Do you cringe when someone says “I could have done that”? Whether it is a blog post, a new startup, or a piece of modern art, people say it all the time.
I have come to realize that there are two kinds of people – those who do and those who say they could. Those who win are the doers and those who don’t never move into the realm of the unknown and thus keep saying “I could have done that.”
The point is, you didn’t.
What separates the doers from the could-have-dones? There are a few key characteristics, which funny enough are the same characteristics that I often see being written about as characterisitcs of entrepreneurs.
Willingness to fail through taking risks
Failure is not seen by a doer as a negative thing, but rather as an opportunity to learn and do better next time. You don’t fail, except ultimately, if you do not try. Max Levchin of Paypal, for instance, had four companies before he hit a home run with Paypal (which was valued at $12bn in 2010).
Even VCs are willing to take risks. On average, it seems that 30% of investments exit well, and 40% break even. Flip that around, and 60% are losses. Yet why would a VC keep investing if they never made money? The risk is worth it.
Here are the investments made over the past 5 years by VCs:
And here are the numbers that have exited:
And many of you have seen this graph of SEOmoz’s financials:
And now we see this:
Eagerness to learn
Doers tend to have an uncanny knack for picking up new skills easily (as cited in this article with Richard Branson last week), which is probably why they are willing to take on new tasks and opportunities.
This quote describes the mentality well:
I’m a geek and being in control of everything (to the finest detail) defines me. Not only that, but since I can pick up skills quickly, I think that I can learn pretty much anything. And that’s where we, as geeks, fail.
Part of this mentality as well, I think, is that doers tend to get bored when they do the same tasks again and again. We end up looking for new opportunities that will challenge us. This may appear as being unloyal to some. I see it as an opportunity to enrich your life with new experiences.
Doers are stubborn
We know what we want to do, or at least that we want to work for ourselves or be successful, but we often make challenging followers. We think we are right, and that unrelenting commitment to perfection has led to many successful entrepreneurs. I would also say, though, that the most successful overall are those that do learn to listen to mentors and are open to feedback in their life, which takes humility. Humility is not weakness, but rather an attitude to learn (see point 2).
Yet, it’s the stubbornness that makes us get up again. Just recently I read this post about two men that didn’t find the right idea until they had two months of runway left. OMGPOP slaved away for 6 years before their product took off.
Stubbornness wins. Remember:
Does this post resonate with you? I failed in my first startup. I’ll admit it. I’ll write about it sometime. Yet I plan to do it again someday. We can be afraid of failure, yet still do great work. You fail when you try to do great work, but sometimes you hit a home run.
Be a doer.