Ways to distinguish yourself – #72 Be willing to step back to move forward

Ways to distinguish yourself – #72 Be willing to step back to move forward

By Rajesh Setty on Sun 04 Dec 2005, 8:13 AM – 2 Comments

First time entrepreneurs (especially if they are bootstrapping) have a first hand experience in this – they willingly step back before moving forward. I have a personal experience too. I remember this clearly – When I co-founded CIGNEX five years ago (66% pay cut, lifestyle changes, smaller office and a ton of uncertainty) everyone would say that it was a risky step and the timing was not right. They were right on both fronts – it was risky to put my life savings and we were entering a period of recession (of course, I didn’t know that then.) If I look back today and ask if the experience was worth it – I won’t blink an eye before saying “YES.” What I was able to learn as an entrepreneur and building a what I became because of this experience would never have come if I continued in my previous jobs.

Life will continue to present opportunities that may not look good in the short term but may be the best thing to happen to you in the long term. The wisdom is to spot those opportunities and be willing to make those sacrifices in the short term to get ahead in the long run.

My friend and mentor – Tim Sanders, talks about such an experience in his book “Love is the killer app.” Tim got recruited by Mark Cuban for his startup company Broadcast.com for a startup salary (way below what he was making.) Sanders looked at the long-term possibilities of working with Cuban and growing. Long story short – Broadcast.com was sold to Yahoo! for around $5B in a few years and Sanders, I am sure was very happy with his earlier decision.

Talk to people who you think have made it and ask them if they had to step back sometime in their life before reaching the heights they reached – you will be surprised how many will answer in the positive.

Good luck!


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2 Comments so far, Add Yours

Anonymous  on December 4th, 2005

I think that sometimes it’s hard to reshape your mind and be willing to take that step back.We condition ourselves to look forward to the next opportunity, and we hate to “give up” any ground we’ve made in our accompishments.

In some cases, we’re risk averse because of what an economist might call “sunk costs.” We try to squeeze marginal value out of a past investment, even though a fresh investment in a new opportunity might yield greater results.

If you spend $50 on a ticket for a concert that you’re ony moderately interested in attending. Then, just before the event, you learn of a poetry reading by an author you really enjoy-the event costs $20. When confronted with that choice, many people will guilt themselves and go to the concert and have a so-so time rather than spend another $20 and have a great time.

Sunk costs come in many forms-scuh as a 401K, a big office, and a secure paycheck. When you look risks such as the cut in pay, the smaller office, and the overall uncertainty, it can be pretty intimidating. Unlike the concert/poetry reading example, if you give up your perks for a new opportunity, you’ve got no idea of knowing how things will turn out.

Will these sacrifices be only short-term or will they become long-term conditions? When you’re facing this question, it can be hard to tell whether the step-backward offers real potential or just a fool’s hope. After all, some steps backwards are really just that-steps backwards.

So, in my mind, there’s a two-part challenge. First, you have to be willing to take a step back to move forward. However, you also need insight to determine which steps backwards will offer a reasonable chance of a leap forward.

Anonymous  on December 4th, 2005

Thanks Bill. What an amazing perspective. You are so right. One should not go back for the sake of going back or with an illusion that going back is the way going forward – it will be a recipe for failure.

However, once the person has the wisdom to see an opportunity and if it means that he or she needs to go back to capture that opportunity, he should be willing to do so.

Thanks again for the great comments. If you have a blog of your own, please share the link – so others can benefit!

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