It is interesting to see that smart people can systemically go into wrong career tracks because of the herding effects of the ‘IN’ thing going along in this society. According to a study by Harvard Business School, we have seen that people moving into the same field and ended up doing the wrong things (27:54).
In 1999–2000, people are flocking to the tech space. In 2005–07, people are flocking to private equity and hedge fund. Now we have seen a surge of people flocking back to the tech space again in 2012–14. Peter Thiel describes this group as people who have extremely extroverted personality with no strong convictions of their own.
I refer them as wondering herders. Yet the wondering herders tend to forget that the most convicted survive in arduous times and thrive in times of prosperity. They need to dig deep into themselves about what they are good at and what they really believe in. Otherwise, they are trading their time to take a path which resembles a lottery ticket. Among those successful founders like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, they have a strong conviction of either what they love to do or what they believe in. Jack Ma strongly believe that the next biggest opportunity lies in the internet at a time in China where people cannot comprehend in the late 1990s. Each of these successful founders have a north star that serve as a compass directing to the promise land in the midst of a growing jungle of white noises.
Not everyone that sees the north star moves in that direction. The really convicted ones will move very fast driven by their excitement. Others follow suit and most will stay and watch. Then the question is how do you know what is your North star?
Revealing signs that you found your North star:
- You fall in love instantly.
This is almost like you fall in love with someone and that you cannot stop thinking about it. Yet that someone is out of your league at least for now.
Like anyone who falls in love, you will talk about your love.
2. You will share it with your friends and family members.
Parents who have their first born child will always be excited to talk about their son or daughter. You will always talk about it. Yet like Adora Cheung who is one of the founders of homejoy mentioned in the 4th episode of The Startup , that there is the honesty curve (22:24 into the clip).
Your family and friends will give you encouraging feedback in the beginning. You do not know whether these feedback were genuine until your real customers reveal to you either by coming back again or not. Later on, if the startup is not progressing sufficiently to feed yourself and that your family and friends cannot understand this opportunity, they will recommend you to look elsewhere.
3. You experience all the effects of a dysfunctional relationship.
When your support group starts to not only withdraw their support but also getting you to think like them, you experience pain. You feel painful because you were disappointed that they do not understand. Later on, you feel doubtful because all the signs are not coming. You ran out of resources at the moment and the startup is not growing to keep you and your team afloat. As such, you keep figuring ways to get sales and to raise funds. Yet you know that everything takes time and you are prepared to keep working at it.
4. Others think that you are crazy but you just keep going at it.
You start to ask for feedback and start to think about how to make it better. It takes lots of courage to keep reminding yourself that this product is going to take off but not now. Courage is something that you know the ability to do something that frightens one. Yet you are not stupid to rack up credit cards even though some do. You learn the adjust yourself over time to find ways to survive while continue to dabble this puzzle of yours.
5. Failure just keep steering you closer to curiosity yet impatience is your achilles heel.
It is normal for people to try and fail and then stop trying. Note the difference between failing a startup/job/something and failing in life. Failing something just gets you to think about the current thing you can pivot to or think about the next stage along a closer tangent to the eventual thing/job/startup that you are getting to. Twitter was a pivot product. My good old friend, Shamir started Cypher labs, a biotech startup and eventually stumble upon an opportunity to build the next salesforce of fleet management SaaS, Versa fleet Failing in life is stop trying on things for a period of time or for a specific milestone.
In summary, that North Star can be anything. It can be a believe about an idea. It can be a job that you are just learning about. You just gotta be still and invest time to look inside you.