It’s glamorous to be a startup founder right now.
And I’m not knocking the movement.
Really, I’m benefitting from the movement! People are fascinated by what I do, and I (sometimes) enjoy giving people insight into my world.
Startups themselves are fascinating. They’re also tough to run. Very tough. The world of startups is a tough world for tough people. It’s impossible to tell who’s going to make it, and sometimes the winners surprise us.
One day we’re reading about the hottest new startup on the planet, and the next day we’re hearing about the newest flame out in the scene.
Sometimes, the two stories are about the same company!
While it’s difficult to predict a startup’s success, measuring a startup’s success is easier than we think.
Think about startups like newborn babies.
We can’t look at an infant and accurately predict greatness, but there are measurements that can tell us how the baby’s doing at the moment.
There’s heart rate, temperature, and other things I don’t know about because I’ve never had a baby.
With startups, we look to other industry-specific metrics to get a feel for how successful the company is doing: top line, bottom line, churn, burn, runway, users, LTV, CAC, and all sorts of other abbreviations.
Those metrics can be crucial for business owners and investors to know.
But not all metrics are created equal.
There’s one metric that gets too much attention.
The search for publicity can kill a startup. It can be distracting, especially when the company needs an actual business structure more than it needs notoriety.
Make no mistake, publicity can be good. I’m a marketer. I’m wired to sell things. So obviously publicity is something I like to think about strategically.
But let’s be honest, it’s overvalued. And, at times, publicity can even be deceiving. It can be misinterpreted as a sign of success, a measurement that matters. It’s what we call a vanity metric.
But seeing publicity as a measure of success can lead to a larger problem.
Publicity is seductive.
It can lead us to form a false sense of success. Publicity fluffs our feathers.
Inflated egos have nothing supporting them but air.
That’s why hubris crumbles.
Be motivated by other things.
The inspiration for this piece came from a book about baseball.
The author—Dayton Moore, the General Manager of the Kansas City Royals—was telling us about his journey to becoming General Manager in his book More Than A Season: Building A Championship Culture.
Along with professional battles, he became very aware of the personal battles he had to stare down on the way to the top. One that he said he fights every day is “finding the balance of being humbled by praise and not motivated by it.”
He quoted Warren Wiersbe, who once wrote:
“If praise humbles us, the criticism will build us up. If praise inflates us, then criticism will crush us; and both responses lead to our defeat.”
Be motivated by what matters. What matters to you?
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