The Hard Thing About Hard Things

It always seems harder to do something before it's done.

One of the not so easy things for me has been to switch from coffee to green tea. I still steal in a couple of sips of coffee some days, and I might go on to have a full cup of coffee in a month or so. But for now it's green tea or a chocolate shake (which some people find it funny when they see me have :-/) as substitute.

It was easier to get this done, because coffee is not addictive, it's just a habit.

But it was harder to get this done, because there was no urgency to do it and the permanent excuse was "I can always do it, but I do not need to right now."

So I think what people normally perceive as hard things (e.g. living healthier, getting a degree or getting that job you want, running a startup etc) are actually just a bunch of simpler things done sequentially or in parallel. The reason the complete bunch of simpler things is seen as a hard thing is because we find it not so easy to do those simpler things and put them away for later.

If only we could persuade ourselves to not ignore the simpler things to do, we will find ourselves doing a lot of the harder things as well.

For entrepreneurs, here are five not so easy simple things that you could start doing which will help you do the hard thing that is build a great startup:

1. Get up early every morning. Late nights are not efficient on a regular basis, because it makes it difficult for you to stay coordinated with the rest of the world. The nights before demo day, maybe yes. But every other day stay on schedule because the early bird gets the worm or whatever in your case.

2. Go for a run thrice a week. Health is the first thing founders may ignore when doing their startup. There is never time, unless you make some. But a fit mind can only exist inside a fit body. You need your mind to be fit. You could gym too, but a run is more efficient use of time.

3. Never be late for meetings or deliverables. You can be late for a date, but never for a meeting. That's something people will notice about you and then most of them (at least all the ones who value capability) will start prioritiizng what you need because you are always on time. The corollary for this is that never commit to a time you cannot meet.

4. Track where you spend your time, every day. Often as founders we are doing things (socializing or Facebooking or similar) which we feel does not take away much time. But they do cummulatively. Lot of precious time gets wasted and the only way to stop wasting time is to know that you are wasting time.

5. Be good, particularly to those who cannot give back to you. Karma exists. It all comes back eventually. But even if Karma did not exist, being good is more efficient. You will anyways tend to be good to those who can give you something back in return and who are relevant for you. Not being good to others requires emotional context switching which takes away energy from you. So just be good.

Good luck with your startup ! Actually the above applies to anyone trying to do the hard things, even if it is not a startup. So good luck to you too!

By the way "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" is a really nice book by Ben Horowitz on doing hard things and getting through every day crisis. Startup founders should definitely read it.

Here is a review of Ben's book on Techcrunch.