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Survival: When startups do what they gotta do

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Three years into operations Fred Smith’s company, costs of supplies started rising sharply, he was losing $1,000,000 a month. His company hit such a low point that all it had left to its name was $5,000. It wasn’t enough for his machines to keep running, that money wouldn’t cover them. A final pitch by Smith to some venture capitalists? Utter failure they wouldn’t give him a cent. So what do you do when faced by such circumstances? Fred Smith did only what Fred Smith had the guts to do, he took the $5,000, went to Vegas and played black jack with the company funds… like a bad ass. By Monday Fred’s company had $32,000 in the bank which was enough to cover their costs and allow them to continue operating for a few more days. The supplies I’m talking about? Fuel, the machines I’m talking about are planes, and if you haven’t googled it by now, the company? The $27 billion juggernaut that is FedEx.

A company started in Silicon valley was having trouble getting seed capital so to they capitalize on the political temperatures at the time, they start selling Obama O’s and Cap’n McCains. Yes they started selling cereal to raise capital. In fact things were so bad they had to eat the cereal to stay alive at some point. It’s a story to behold isn’t it? It’s the story of unadulterated hustle that is AirBnB’s.

Personally I have a friend of mine who started a website and despite having some capital found his company still struggling to survive. As a result he started rearing chicken and selling them to keep his company afloat, given the harsh realities of life, this one isn’t such a romantic story, his company went under but the fight in the man, simply impressive.

These are stories about grit, when some people simply do anything they can to keep their passions alive. In some cases its worked but for some, like my friend, it hasn’t brought much promise. But is it worth it? Allow me to sprinkle a bit of science on the matter. Angela Duckworth explains that grit matters more than IQ. Further Interpretations of this could apply when it comes to starting anything. Implementation and determination matters much more than the ideas that come to your head. Duckworth says this of her experience working in schools;

“Here’s why: learning is hard. True, learning is fun, exhilarating and gratifying— but it is also often daunting, exhausting and sometimes discouraging. …”

That doesn’t just apply only to learning it applies to the things we love to do (if we do them right and ambitiously of course). There are a few things as daunting as the start of the creative process, when you simply don’t know where to start, when you start but get stuck along the way and the end is no where near in sight. It’s only sheer determination that keeps some things alive but don’t be too amped up by this because sometimes it’s better to quit while you’re still ahead. It really is a thin line to ride on, but that’s what wisdom is for. Grit doesn’t have to be expressed on one specific endeavor but across a myriad of life experiences you have, moving from failure to failure without loss of any enthusiasm.

So to my friend, Chicken Man, I say keep up the fight!

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