Self-Doubt Roller Coaster

At a startup, self-doubt is real. Nobody knows whether the original idea is any good until the product is on the market, generating real feedback. So, a founder’s job is to perfect the following balancing act:

  1. On the one hand, they need to believe in the product. Without that conviction, it’s impossible to convince anyone else to join their team, or to buy the product.
  2. On the other hand, believing in an idea without a market is a very dangerous thing to do. If a startup spends too long building a product that, in the end, nobody will want to buy, they will run out of money before even making their first sale. At the end of the runway, a “plane” has to take off.

The successful poker player Isaac Haxton once said that perhaps the most important skill of a professional poker player is to know exactly how good you are. Overconfidence will bankrupt a person if they keep sitting at poker tables, going against better players.

There’s constant chatter in the founder’s mind: the replays of user interviews, the marketing messages of competitors, the opinions of product and sales teams.

Sounds counterintuitive, but what often helps distill the noise into something more productive is: more chat. Talking to mentors and peers can help us find our bearings and separate the signal from the noise.