Work Harder on Yourself Than You Do on Your Startup

May 22, 2012

1:00 pm

Editor’s Note: This blog post has been excerpted from an article that was originally published by Joel Cascoigne on his blog. 

“Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” – Jim Rohn

A long time ago, I came across the amazing quote above. It stuck in my mind, and as the years go by, I feel I’ve increasingly started to learn its true meaning.

In a startup, this quote is even more relevant. Here are some of the reasons I’ve discovered why you may want to consider working harder on yourself than you do on your startup:

1. It usually takes a few tries

I certainly hope you do things better and faster than I have – and I know people far smarter than me building kickass products – but looking back, the Internet is literally littered with my previous startup attempts. It’s taken me many tries and many years before I started Buffer and started to have some success.

For that reason, it’s not a smart approach to put all your eggs in the “current startup” basket. Instead, be sure to always work on yourself.

2. Be open and vocal, and build your network

During the year and a half I was working on my previous startup, I was consistently sharing my progress via Twitter, Facebook and blogging. This turned out to be surprisingly helpful when I started Buffer.

Many people ask how I drove initial traction to the product-less MVP of Buffer. The truth is, I was rather lucky. Because I had been open and vocal about startups and my learnings, I already had 1,700 followers on Twitter, and a few on other platforms, too. Since Buffer’s initial target user was a Twitter user, this was a great channel for me.

Even if your startup isn’t related to Twitter, you can still benefit from a personal Twitter profile where you share your progress frequently. In addition to the “launchpad” effect at the start of Buffer, my Twitter followers (now over 6,500) give me some credibility that can lead to making new connections and speaking at events.

3. Do activities to improve all aspects of yourself

Of course, sharing your progress on social networks is just one of the things you can do to improve yourself. Working on these other aspects can increase your chances for success at a current or future startup:

  • Coding and technical skills. This is even more relevant in current times, since Andrew Chen has clearly highlighted the immense power of a “Growth Hacker” who is both a marketer and an engineer.
  • Marketing and blogging. Coding isn’t everything; you need to get your name out there. Marketing and blogging will help you learn to communicate clearly and sell your startup to the press. My personal blog has brought me far more benefits than I originally realized it would.
  • Exercising and paying attention to your body. Consistent sleep and daily exercise mean I am usually super happy, which translates into productivity when I’m hacking or positivity and enthusiasm when I’m in a meeting.
  • Speaking and mentoring. Learning to speak in public can be a confidence booster. I’ve also been offering help to local Hong Kong startups with validating their idea, gaining traction, fundraising, and scaling – an eye opener and a great way to meet smart people.

When you’re doing a startup, it’s hard to separate life and work. Therefore, why not work on yourself just like you do on your startup? Plan the necessary disengagement from your startup just as carefully as you’d plan the time you work on it. If you can systematically improve and expand your skills, then whether this one works out or not, you’ll be in an increasingly better position as the weeks and months pass.

Are you working harder on yourself than your startup? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Joel Gascoigne is the Founder of Buffer, a smarter way to share. Joel is always learning and shares his journey on his personal blog. He also loves to help others and you can follow and reach him on Twitter at @joelgascoigne.

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