Your Daily Best Isn't Good Enough
I took offense to this statement in large part because of its delivery. In grad school, I was attending a panel discussion between an MIT backed startup and one of the VCs that funded them. I can't remember the exact question that I asked during the Q&A, but his sneer and tone was quite apparent as he said "your daily best isn't good enough."
I never liked that answer, but I've come to understand its veracity. This founder had spent the good part of a decade trying to build an external battery to rapidly charge a mobile device. And despite all of that hard work, they still had not achieved the right product design, marketing position, or price point. He went on to say (paraphrasing) "You can cross off everything on your daily todo list and still get no closer to making a successful company."
There was wisdom in that statement. One of the hardest parts of starting a startup is there are no guarantees that it will stay up. You can execute all of your plans flawlessly, and yet there are many things outside of your control. Will a competitor beat you? Will the market care? Will the ideal customer be able to afford it?
Your daily best isn't good enough because building a successful business takes more than just successful completion of todos. You need to make sure you're working on the right things. You need to be able to scrap plans and step boldly into new directions if your current strategy isn't working out.
It's not enough just to string together a bunch of good days. Many teams did great work while generating zero revenue, requiring their company to shut down.
Your daily best is the minimum required to build a successful venture. What the company needs may require you to level up way beyond your current best, and be able to make hard, uncomfortable decisions when faced with roadblocks on all sides.
I took offense to this statement, but I think about it from time to time as an important reminder to not get complacent, lest I find myself building a bridge to nowhere.
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About Rick Manelius
Quick Stats: CXO of Atomic Form. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.