I recently came across a cartoon of a fierce-looking chicken that appears to have just found the strength within to free itself from captivity and pursue its own path. The cartoon is captioned: “No One Going To Eat This Chicken” (see above).
When I saw it, I couldn’t help but to think about Jessica Matthews, the founder of Uncharted Play, and her struggles as a freshly-hatched entrepreneur. While I found her to be somewhat rough around the edges, one of her comments in particular stuck in my mind. Jessica mentioned that at one point she took some time off to take a better care of herself. When she returned to the office, she felt that she was a stronger and more authentic leader for her team. She then led her company to achieve a major milestone.
In the context of entrepreneurship, I found many great articles discussing what qualities VCs are looking for in founders here or what are some common traits of successful entrepreneurs here. I noticed though, that the problem Jessica was discussing is often overlooked.
Before we begin to perfect our arsenal of leadership qualities and skills, we should focus on a more fundamental question: how to sustain ourselves as entrepreneurs.
In this often lonely journey when founders find themselves bordering insanity (or others find them to be on the edge), it is worth to remind ourselves of the basics. I jotted down a few observations from cases and prior work experience. I call it MVF or the “Minimum Viable Founder” concept. Feel free to comment and add your own thoughts.
I am not suggesting you to run triathlons. Realistically, you probably won’t have the time to do so. It is more simple than that: go for a run or a walk to get some fresh air, eat your daily serving of fruit and vegetables (or at least don’t forget to eat). Manage your sleep well. And be disciplined about that.
Know why you get out of bed in the morning. Remind yourself what is your vision and why you care about what you do.
Don’t let your mind get lazy. Continue to be curious and question yourself, your team and your advisors. Be at pace with the fact that perfection in everything you do is a thing of the past; instead, prioritize.
Balance confidence with humility. Be flexible and open to feedback. Don’t let your ego outshine you. When ego is hurt, anger often comes in and blurs your vision.
Finally, surround yourself with other free-range chickens. Not without a reason so much weight is placed on building and maintaining ecosystems that promote entrepreneurship. Incubators, accelerators, peers, friends all play an important role in keeping you happy and motivated. They also can serve as sounding board and offer a reality check.
Only strong chickens breed unicorns. Be a strong chicken.