Relentless: The Hidden Ingredient in Every Success Story
"It's not about money or connections. It's the willingness to outwork and outlearn everyone when it comes to your business." - Mark Cuban
They say that startups are a marathon, not a sprint. That’s a lie, running a startup is more like an ultramarathon through a minefield, uphill, in the pouring rain, wearing cheap flip-flops. (tweet this)
There’s an overlooked truth in the startup world: truly great founders don’t fail. The often repeated, “Your odds of startup success, rounded to the nearest whole number, is zero.” And yes, the odds are rather intimidating. But for the truly great founders – those who are relentless, who build, who persevere, who show up – failure simply doesn’t happen.
Just ask investor Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures on rejecting AirBnB: “We made the classic mistake that all investors make. We focused too much on what they were doing at the time and not enough on what they could do, would do, and did do.”
Book: The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers. By Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz and one of Silicon Valley’s most respected and experienced entrepreneurs
Truly great founders are not immune to challenges, risks, sleepless nights, or economic downturns. They succeed because they refuse to quit. They stay focused, create extraordinary software, team up with remarkable co-founders, assemble a band of loyal pirates who bleed for the vision, and they persist through countless near-death experiences. They don’t surround themselves with anything ordinary, and they endure this journey without allowing their band of pirates to devolve into a disciplined navy.
Whatever the f*ck it takes (but not that).
Don’t read this wrong or defensively. I am not asserting that only ‘great’ founders succeed. Quite the opposite, in fact. I’m highlighting that truly great founders tend to have a lower chance of failure. However, many decent to good founders, armed with solid teams, robust products, and well-devised strategies, experience just as much success. The message is to fight, with all your might, to go from good to great. Success isn’t exclusive to the ‘great’ – it’s right there for anyone willing to fight for it.
However… endurance without judgment is a pitfall. Those founders who spend years trying to resuscitate an idea that’s long lost its pulse. The truly great founders recognize when to pivot and when to persevere. That discernment is what separates good from great.
The narrative that successful founders got lucky – somehow, they stumbled into success – is misleading. Luck isn’t about grinding for literally years, learning everything always, and showing up day after day. That’s not luck; that’s grit. the choice to fight when the odds are stacked against you, it’s the audacity to believe in your vision when no one else does.
Success is the result of relentless, hard-earned tenacity. As Carnegie said, “Put all your eggs in one basket and then watch that basket.” Truly great founders stick with it, guard it with their life, nurture it, and live for it.
It’s not survival; founders show up, again and again, ready to face whatever the day brings; charging headfirst into whatever is needed. They rise, learn, adapt. They are the fastest learners, the quickest thinkers, with an insane focus, and a mastery in leading a tribe.
This journey isn’t about luck. It’s about commitment to the vision, a desire to make a dent in the universe. These founders don’t fail.
This isn’t a rally cry. This is the reality, perhaps a hard truth, personal experience and the wisdom of others. Every setback, every failure, every sleepless night – it’s the journey. The absolutely insane journey of turning nothing into something.
Amazon, founded in ’94, took seven years to turn a profit. Airbnb, launched in 2008, didn’t gain traction until 2011, Tesla, founded in 2003 reported its first full profitable year in 2020. Success often appears overnight, but it’s almost always a decade in the making. We seldom hear about startups until they’re on a meteoric rise, but beneath those success stories lie battle wounds of relentless founders who fought for 10+ years to have their moment, the ultra marathon!
“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”— Henry David Thoreau
So, as you step into your arena, remember: do not look for luck; you’re forging resilience; you’re cultivating grit and determination. You’re not just working; you’re creating a legacy.
Keep going. Keep showing up. Keep striving. Because founders like you, who dare to stay in the game and persevere no matter what, they don’t fail. They change the world.
Keep pushing, keep challenging, and above all, keep going. The only easy day was yesterday.
— James (connect?)
P.S. Thoughts? To quote Ryan Holiday: “…all I ask, if you decide to email me back, is that you’re not just thinking aloud.”
P.P.S. Last weeks newsletter hit a nerve….