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Book review: rethinking the cost of success and the label of failure

  • War stories from startups often reek of a culture of long hours, abandoned families and a mentality that puts the new business ahead of everything else. 

    Serial entrepreneur K.P. Reddy challenges these myths with hard learned lessons from his own experience building new companies. He stays away from business models and concentrates on what he calls “the human factor” of startups.

    While he agrees that “being an entrepreneur is probably one of the hardest things anyone can do on a personal level” Reddy totally disagrees with those who think that above all else entrepreneurs need perseverance. “The number one trait is knowing when to quit and when to move on, because sometimes there’s a reason why plans aren’t working.”

    “Emotional optimism can make entrepreneurs feel like they have traction when they don’t. They’re driven by possibility and work harder and harder to execute an idea when no outside commitment exists. Entrepreneurs then run the risk of living inside a fictional universe of accomplishment.” 

    “Startup culture has a whole meme about failure just being part of the path to success: Fail fast! Failure is a good thing! Failure is a learning experience! What gets glossed over are the costs of failing and failing big.” 

    He argues that “other people don’t label us as failure we do that to ourselves” and entrepreneurs need to learn to bypass their inner critic. 

    Taking a year off – what he calls his ‘pretirement’ – taught him that when all aspects of his life were in balance, he had energy, he had clarity of thought, he could prioritised effectively, and he gained more satisfaction than being “unfocussed, work-crazed … sinking a great deal of time, effort and money into multiple directives with zero results.” 

    He hires people who demonstrate at their interview that they have passions outside of work, wanting three dimensional employees rather than just cogs in his money-making machine. 

    Running to 175 pages long, the takeaway lessons from the book can be captured in this quote that emphasises the need for balance: 

    “If you let your startup overtake your life, it burns everything in its path … Recharging isn’t a luxury, but a necessity.”

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