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The difference between what you did, what you’re doing, and where you’re going

Published: Mar 22, 2011 3:49 pm

There are 3 things that are critically important to your startup.

You must balance all three of these things to be successful.

1. What you did (the past).
2. What you’re doing (the present).
3. Where you’re going (the future).

What you did:

When I asked a founder why he thought his new startup would succeed, he claimed it would happen because his previous ventures did. Your past is a part of you, but it doesn’t define you. Just because you were successful (or your venture failed) in the past, doesn’t mean the same outcome will happen in the future. You can extrapolate data from the past but don’t let it blind you to your current reality. Previous experiences are nothing more than blueprints for us to build the future with.

What you’re doing:

If you only get one thing right, make it this one. You can at least tread water if you’re successfully capitalizing on the present. Focusing on the present allows startups to focus on real world issues immediately and you can actually start selling your product. As Steve Jobs said, “Real artists ship”.

Where you’re going:

It’s important for startups to have a dream that they can barely see. A goal that you have to be crazy to believe you can reach (but you and your team try for it anyway because you believe in it so much). I would rather achieve 50% of the extraordinary, than 100% mediocracy. This line of thinking is huge for teambuilding as well. One of my favorite quotes is: “If you want to build a ship, donโ€™t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

What do you think?

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Hi, I'm Paul Hontz.

I'm a YC alumn and I love startups. I created TSF to highlight companies I find interesting. You can learn more about me here.

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