Success Means Leaving It All On The Field

I'm in heavy team building mode. So, the following question came to mind.

What kind of people do we want on the team? 

What kind of entrepreneurs do we want to work with? 

What is our standard for considering someone to be a successful entrepreneur? 

I don't think these are easy questions to answer.

If you follow the silicon valley playbook, you would say something like, "We only want to work with world-class people." I think that's a silly statement.

What does it mean?

Am I world class?

Would I meet this standard?

Honestly, I don't think I'm world class at anything. I've done well as a bootstrap entrepreneur. I consider myself successful. I've also made every mistake an entrepreneur can make. There are many other entrepreneurs who have made more money than me. I'm not a billionaire and a few other entrepreneurs are. So, it's hard for me to think that I'm world class at anything, if money is the definition of success. 

And if you think you are world-class, it's highly likely you're kind of a dick.

Plus, I'm in Chicago. There are no billionaire entrepreneurs here. If that was my minimum standard, I wouldn't have anyone on the team. That would be pretty lonesome. And honestly, who really wants a billionaire on their team anyway?

That makes me think of a funny quote.

"I don't care to belong to any club that will have me as a member." - Groucho Marx.

As I'm recruiting new members of my latest gang of pirates, the question of personal standards becomes an important one.

When I was in high school, I played football. I was a quarterback on offense and a safety on defense. I went both ways. I never left the field. Ah, to be able to play just one more game again! 

I hate losing. When we lost, I took it pretty hard. I blamed myself mostly, and beat myself up pretty well for a week until I got another chance to redeem myself. 

But there was one question that used to bring me peace. 

Did I do everything I could do to win the game? Did I leave it all on the field? 

Ok, those are two questions, but they capture the same thought.

When the answer was yes, I slept like a baby. It was only when the answer was no that I was up tossing and turning into the wee hours of the night. Even when we lost, if I left it all on the field, it was ok. 

I've been honored to meet with a lot of entrepreneurs lately. I'm hoping to meet a lot more. As you may have noticed, the definition of what an entrepreneur has expanded since it's now a trendy and fashionable thing to be. Some entrepreneurs aren't real entrepreneurs and I think real entrepreneurs know the difference.

So, I've got two definitions that I'd like to use to define the standard for InsightStudios team members.

An entrepreneur is someone who risks it all to change the world.

Success means leaving it all on the field in pursuit of your goals.

A successful entrepreneur is someone who risked failure and gave everything she had to make the startup successful. She left it all on the field. Awesome. I love her regardless of the outcome.

It's important to note that I'm not using any particular outcome in the definition of entrepreneur or success. I could have said, "An entrepreneur is someone who had a $1 million exit or more." I'm not saying that. I don't think that's the right standard, at least for me.

I think it's important to recognize that we don't control the ultimate outcome of our entrepreneurial endeavors. I've learned over time that it's possible to play the game correctly, to do nothing wrong, and still fail. The honor is in trying, and if you fail, you get up and try again. That's just what you do because you are a resilient S.O.B.

It's also possible to fall ass backwards into money, even though you didn't earn it on your merits.

Most VC's and investors that I know care only about the outcome. How many exits did you have? How big were they? What was your cash-over-cash return? What they are really asking is, are you worthy enough for me to spend any time with you? 

I understand why they are asking, but these questions are fundamentally misguided.

If you are took a real risk, gave everything you have, and left it all on the field, then you are a successful entrepreneur in my book.

That's the definition of the kind of entrepreneurs I want on my team. 

Do you know anyone like this? If so, please email me this person's name.