Bite Down On Your Mouthpiece: Entrepreneurial Tenacity

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entrepreneurial tenacity by nik ingersoll photo of connor mcgregor




🐦 @ingersollnik



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.

Entrepreneurial Tenacity: That real bite down on your mouthpiece type of drive.
For me, growing up in a hard working class environment developed my entrepreneurial tenacity as a survival mechanism. I felt that no one believed in me and if I didn’t believe in myself, then I had nothing. Look, I don’t know and I don’t think anyone really knows how to tell you how to be tenacious but I can tell you that you need it. I live the 8AM-2AM work hour life the vast majority of days with an hour or two built in for Jiu Jitsu, Muy Thai or Olympic Lifting. I have no wife or kids so I can use this extra time at night for whatever I want which usually includes crushing it whether it’s working on Barnana, this blog post, a new song, designing something or anything else that stimulates my creative feelers.


I know that I can control my discipline and work ethic. Therefore, I focus on that the most. I vowed to myself a long time ago that I will never allow myself or my future family to again endure life at or below the poverty line like I had to. That idea really pervades much of how I think about things.



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.


confidence vinn diagram nik ingersoll

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.


I’m often asked for my advice for first time founders. First thing is always first: are you sure you are cut out for this? See entrepreneurial tenacity above. Get help early. Start thinking about who could be a great Co-Founder or a first, second or third employee. Are they tenacious enough? Get your advisory board in order so you can have some people that you can ask questions. Were they a tenacious founder before? Try to find one of those.
Flight is not what makes great companies, fight is.
Beware of the enemy, vacillation. It is often truly and completely rational. Just because thoughts are rational however does not mean that they are in any way good for you. When I was 20, I had to block out the rational part of my brain that was screaming things at me like: “what makes you qualified to steward millions of other peoples’ dollars and be responsible for others peoples’ families well-being? You’re still in college…” or “you’re just a poor kid from Nebraska with facial piercings, who is going to take you seriously?”.  The reason I bring that all up is because I think many people struggle with those rational yet self-defeating thoughts entering their heads. One must identify them, let them pass as the the wind passes through tall grass and have the tenacity to keep your vision focused on the prize.



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:

What upsets people is not things themselves, but their judgements about these things. - Epictetus


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  1. […] one of the most important differences between people who are successful versus those who are not: Tenacity. It’s the will to keep going and not stop no matter what the reason. There isn’t one […]

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