The thing that frustrates me the most about people dishing out advice is the lack of context that advice is given with.
With startups, the sensitivity of how applicable a piece of advice is extremely volatile to the situation you’re in.
If you’re a first-time founder, it’s very hard to understand when the piece of advice Jack Dorsey, Steve Blank, your dad’s finance friend who invested in your company, uncle bob, or Elon Musk gave you is the most relevant.
“You should follow your dreams and quit your job” could be a terrible piece of advice if you’re an 20-year-old single mother with no financial support.
“You should focus on the 20% of 80% of the results” is a direct contradiction to “be detail-oriented”. Yet, both are common pieces of advice in the startup community.
[ Good To Read – Starting a business. Where to start with? ]
“Make something people want”? Nope.
When customers want a faster horse when they really need a car is a classic example that throws that core advice out the window.
Make something people want*
“Make something people want” is great advice if you know what to listen for and conduct customer interviews very well. Yet that asterisk isn’t apart of the advice and people misapply it all the time.
Here’s another example:
Many young first time founders take the lean startup philosophy to the absolute extreme. There are important parts of the hiring process that should not be done “the minimum viable” way. Bad hiring kills startups all the time.
There are countless articles on why “Failure is Good For Success”. Failure is a bad thing, by definition. The opportunity to learn however is good, but it is by no means exclusive to failing. Yes, if you’re going to fail, you should learn from it and do it quickly. That’s the context in which it is “good”.
The lack of context people fail to provide when giving advice leads to people getting pieces of advice that are directly conflicting.
There is no right answer to anything.
People who are searching for advice also need to stop viewing advice as their potential silver bullet. There is no silver bullet — so get to work.
Most people ask for advice as an easier alternative to putting their head down and getting to work.
All of this probably sounds like things you probably already know.
The point is: yes, this all sounds pretty logical, but how are we all critically thinking through the advice we get?
What’s action can we all take to better understand of a piece of advice should be taken into context?
A lot of it just comes down to understanding your own context and your own problems really really well. The vast majority of us fail to take the time to put things into context because we’ll get caught up in the moment or blindly accept advice given someone’s reputation.
That being said, let’s pull things back into context:
There seems to be solid advice that often (ehem, not always) can be applied to a startup that based on the stage your at. Pre-startup, Idea/MVP, Pre-product/market fit, product/market fit, high growth stage, late stage, etc.
The key is to always keep the asterisk that every piece comes within mind.*
Feel free to comment with your favorite advice*, below: