The Germ of Success by Szymon Janiak


The post was originally published in Polish on Szymon’s LinkedIn profile. Szymon kindly agreed to republish what we think is of great value to our readers.

The widespread and false cult of success is more likely to lead companies to collapse than to triumph. I was reassured once more about this some time ago when a young founder came to me saying that he was in trouble and didn’t really know how to get out of it. In short, he bankrupted the company as a result of a few naïve decisions. It doesn’t matter what the mistakes were – what matters is why they happened. A short conversation led to an obvious conclusion that can be summed up in one sentence: ‘If so many people around us are succeeding, it’s worth the risk – it will probably work out somehow.’

Szymon Janiak, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Czysta3.VC

As much as we love extremes, we rarely read about failures and the conclusions drawn from them. We keep cultivating this cult of success, full of icing, because we want to inspire, unleash imagination, create high self-esteem, etc. We publish more winning stories that always end brilliantly. What we forget in all this is that we are building a false image that many people perpetuate. As a result, they come to firmly believe that there is a lot of success in the startup world.

Everything in excess is harmful… This is how heuristics work, which allows us not to go crazy in this overstimulated world. The result, meanwhile, is irrational expectations, wrong decisions, and ultimately fatal consequences. And I don’t even want to start arguing about how much truth there is in these business fairy tales.

However, balance and realism are needed. Real stories and statistics of fallen innovators are essential. I believe that anyone who wants to take this risk should be aware of the probability of success and the possible consequences of failure. As long as the decision is based on facts, it’s all right, we’re adults.

A change is therefore necessary. It’s time to act. And since thanks to my audience, my voice has power in this space, I decided I should do something about it. As surprising and controversial as it may seem to many, I intend to express my disapproval clearly and unequivocally.

The comment section had several insights to share:

First of all, if success were universal, it would be simple to achieve. And here, we all know that this is not the case. That’s it, and this applies to every area of life.

Jan Duszek, Director of Legal Verification at NWAI Dom Maklerski S.A.

In my opinion, we lack a solid education adequate to the realities of the free market. It’s not just a matter of being aware of the realities of being entrepreneurs, but of a whole lot of other things – e.g. understanding the basics of the currency market, basic terms such as cost, investment, budget, cash…

Dariusz Stelengowski, Brand Identity Owner at ING Bank Śląski

From my observations, humility is often lacking. People from the corporate world, full-time employees, accustomed to many things getting organized ‘themselves,’ often think that they will do great with their company! They don’t have imagination, they don’t know how a company works inside out and how much it all really costs, they don’t have humility. The only thing they have is their own ego, which unfortunately is not always enough.

Ewa Kraińska, Founder and CEO at WHEN U BUY

I know from experience that success clouds the mind. It is easy to fall into all sorts of triumphalism. Failure, on the other hand, is depressing. It’s easy to explain at the level of physiology and all these hormones. The gaming industry heavily embraces all of this mental chemistry. They preach to learn from your mistakes, but that’s the minimum program. You have to learn from both mistakes and triumphs while maintaining emotional balance and commonsense, critical thinking in both situations.

Krzysztof Raszczuk, Investment Advisor at InsERT

Fabricating success is not only about startups. This is what the world of social media looks like: happy, perfect, enviable. How many of us are inside of it… Everyone has to answer this honestly. I’m looking forward to where it leads.

Izabela Walkowiak, Warehouse Management Director at BGW Sp. z o.o.

The widespread cult of success (not necessarily always false) serves to strengthen the egos of those who spread it. Although we may not like it, because it is known that it creates a false image in general, unfortunately, it will be in place. People prefer to boast in order to build their image rather than talk about their obstacles or failures. 

Katarzyna Wojniak, VP of Growth at Ozone Digital Marketing


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