So how do you tell the difference between the chaos that leads to unthinkable success and that which leads nowhere at all?
I’m not sure you can.
The fact that you’re in over your head, that you almost cannot will yourself to continue, that you’re completely in the dark, that you’re working yourself to an early grave, that you seem to slide two steps back for every one forward, that nothing’s ever good enough, that that your friends and family can’t understand why you’re turning yourself inside out with no apparent progress, that you yourself doubt whether you’re even capable of this…
These things don’t mean you’re failing. It’s always like this, until it isn’t.
This is one of the concerns that Eric Ries tries to address with his principles of Innovation Accounting and Validated Learning, which make the learning more tangible so that even if the graph is flat, you have some way to measure progress. That said, it's true that there will always be strong elements of terrifying uncertainty in any startup.
Being able to sleep at night despite all this uncertainty is one of the founder characteristics that is very hard to train up. Either you're comfortable operating with minimal information, or it drives you nuts. If it's the latter, stick to a job.
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