As I reflect on 2006 I am reminded of the importance to entrepreneurs of the word determination. It is a tricky word to understand for first-time entrepreneurs. Some of the leaders of the companies I witnessed in 2006 understood what the word determination means. Others ran into walls and crashed. Some overcame adversity with determination while neighbors shut down their businesses.
Determination is not stubbornness. Nor is it rigidly sticking to your dream.
Instead, it is more like a parent whose wise application of lessons learned on-the-job about raising a new child produce good results.
Too often the media exposes us to determination that is dangerous fantasy. Hollywood does that most often in its (mostly) uncreative, manufactured films. But dangerous versions of determination are also in lessons from the great classics such as "Romance of the Three Kingdoms." In that Chinese epic misguided heros' determination turned frustration into anger that fueled head-on charges against overwhelming enemy forces and resulted in premature death.
Parents teach their children to learn as they go, modifying behavior based on what works and what does not. A toddler tries to walk on a narrow brick wall without mother's hand and falls. The next time he will be more careful and ask for assistance. The entrepreneur has a vision for success, gets started but up pops a stealth startup doing basically the same thing. If frustration turns into obstinate anger, the result will most likely be death of the founder's dream. Serial entrepreneurs modify their aspirations as they move along. Children do not grow up to be what the parent dreamed of the day of their birth. Instead, they are shaped as life moves on. Parents alter dreams the most in the early years. After that, children gradually take over the conduct of their own lives and the parent is more honored than looked to for daily guidance.
First-time entrepreneurs are most likely to misunderstand how to use determination. Learning from experienced startup veterans is wise. That is why talking to veterans has great value, whether over coffee or tea or by reading.
If you are in a developing country (anywhere outside the United States), give some extra thought to how you can use your clever mind instead of stubbornness to achieve your startup dream. You will need some boosters to increase your competitive advantage. But if you discover them, you can become a global success. That is how Skype was born. And we are now seeing some global thinking startups emerging from the second wave of new enterprises in China. India is also showing signs of such abilities. Old Europe is asleep with little hope for much to come from entrepreneurs other than the rare few.
BOTTOM LINE: Successful entrepreneurs are determined. They have "fire in their bellies." But they are also wise, like parents. They know the difference between stubborn and determined. When you understand that, you will add another element to building your unfair competitive advantage. I wish you The Great Blessing in 2007. Sincerely yours, John L. Nesheim