus you’ll start building a client list before you even launch.

4. Believe in your idea, despite the facts

If you build it, they will come? Wrong! You are not playing baseball with ghosts in a Hollywood movie. You are building a real-world product that you want real consumers to fork over hard-earned money to use. Market pull doesn’t appear magically out of thin air, no matter how good your idea. But after living and breathing your venture for months or years, you honestly can’t see why people won’t rush toward your company waving fistfuls of dollars.

How do you create market pull? It takes a lot more work than just “building it.” But for most entrepreneurs, it’s necessary to experience what a lack of market pull really means, before you’re inspired to do the groundwork to create it.

After it happens: Stop watching feel-good movies, and start studying. Read the blogs and books of the experts. Talk with your mentors. Do your homework and take those necessary steps to get things moving!

5. Be Human.

Ah, that fundamental mistake we just can’t stop making: You, me, and every other entrepreneur on this planet, we’re all just a bunch of elevated apes, doing a very delicate job.

To be an entrepreneur, you need a LOT of self-confidence. You’ve got to be able to believe in yourself, through thick and thin, and not only that—you’ve got to go out and sell your idea to people who don’t necessarily want to buy it.

But at the same time, you’ve got to be humble. You can’t survive in this field without the ability to recognize your mistakes and learn from them, no matter how tough the lesson. You have to be able to see problems as containing their own solutions. Even when the problem is you.

After it happens: Honestly, this “mistake” is not ever going to be “over.” You are not perfect. Embrace it. You’re a person with big ideas and thin skin. That will never change, and it doesn’t need to—you were created to do exactly what you’re doing. So just keep going, and carry on, and don’t forget to laugh at your own mistakes. No matter how numerous.

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