Startups don’t  issue company ID badges, HR paperwork, office keys or any of the other accoutrement of a corporate job.  No desk, no phone: often it’s  just you, your laptop and your personal mobile.

But there’s one thing everyone should equip themselves with on day one:  a kevlar helmet and virtual shock absorbers.

When things get rough in your startup company, take comfort in the fact that there is no business in the history of the world, not even Google, that has had a smooth ride.  Douglas Edwards, employee #59, called the early days of Google “chaotically fecund.”

Somehow Google survived the chaos but chances are your startup won’t just because,  you know, the odds.

Does that deter you? Didn’t think so.  Anyone who has the backbone to start a business probably has the fortitude to keep going when the ride gets rough.

Whether the chaos in your startup is ‘fecundity’ or financial instability, you really need two basic things to survive:  a ‘true north’ and a captain to steer you there.

Having a mission statement–putting your ‘true north’ in writing– sounds so old-fashioned, but it’s  just as important as your elevator pitch.  This is your ‘exit the elevator’ pitch.  You have just enough time before the doors close to say “build fun games for intelligent people” or “bring joy to sick children in hospitals all over the world through music.”  Don’t make it too long or too general.  “Don’t be evil,” as we’ve learned, can be broadly interpreted.

Your true north is not a discovery, it’s a fixed star.   No matter how far or how frequently you pivot away from your original plan, all of your decisions should be informed by  your true north.

And do you have the right chauffeur for your sleek limousine (or your clown car?)  Is it you?  Are you focused, and can you delegate? Do you understand how to get everyone moving in the same direction?  Even if you do, are you strong enough to survive when the VC’s show up?

If you’re not, find someone who is. Give the driver a destination and then allow her to take you there.  And make sure you have a reliable vehicle and capable mechanics.  Successful startups are steered, not static.

Not all bumps feel like the end but one of them will likely be: that’s just math.  The best way to keep the odds and the startup gods on your side is to know where you’re headed and trust and empower the one who’s taking you there.

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