I’m no obsessed Star Wars maniac or super-fan, but I always thought it was clever how George Lucas was able to prominently place a gifted entrepreneur into the storyline. No, it’s not Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader.
You don’t have to know every line from every episode to quickly realize that, in addition to being a Jedi Master, Yoda is clearly a master entrepreneur.
One thing I always urge entrepreneurs to do early on in their quest to create a startup is to find the right mentor. I have the privilege of mentoring young entrepreneurs in a local business accelerator, and I think I do a pretty good job, but if I were to recommend a truly great mentor for anyone wanting to start a new business, it would have to be Yoda.
I know… you’re waiting for me to get to the point. Here it is. Being a good mentor means dispensing valuable advice based on your years of experience and expertise. Early in the Star Wars saga, Yoda demonstrates the depth of his understanding of entrepreneurship with what is most likely his most famous entrepreneurial advice: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
Gives you a chill, doesn’t it? But you’re probably thinking, “Hey Ron – even a great quote like that doesn’t mean Yoda is da’ man.” Oh no? He’s just getting warmed up.
One of the things I have written about obstacles to launching a startup is the devastating impact of that powerful emotion – fear. Fear can stop an entrepreneur dead in his tracks, immobilized by the fear of potential failure. Let’s face it – most new businesses fail. That fact hasn’t changed throughout history. Entrepreneurship is about taking a risk, and that means risk of failure, but also success. Often with greater risk come greater rewards. No, Yoda didn’t say that.
But when I asked him for his advice for young entrepreneurs, he pointed to a line he had used before. “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” OMG! That’s amazing! How does he know this stuff?
And consider Yoda’s advice for an entrepreneur wrestling with self-doubt and lack of confidence, a sure startup killer. What would Yoda say? We need look no farther than an exchange with Luke Skywalker:
“[Luke:] I can’t believe it.”
“[Yoda:] That is why you fail.”
Freakin’ Jedi master entrepreneur, I’m tellin’ you! If you don’t believe in yourself, then why on earth would you expect others to believe in you? Partners, employees, investors – if an entrepreneur cannot summon the strength of her convictions, how can she ever succeed?
One of the tricky things about startups is finding the perfect balance between sufficient research and planning, and actually taking action and launching the business. It was Benjamin Franklin who famously said: “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.” Now, Ben is no Yoda, but Winston Churchill and a long list of business experts have often agreed that proper planning is good advice.
But for a startup, too much planning can also be a recipe for disaster. In fact, as those of who espouse the lean startup approach, and especially in today’s rapidly changing technological environment, we’d better get a minimum viable product in front of our customers as soon as possible, or our competitors can blow by us in a heartbeat. Waiting for perfection can kill a startup, and we lose valuable time by not quickly creating an iterative process for customer feedback, which will lead us to our optimal business model.
Not to be contradictory, but we can also agree that jumping the gun and launching a venture without at least the knowledge to see it through is certainly one of many reasons why startups fail. What does Yoda say about that? He clearly thinks you’d be making a big mistake. He counseled young Luke this way:
“If you end your training now — if you choose the quick and easy path as Vader did — you will become an agent of evil.” Ouch! Hey man – that hurts! You’re thinking: “I’m not evil, just maybe a little bit cocky and overenthusiastic.” Get over it. Listen to your customers, your mentors – they will lead you away from the dark side.
Of course, if we listen to the wisdom of the master, train for the challenge that lies ahead, plan for success and have confidence in our abilities – that is truly a powerful force.
And before we leave our esteemed mentor, we must never forget that successful entrepreneurs in turn become mentors to other young entrepreneurs who follow. To which Yoda simply reminds us:
“Always pass on what you have learned.”
Will you follow Yoda’s advice? If so, the Force will be strong with you, young entrepreneur. Succeed you will.