• Gideon Grobler

StartUps: The Most Important Thing 02 - Doing The Work

As a startup, You need to get the “flywheel” spinning and keep it spinning.

“There is no silver bullet that's going to fix that. No, we are going to have to use a lot of lead bullets” - Ben Horowitz

Here are some initial thoughts on doing the work... Do the work! The only way to get the work done is to actually do the work; A very talented human being once told me “you are going to do the work, it is what needs to be done; so learn to love it because you need to do it”. The only way to become competent in something that matters is to put in the hours. Breaking through the resistance of not doing, postponing, deflecting, ignoring, waiting for inspiration or fairies to do the work. The difference between amateurs and pros are that pros show-up and do the work; There is no such thing as “writer's block”, show up with grit. You need to get through the bad stuff to get to the good stuff. Break through your resistance; know yourself and get going, get back to work.

How much do you need to know? Well that depends, what you are doing? In my view (a generalist) you need to know enough to get by, you will not get through your day productively and efficiently if you need to know more than enough. It is in this regard that the 80/20 principle (Pareto’s principle) rings true and comes to mind. Know when to learn more, change and adapt to remain current and in demand.


There are 4 levels of competency that contributes and affects the work we do:

  • Not knowing that you don’t know what is needed - the worst place to be.

  • Knowing that you don’t know what is needed - Now you can do something about it; Ask good questions and be mindful.

  • Knowing that you know what is needed - It's getting there, you still need to think about it.

  • Not knowing that you know what is needed - It’s automated and part of your being; the ultimate form of competence.


Knowing where you are in the tasks that you are doing and should be doing is key to doing the work. If you believe Malcom Gladwell (I do), it takes 10,000 hours to become really competent. Know who you are; strengths, weaknesses, blind spots (unknown and hidden). Apply who you are to the work you put in, what you are really good at. Sometimes the work requires us to exercise our weaknesses and fears, time for some inner grit and smash it. I believe in doing the work, you need to reinvent the wheel to understand the work and practice for the day or time when there is no-one or nothing that can show you how to do the work - Entrepreneurs love reinventing the wheel, you need to know the work and the uncharted work, failure and rising from the ashes in an epic fireball.


It’s going to hurt; however pain is temporary, the greatness is worth the pain; Mantra “It feels so good”, placebo experiment.


Doing the work, requires decision making - make informed decisions; if you are right, good for you; if you are wrong, fix it. As with any task, you can do one of three things:


  • Do it - its important, you can do it yourself.

  • Transfer it - It needs to be done by someone else (delegating and motivating).

  • Kill it - it has no value and wastes resources.

Don’t be afraid to make decisions; know the why, how, when, where, who and what. Setting principles and a clear vision to guide decisions and work is the north star of your purpose. Setting the standard and sticking to it; know when it is good enough (from great to good enough, not from bad to good enough); the inverse of good enough is what is important.


Resources in the context is your time, other people’s time, money, things, effort, opportunity, skills, capacity, happiness and well being.


You need extraordinary talent in every position - Extraordinary people only need the vision; they will test, iterate, research, try and do until they get where they need to be.

“Deep work is professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to the limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skills and are hard to replicate” - Cal Newport

Deep work is valuable - the ability to carry out deep meaningful work that is limited to your ability that is not easily replicable or automated; putting in the time, mixing with the right resources, creativity and innovation is a key contributor for generating valuable work. The ability to do hard things and the ability to produce at an elite level in terms of quality and speed.


Deep work is rare - the ability to do deep work is becoming rarer due to the sea of distractions and stimulants around us. The path of least resistance; focus for a length of time. Letting the boredom do the work - the only thing you can do is doing the thing you need to do for a set period of time with nothing else (you are not allowed to do anything else).

What is most important to you will be prioritised; Get rid of the distractions and embrace boredom.


You also need to get the mundane and usual done, not everything is hostile takeovers and swinging from buildings and crashing through windows completing the perfect monkey-roll, the continuous groundwork needs to be done to set the tone and base for hostile takeovers.


Schedule the work - Decide how you are going to spend your time, every day, every week, every month… Getting into a state of flow, timing, environment, motivation, preparation - total immersion and revving your cognitive ability, making sense of the chaos and walking through walls to get the work done.


'Move fast and break things' to 'Move fast with stable infrastructure' - Mark Zuckerberg

Technology is your friend, creating a platform to do some amazing work - automation and standardization is amazing and can lead to efficiency and effectiveness; know when to improve and change the system to remain relevant and in front. This is the dilemma between automate/systemize and change/innovate.


Technology has provided us with the freedom and opportunity to work remotely; it’s more a case of what you do than where you do it. Managing the people and not the chairs. Create an environment and culture that embraces remote work.


Mix with the best - Document and understand your own case-study; pay attention (the art of mindfulness); Lead like there is no tomorrow! And DO the WORK.


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