My mother always says that whatever I do in life, it should always be in the right dosage, and to tell you the truth, you don’t need to be a Game Theory professor in order to get the idea by the age of 25 that “balance” is one of the key secrets to life. If I may actually quote my beloved Game Theory Professor, Yair Tauman, “…the world always strives to reach equilibrium…” he would say with a sparkle in his eye; and there is nothing that could be more true. In fact, if you take time to think about it a bit, we can see that as individuals, as families, as communities, and as countries we are always striving for that balancing point where the scales are no longer tipping towards one side. We simply feel happy and fuzzily warm inside when everything is safe and routine. When there are no wars between countries; when there are no sudden snow storms that close school causing us to have to find something to do with the kids; when we have a constant positive cashflow into our bank accounts; and even when we come home after a long day and see the dog blissfully wagging its tail to the emperor’s arrival. Interestingly enough, it seems that everything that irritates us in one way or another, is an effect of someone or something that has broken our personal equilibrium.
EQ = newspaper by the door every morning -> not there -> coffee ruined -> day stinks.
EQ = going to the bank –> bank closed -> find out it’s a holiday (yay) -> happy? –> NO!
EQ = sitting on couch after work watching sports -> wife starts talking -> …omg
If you are reading this, I’m sure that you’ve at some point in your life, come across the famous idea that nothing great in the world has ever been achieved by a person who didn’t step out of his/her comfort zoned. The students who graduated with honors sure worked their butts off studying for that title, as the fastest runners and the army’s most accurate sharp shooters all invested in their art rather than watching TV, hanging out with their friends, and scratching their behinds all day. We are comfortable when we reach equilibrium; only then do our worries subside and we finally feel like things are getting better… things are becoming stable again… whew…
The whole entire Universe itself will do whatever it can in order to stop you from ruining its precious equilibrium which it is working so hard to maintain. Whether it be that your relationship with your partner in business or in life that hasn’t been as good as it used to be and now you have to make the move to fix it, or whether you’ve decided that you are going to start working out 3 times a week only to find out that God himself has changed the alignment of the stars just to make really cool things happen specifically on nights when you scheduled yourself to exercise! The Universe will throw everything at you including yourself. It will try to ruin your relationship with your family and friends; suck up all of your time; make you catch a fever; create new competitors in the market you operate in; cause the government to pass laws against your business; throw you into moral dilemmas and many many more. It will do its best to test your capability to break through that reinforced concrete wall of balance that it has built for itself.
The entrepreneur’s role in the world is to plough full power through the mud in order to achieve the goals. It doesn’t matter if you’re running a startup or a social venture that is going to make the world a better place… The world doesn’t really care about being a better place. It only cares about just being as it has always been. I am experiencing these difficulties myself every day when I ask myself in which direction I am steering my startup. I am experiencing the natural difficulties in deciding if the market is ready for my product, and if my alternative cost of possibly doing something else is worth the toil and hardship. I am experiencing difficulty in reaching consensus with my partner on different issues which are important for us to agree upon. Interestingly enough, I haven’t a doubt that every single entrepreneur on earth let alone every single person on earth is constantly going through these dilemmas, and that it is simply a part of life.
And this is where the golden egg lays. The metaphor “paralysis by analysis” is a short way of describing that behavior when we know that we have to get something serious done, and invest far beyond any reasonable amount of time and energy in “checking out” the prospect to see if it’s beneficial for us or not. We build upon a thousand different factors, analyze the ecosystem, look at the relationships, and decipher the correlations between them all. The GO/NOGO decision can actually be made in 1/3 of the time. Don’t get me wrong! The analysis and critical thinking put into every pathway we take is paramount, and the decision to hit the red or green button MUST be made, otherwise it’s exactly the same as hitting the NOGO button; It just won’t happen. It’s like saying that having the gun in our hand and our finger on the trigger isn’t enough to “get the job done.” 99% of people dont have the guts to pull the trigger to lead themselves like a bullet screaming out of a barrel until they hit the target. Do the words “I had the most amazing idea for an iPhone app” sound familiar? Yea – I’m pretty sure that every human including myself has said or thought of that word combination at least 20 times in his/her life. The only problem is that everyone has amazing ideas, and no one is driven enough to take the risk, break the barrier, and get them done and marketed.
In the initial stages of my startup where I would sit for hours with my partner on the BIG questions of who/what/when/where/why and how we are going to develop our awesome technology, each one of us came to the table with a different idea of how it is going to look. Each one of us naturally approached the arena with a vision which was powered more by intuition than it was by rationale and an understanding of the market. Even when I arrived at the meetings after I’ve done my homework and analyzed the many different factors that would be crucial in the success of the business, we could still always steer the business into different directions. I thought that going left would be good as my partner thought that going right would be better. I wanted my way and he wanted his. Things got uneasy. Tensions were high, and each side didn’t want to let go of his way of seeing things; however the play HAD to be made. We reached the point of equilibrium and nothing was moving in any direction. And whenever we identify this situation, we must act to break that equilibrium. No more Mr. Nice-Guy:
“Listen Alan, I’ve explained in depth the reasons and rationale as to why I am choosing to steer our product in this direction. Unless you can hit me with some hardcore facts, I don’t see how your direction would be in the BEST interest of our business. That said, we simply cannot continue arguing. This may be a breaking point between us or a stepping stone to the mutual trust and understanding in our relationship and our business. I am taking the decision to do it THIS way, and I understand that you don’t like it, but this is what we are going to do. I ask of you to Trust me on this…”
The alternative had Alan not accepted my ultimatum would have been a break up of the business. These things happen all too aften, however it’s important to state that the only thing we want is to make our business WIN. Not putting a clear end to the conversation and letting it ramble on would have been the same as breaking up the business completely in the first place. Founders that can’t find a way to get along are worthless, and the idea no matter how great it may be, will be a shipwreck. The choice of not making a clear cut decision, is a decision within itself. As real estate guru Sam Zell said in a recent interview, “…we need Leadership, not criticism. Business is about taking and managing risk… hard decisions must be made.” It wasn’t comfortable to both me and my partner when sailing through the arguments and putting forth my mellow ultimatum, however as soon as we passed the small storm, the wind picked up, the sails were up, and we were sailing faster than ever. Had we kept on dwelling on the issues at hand and had not been decisive, our venture would have remained stuck in equilibrium, and the Universe would have had a great big smile on its face. Now… we dont really want that to happen do we..?
When was the last time that you realized that you are locked down in equilibrium, and what did you decide to do about it?