I have an eight-month old German Shepherd puppy, who’s been with us since she was a little seven week old ball of fur. Below are some of the lessons I believe she can teach us about life in general, and entrepreneurship in particular.
The Squirrel Will Surely Be There
We have a crabapple tree in our backyard. Apart from producing inedible fruits and fragrance-less flowers, the only other claim to fame this tree has is that it’s a favorite hangout place for squirrels. During the third month of her life, in the middle of summer, our pup discovered that squirrels make great playmates, especially when you chase them up a tree over and over again. Fast-forward six months, our Minnesota backyard is covered with a white layer of snow, the crabapple tree is completely bare, and all self-respecting squirrels are happily sleeping away the winter in their nests. Yet, every time I let the puppy out in the backyard into the frigid winter air, she immediately runs to the crabapple tree with an incredibly hopeful expression, absolutely sure that this time, surely, the squirrels will all be there.
Optimism may not be a sufficient condition for entrepreneurial success, but it is definitely a necessary one. To ignore all the naysayers that bog you down, to overcome all the obstacles that come in the way, and to never quit in the face of adversity, one needs a healthy dose of optimism. Show me a successful entrepreneur and I’ll show you a person who runs every day to his proverbial crabapple tree, certain that the squirrels will surely be there.
What Do You Mean I Can’t?
There are two kinds of dogs – ones that dig and ones that don’t. Unfortunately for our lawn, our little pup falls squarely in the first category—she never met a piece of land that she didn’t think she could improve with a little digging. There’s a spot on our property that in particular is her favorite. Which would be fine, except that it is also right outside our door. Every guest, therefore, must walk right by the unsightly hole before they enter our house. I was determined to discourage the pup from digging there. I started with some sour-apple spray. Turns out she likes the taste of sour apples. Then I moved on to covering the area with a mat, assuming that out of sight would eventually drive the spot out of mind. A few days later I discovered the mat at the other end of our yard, and the hole a few inches deeper. Frustrated, I covered the area with a stack of lawn furniture (admittedly making it look uglier than it already was). The puppy contorted her way into the edge of the hole and somehow moved the stack, and we were back in the digging business.
Persistence in the face of obstacles is something that’s easy to write about, but incredibly difficult to do. In the process of starting a company, there are days when nothing seems to go right, and the number of barriers in front of you only seems to be increasing. The only thing that gets you through those days is pure and simple persistence. The conviction that if you try hard enough you will succeed. The refusal to take no for an answer. The determination to move heaven and earth (or lawn chairs and tables) in the pursuit of your goals.
Shake it Off!
Observe a dog for any period of time, and you’ll probably see it doing that wonderful whole body shake, that seems to start from the snout and slowly work its way down its body. It seems to me that dogs use this to literally “shake-off” a less than positive experience – whether it’s a minor scolding, or a period of being left alone, or being denied that wonderful treat. Having a tendency to get into trouble quite often, my little puppy has become quite adept at this shaking motion. A little shake, and whatever negative feelings she may have had seem to melt right away.
It is a well-worn cliche that if you are not failing, you are probably not pushing hard enough. In my experience, this also happens to be very true. For an entrepreneur, failure is just as much a part of success as success itself. So the important thing is not did you fail, but rather how you learnt from it and got back in the game right afterwards. In other words, entrepreneurial success is determined to a large extent by how good you are at “shaking off” all the negative experiences and carrying on with the task at hand.
-Abir Sen, CEO