The hard balance

One of a founder’s toughest logistic challenges is balancing drinking the coolaid of one’s own vision against the iron skepticism that is required for making healthy data-driven decisions.

With the vision, we’re in the land of dreams: Ok, I convinced myself, the team, the people investing in us, the people paying for our services and the people using them that the world is one day going to work according to our bold vision. I claimed that this is how it’s going to be, it’s inevitable, it’s coming and we might as well be the ones executing on it. I claimed that you are all going to behave the way we predict for the foreseeable future.

In the real world on the other hand, a realm of estimates, percentages, decision-making through empirical means, nothing ever goes according to plan. You make a prediction, you test it, most of the time you discover missing a subtle but fatal nuance: one of your assumptions was wrong and you now need to try again with a different set of variables. Rinse and repeat. Maybe you overcome a local maximum, then you run into the next one which turns out to invalidate everything you had done up until that point. Oops, months wasted, time to go all the way back and try again. You just discovered one more way something couldn’t work.

The trick is that you need to convince everybody else of being right, yet at the same time you have to relentlessly try to prove yourself wrong: you most likely missed something and the plan won’t work until all the kinks are ironed out. It’s a very hard line to walk, it’s working every day through cognitive dissonance, getting used to it and not letting it stop you from making progress.