Under the comb, the tangle and the straight path are the same. —HERACLITUS
Coach Nick Saban doesn’t actually refer to it very often, but every one of his assistants and players lives by it. They say it for him, tattooing it at the front of their minds and on every action they take, because just two words are responsible for their unprecedented success: The Process.
For nearly a year, General Ulysses S. Grant tried to crack the defenses of Vicksburg, a city perched high on the cliffs of the Mississippi, critical to the Confederacy’s stranglehold on the most important river in the country. He tried attacking head-on. He tried to go around. He spent months digging a new canal that would change the course of the river. He blew the levees upstream
Genius is the ability to put into effect what is in your mind. There’s no other definition of it. —F. SCOTT FITZGERALD
Steve Jobs was famous for what observers called his “reality distortion field.” The part motivational tactic, part sheer drive and ambition, this field made him notoriously dismissive of phrases such as “It can’t be done” or “We need more time.” Having learned early in life that reality was falsely hemmed in by rules and compromises that people had been taught as children, Jobs had a much more aggressive idea of what was or wasn’t possible. To him, when you factored in vision and work ethic, much of life was malleable. For instance, in the design stages for a new mouse for an early Apple product, Jobs had high expectations. He wanted it to move fluidly in any direction—a new development for any mouse at that time—but a lead engineer was told by one of his designers that this would be commercially impossible.
13 years into my soul-crushing indoctrination into entrepreneurship, it became clear why I’d failed so many times. I had acted based on assumptions instead of making decisions based on real data. When I purchased another company, I assumed I could bolt on $40,000 profit. Wrong. When I launched Informly, I assumed that if I created something great then people would buy it. Wrong. When I released a new version of Informly, I assumed that people would act according to the survey results. Wrong again. The only time I didn’t act out of assumptions was with WP Curve. I had no time to assume anything. I launched, and every important decision came afterwards. I based those decisions on real customer behavior, not assumptions. The ability to learn from real data is why the 7 Day Startup works. You wipe assumptions off the table. Your focus is on launching in 7 Days.
“A startup is a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.” Eric Ries
There is a lot of bullshit in startup land. Every second person is starting an incubator, raising money, pivoting, exiting, scaling, starting, failing, and telling the world as they do it. That said, I do prefer the word “Startup” to the word “Business,” which is why I’ve used it in this book. A business is anything that derives a wage for its founder. By that definition, buying a lawn mowing franchise or opening a corner store is a business. But neither is a startup. A startup is a bit more exciting. It has:
I start my explanation of The 80% Approach with a warning: The solution it offers is so simple and obvious that you may discount and ignore it. Here’s how this remarkably simple concept and method will help you eliminate perfectionism and procrastination for the rest of your life.
The Carolina Brewery is a hip bar on Franklin Street, the main street outside the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A beautiful street with brick buildings and old trees, it has many restaurants, bars, and coffee shops—more than one would expect to find in a small town. As you open the doors to the Carolina Brewery, you see an old building with high ceilings and exposed beams, and a few large stainless steel drink containers that promise a good time. There are semiprivate tables scattered around. This is a favorite place for students as well as an older crowd to enjoy good drinks and food. Soon after I joined MIT, Jonathan Levav (a professor at Columbia) and I were mulling over the kinds of questions one might conjure up in such a pleasant pub.
Many of the dormitories at MIT have common areas, where sit a variety of refrigerators that can be used by the students in the nearby rooms. One morning at about eleven, when most of the students were in class, I slipped into the dorms and, floor by floor, went hunting for all the shared refrigerators that I could find.
If you were living in 1950 and had chest pain, your cardiologist might well have suggested a procedure for angina pectoris called internal mammary artery ligation. In this operation, the patient is anesthetized, the chest is opened at the sternum, and the internal mammary artery is tied off. Voilà! Pressure to the pericardiophrenic arteries is raised, blood flow to the myocardium is improved, and everyone goes home happy.7 This was an apparently successful operation, and it had been a popular one for the previous 20 years. But one day in 1955, a cardiologist in Seattle, Leonard Cobb, and a few colleagues became suspicious. Was it really an effective procedure? Did it really work? Cobb decided to try to prove the efficacy of the procedure in a very bold way: he would perform the operation on half his patients, and fake the procedure on the other half. Then he would see which group felt better, and whose health actually improved.