How Everyone Can Overcome Adversity And Progress

This week I met an amazing woman. To be honest, meeting amazing women is pretty common for me.

Then there is next level. This lady was rather special. A breast cancer survivor. Remission, relapse, and remission again. This was no easy life. Watching a young drunk driver die alone who had hit her car, head on. Miraculously she managed to drag herself out of the wreckage. Only then to be helpless herself and watch him die. If that was not too much, she had suffered unspeakable and abhorrent abuse from various men in her life. Somehow, she exuded happiness and confidence. I was choking back tears watching her poise and listening to her story. Trying to concentrate on the question she was asking me, I wondered how I could answer. In some bizarre way, her sharing was inspiring, endearing and reminded me of the value of community. The entire room was silent.

She asked about commercializing her idea for her new company. Once composed, I shared some ideas with her. However, she had so much to offer others in the room. Her ability to articulate, and overcome insurmountable issues was abundantly clear.

People are amazing. They can rise to any challenge and they triumph when they have the ability to be real, share and support one another. Sharing her stories for the benefit of others was now her mission and gave her the strength to prevail. Her progress was a beacon of triumph. She stood tall as the vanguard for women and her progress was celebrated.

Tips on how to progress

  • Everyone is a mentor, if they are authentic and give a shit

The concept of coaching or mentoring has its place in the start-up ecosystem. But there is no shortage of talented people, humbly doing their thing. The power of learning and sharing and helping people just because you can is intoxicating.

Going to see an expert, or someone who has ‘been-there-done-that’ is often invaluable Think long and hard about who you want to help. Remember to help others and take help (when its offered).

  • Make your customers your tribe

You can learn so much more about your potential customers by asking good questions. They may not be product experts, but they can explain their problems if you demonstrate that you care about them. If you are driven to genuinely help people, the payback is exponential.

  • Resist the urge

All too often people can lose sight of what the real issues are. You don’t have to build a company as big as Apple. Chances are there is no chance of that. Instead, just do what you are passionate about.

We don’t need to label things, and it can be damaging. Paradoxically, perhaps it is convenient for us to label things e.g. ‘My business is Uber for X’ or ‘I’m a double-sided marketplace for y’. Or better still, I’m a serial Entrepreneur exclaiming ‘you can’t grow a business fast enough’. My point is you always need to take your time to define and differentiate yourself. Different markets may require different personas for your brand, your business and product. Our message is always important, are the genuine deliverables. Do you solve a big problem, commercially?

  • Be authentic

Simple truth, it’s the only defensible thing you have. There is only one you. Do things your way, draw strength from others, stick to being you.

You can’t be someone else forever. Having said that, there is no issue in learning from other people, businesses and brands and emulating some behaviour or characteristics. Don’t copy, instead, learn. Then consider what applies but always define your own style.

Then for those of you who want to be the best, measure yourself against others, but don’t forget your personal progress. Be positive, it’s a good trait.

  • Value and authenticity are important

A business has as a purpose making money. However, no entrepreneur did this alone. As a minimum, they had feedback from customers and assembled the right team. Successful founders know that people who are ‘aligned’ basically care about the customers. If value is created, it can be shared. If a customer feels cared for and that you and your team are authentic, you will create loyalty. This builds real value, sticky customers and long-term profits.

Pitching to raising money before you can demonstrate you have or will deliver value lacks authenticity (among other concerns). If your company has started to make sales, but your mission is not intrinsically connected and committed to helping your customers, this will be easily spotted and will not engender loyalty. In start-up parlance, your LTV (live time value) of your customer will fall away.

Be real, authentic and create value. Always take the time to help others, it is very rewarding.

We all crave, actually, we thrive, when we share. Don’t beat yourself up for looking back, it’s healthy. Our history is inescapable, but by being real, and building your tribe, you don’t have to be afraid. If it is only to glow when you see you have progressed, that will always be available to you. Don’t be afraid to build a tribe around you. Your tribe will remind you in your life of what is real and the value we provide to others in our stories of demise and success. Shared success in business, customers, staff, suppliers provides sustainable value to any businesses. More importantly, you will enjoy and be surrounded by fulfilled people to share your success with. You too can overcome any challenge and move forward.

Go on, create the future.

David Kenney

Start-up mentor and investor.