This is the blog-format of the talk I gave during Lean Startup conference Ignite presentation on December 8, 2013 in San Francisco, California. The video is also below.

What is your top 5 goals in life? Chances are one of them is to lose weight and get fit overall. I remember I had the same goal to lose 10 pounds. I signed up for a gym. After a few weeks, I stopped going! I realized then and there that it takes the right attitude, right discipline and right mentality to get fit and lean.

It’s the same with the teams I help as a mentor at Lean Startup Machine in Toronto and San Francisco. After the workshop, people come out expecting to be able to conquer anything. But without the right attitude, they end up being like a harmless pussy cat!

Most attendees of LSM come out more like a pussy cat than a lion because they don't have the right attitude

Most attendees of LSM come out more like a pussy cat than a lion because they don’t have the right attitude

That’s why I realized it takes the right attitude to run lean sustainably over time. I call these attitudes Minimum Viable Attitudes (MVAs)


The first is humbleness. This is the most important attitude to run lean with a team. The problem is when you put a bunch of entrepreneurs, hackers, designers and techies in one room, it becomes a chest-thumping, superhero pissing contest.

That’s why to those who thump their chest in a team, I ask them to repeat after me… “I … DON’T …. KNOW …. SHIT!”

Those four words are the most liberating and freeing words you can say to run lean with a team. There is absolutely no room for ego in a lean startup team.


The second MVA is hunger. I’m not talking about the grumbling and growling you hear when you skip breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’m talking about a passion, a desire and dream to succeed and to go out and talk to customers. A determination to validate or invalidate your assumptions. Almost like a rabid dog after prey.

The best example of hunger is my friend Oisin. During the customer discovery phase of his startup, I told him to go talk to customers. So he goes to the mall…. and gets kicked out. He comes back to me and I tell him, “This is GREAT!” He looks confused.

The truth is that you can’t be a lean startup disciple until you get kicked out of somewhere. Have a desire so strong to talk to customers that you’re willing to get kicked out. So get kicked of this conference, this hotel and even San Francisco!


The final MVA is happiness. This is probably the most overlooked attitude. Articles after articles have been written about entrepreneurs going through depression this past year.

The reason is that behind the glossy veneer of startups. Behind the successes of the lean startup model, there’s also a dark side. People don’t talk about the impact on the morale and psyche after failure after failure of experiments and, worst of all, a pivot.

I went through that depression this past summer. But what really got me through was my family.

I come from a typical Asian family. I was supposed to be a doctor or engineer. Instead when I told my parents I wanted to be a startup founder, they asked me, “What’s that!?!” Entrepreneur is not something a lot of kids say what they want to be when they grow up, especially asian kids!

But this past year, my family have been supportive of me beyond imagination. I can’t thank them enough!

Flex Your Muscles

In the same way you flex your muscle as you workout everyday to get fit, you also need to flex your lean startup muscle. The three minimum viable attitudes you need to run sustainably over time is humbleness, hunger and happiness.

Photo creds goes to Eric Ries (how many people can say that?!?!)

Photo creds goes to Eric Ries (how many people can say that?!?!)

Eric Ries himself!

Eric Ries himself!

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Growth, analytics and inbound marketing professional. Computer science educated from University of Waterloo, full-stack developer turned growth hacker. Follow me at @RamliJohn. Ready to help you with your growth issues at

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