Despite what everyone thinks, Steve Jobs was a mere mortal.
When it comes to startups much has been written about faith, perseverance, endurance, success, joy and all the roller coaster of emotions that often comes with running your own startup business. Little, however, has been written about doubt. It is a subject that both those who have failed and succeeded choose to eschew like a plague.
In startup chronicles and biographies and auto-biographies the storytellers usually employ two strategies: the authors choose to gloss over the successful person’s incertitude by sometimes given the false impression that these startup founders are demi-gods, always sure of themselves, their destiny and painting the picture that they never doubted that their businesses would succeed.
Hollywood has perfected the art of selective retelling where all the bad days either get very little airplay or are skipped altogether. I mean we have all seen the movies: The Social Network (Never mind, the story is based on a book called Accidental Billionaires) Steve Jobs, and recently Joy.
These demi-gods are always sure of themselves, spouting their mottos with conviction and assurance. They are gods and visionaries, a special super-race of people who were born to do great things. Never you mind that often times luck played a role in their successes.
It does not help much that when one goes to Church on Sunday that doubt is firmly placed in the devil’s camp. “Doubt comes from Satan” is a mantra often repeated in every place of worship. As a result, most startup founders are often told to ignore that nagging feeling of impending doom.
The truth, however, is that if you decide to take the risky route of running your own business, whether it will be on some lone long summer night or in the midst of some cold winter morning, doubt will come for you as surely as it has visited all the others before you.
You will break out in sweat and ask yourself if what you are working on is the next best thing or you are simply making a mistake and wasting away the prime days of your life. On such days, it will not matter much what Hollywood and your pastor say because you will doubt yourself and everything nevertheless.
It will not matter then how many songs of faith you sing because that doubt will keep scratching your door until you deal with it. It will be like a wolf baying for your blood and when you come out of your little cocoon of faith as you inevitably will in time, it will tear you to shreds.
The truth about tech visionaries like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs is rather mundane, probably so unremarkable as to be ordinary. These people no doubt carefully chose to reveal their own doubts only to a select and trusted few or the biographers and storytellers in their esteemed wisdom have decided to be revisionist.
Everyone loves a good story and there is not much stock in anti-hero stories so we get a list of what Steve Jobs read in his childhood instead of a list of what drugs he took. By his own admission, he got high too, at least early in his life.
I have no doubt that there are bathrooms somewhere where these gods went and repeated mantras into mirrors until they convinced even themselves to believe in their own FUD. There are restrooms somewhere wherein they rushed to vomit after artfully negotiating their way through a trying presentation. Every one of them at some point either doubted themselves, or had no idea of just how big a motherload they had just hit.
Doubt is not necessarily a bad thing.
Doubt is not a bad thing as some would have us believe and it is most certainly of the devil and if anyone tells you any differently they are the devil. It is an opportunity to reevaluate the decisions you have made thus far. A time to recheck your settings and confirm you are on the right course. A time to appreciate how far you have come and how far you still have to go.
You should embrace it. Find its source. Is it because your sales numbers are low? Investigate why these numbers are low and try and come up with strategies to increase them because that is not a problem you can just wish away.Is it because you lack a critical skill? Then go on and get that requisite skill and you will sleep easier at night. Is it because your partner is a loose cannon? Then talk to him or her about your misgivings and concerns. Is it because of the underwhelming state of the economy or your competitor? Then do a SWOT analysis.
The short and long of it is doubt usually comes for a reason and more often than not it’s not because the devil has it for you. It is because there is an actual logical reason that is lying imprisoned by the blind faith in your heart. Doubt gives us back our sight in the land of blind faith and unquestioning obedience.
There are no extraordinary men and women just ordinary men and women who have done extraordinary things. You can just as easily be one of them if you listen and act on that doubt when, not if, it comes.
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