Startup enthusiasm (not) versus pragmatism

I love the start-up environment – in part because of what happens when we ‘drink the kool-aid’, but at the same time I also value ‘fail-it-fast’ pragmatism.

I haven’t found an eloquent way to think about or express this conflict – until I randomly came across an interview with Scott Brave from Baynote Inc. on (quoted below without permission):

On the topic of discussion we had last week Scott regarding how do entrepreneurs draw the line between the “never give up” philosophy and “cut your losses short” philosophy, can you share your insights?

I don’t think they are mutually exclusive, actually. You want both, but at different levels. If your high-level goal is to create a successful company or express a particular vision that excites you, then you should always keep a “never give up attitude” in working toward that goal. But at the level of implementation or tactics, you may find yourself taking the wrong approach at some point—that’s the time to “cut your losses short.” But you don’t give up on your high-level goal. You just find a new, better approach to achieve it.

It’s similar to the difference between the “just go for it” attitude and taking a “more considered” stance: also not mutually exclusive. You want the “just go for it” attitude at the level of your goals, but a more careful attitude toward the specific approach you take to achieve those goals. You don’t want to over think things either, though. You collect all of the information you can and analyze it carefully, but in the end you may just have to trust your gut.

Different levels: strategic versus tactical – that’s the missing piece!

Parsing it out according to these distinctions will improve my response to the chaotic enthusiasm that sometimes happens in start-ups. Channel the wild-eyed enthusiasm to the strategic level & use it to create the context for pragmatic/realistic execution. They both inform each other.


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