The two most important and influential women in my life are my sister and my mom. My mom taught me a lot that’s helped me in my startup life and my entrepreneurial ventures. Here are just three startup lessons I learned from my mom.
1. Be Happy
The startup life is full of uncertainty. It’s uncomfortable. It’s scary. I’m $100,000 in debt from my studies and I’m not going to be paid for awhile. I should be hyperventilating and having daily panic attacks. On top of that, I have to juggle managing my team, coding for FamilyTales, doing customer interviews, recruiting other developers, and dealing with legal issues. But still I make time to meet with friends, take improv classes, ride my motorcycle and read a good novel.
It’s a crazy life. But I learned from the best. My mom works a 9-to-5 job, manages and mentors a team in her volunteer position, cleans the house, feed 3 kids and, on top of that, give me advices about my chaotic personal life and business. Through all of this, she remains happy and jovial, which is both encouraging and energizing.
That’s really important for people working in a very early stage startup. You’ll hear a lot of ‘no’ before you hear a ‘yes.’ Stay happy. Stay positive. Stay optimistic.
2. Just Do It
Talk is cheap. But there’s often a temptation for startup teams to debate on and on for hours about mundane things. A few days ago, I was coding at a local Starbucks, and I heard this other startup team argue for 3 hours! They didn’t get any work done. I just wanted to turn around and say “just shut up and get out of the building.”
That’s what my mom taught me. She leads by example. She’s a woman of action. Whenever something needs to get done, she doesn’t try to discuss 1,001 ways to do it and the advantages and disadvantages of each option. She just does it or delegates someone to do it. Whenever I don’t know what to do next, she encourages me to think about the pros and cons of each option and just run with one of the options.
As Daniel Burka,former Digg Creative Director and Milk co-founder, said in an event in Toronto last year, stop arguing and start doing! What Burka recommended is to talk for 30 minutes, then try it out and build it for the next 30 minutes. Keep what works. Remove what doesn’t. It’s almost like trial-and-error experiments. You push the boundaries by trying to see if the impossible is possible.
3. Ask for help
Startup founders are a fiercely independent breed. We tend to adopt a “me against the world” attitude. The words “I don’t know” usually never comes out of our mouth.This is dangerous. You don’t need to defeat everyone else. What you need is a team of partners in your corner who will work to help you win and vice versa.
My mom raised me in a community, either with family members or the church. Everyone in the community would help each other out. I was taught from a young child that no one is an island. The more there are people helping you, the greater that chances of your success.
This is just as true for parents, in-laws, friends, and teachers as it is for co-founders, employees, VCs, advisers, and mentors. The more people you have cheering you on, the better your chances of success.
I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be here if my mom wasn’t around. To all you startup founders and entrepreneurs, thank your mom this weekend! To all you moms, happy mother’s day.