BITE DOWN ON YOUR MOUTHPIECE
BY NIK INGERSOLL FEB 12, 2017
FIGHT OVER FLIGHT
What’s the one quality that I think matters the most when you are creating a company? Tenacity. That real bite down on your mouthpiece type of drive. That kind of feeling that back in the day that you could only achieve by running away from saber tooth tigers in the forest. That fight over flight attitude that you will hustle and execute to get to where you want to go as a matter of survival. Without the entrepreneurial tenacity for your idea to move forward, you might as well go work for Goldman Sachs right now.
Having tenacity doesn’t mean your idea is going to set the world on fire, but if you don’t have tenacity first, then it certainly won’t. Tenacity, like many things, is heavily determined by the DNA that was sequenced during your journey from a zygote to a completed homo sapien. However, I think upbringing over indexes on it’s specific influence on tenacity relative to genetics.
The enemy of entrepreneurial tenacity: vacillation. But vacillations are are just that. Thoughts. They are not who you are at all. They are random neurochemical brain impulses that often result in electrophysiological signals in your body. You get to choose which thoughts you want to pay attention to and which negative thoughts that you can let fly on by. Fear is real, but flight is not what makes great companies, fight is. I must say that it is important not to confuse tenacity with arrogance. Not to confuse confidence with boisterous bravado. But if you are too scared to start or too cocky to learn, then entrepreneurship maybe just isn’t for you.
Tenacity also means having the confidence that you will succeed. I’ve seen it time and time again how confidence can win a room. In college, I was working full time while simultaneously founding a couple of start-ups with my sights set on raising millions of dollars and eventually exiting. I had no social life to say the very least. Back then, confidence was one of the most important assets that I had besides creativity and smarts. I stood in front of 100’s of tech VC’s in Silicon Valley at Demo Launchpad, former entrepreneurs turned investors and the like. I can tell you that when you don’t have a crazy resume and when you’re young; the confidence that you can generate about the skills that you DO have goes a long way.
The major caveat: you better be able to back it up with real skill and smarts otherwise you’re just a straight clown.
I have felt my confidence waiver a couple of times in a high stakes pitches when I was in my early 20s. I could detect a profound change in the room. You always get back what you put out. When you are young with no real accomplishments, know what you do have. Work ethic, hustle, passion, smarts, skills, creativity, whatever that mix is for you – know it. Just make sure you have one layer on top of all that, tenacity. Know it and let everyone you work with know it too. Coming from the isolated, poor, rural farmland in Western Nebraska – I didn’t have money for college, no money from my parents for rent, books, tuition or any of that. What I did have was smarts, creativity, hustle, design skills and the desire to climb. So that’s what I worked with.
TO CARE OR NOT TO CARE
Another facet of tenacity is being aware of how you affect others but not overvaluing their opinions. It’s a bit of a catch twenty-two. Don’t care about what people think about you but understand what they think and why they think that way. Being aware does not mean you must care, react or agree with their perceptions. It doesn’t mean that you have to care about their opinions at all actually, which is usually how I feel. For this reason, I think the most applicable philosophy to study in the entrepreneurial realm are the stoic teachings of Epictetus, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius and others. That’s because it enforces tenacity in the reduction of allowing outside forces affect your own cognition.
For whatever reason, I have never cared much about others perceptions of me. Perhaps it’s because I used to play in a death metal band with a face full of piercings and long dyed black hair. Nonetheless, I always thought that the attitude that I had was considered fringe. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Stoic philosophers have been writing about the benefits of not allowing others’ perceptions to affect your own cognition for a very long time. Therefore, if I could jump into a time machine and give myself one piece of advice, it would be this quote from Epictetus: