Separation Week and the Formula for Success

December 27, 2019

I like to think of the week between Christmas and New Year’s as a free week. Most people are out of the office, whether on vacation or just enjoying time off at home.

Which means that most of your competition is sitting still. It’s essentially a rare week where you can get ahead simply by working. A week where you can separate from competitors. A Separation Week.

Which brings me back to the one topic about which I’d write, if I were to ever write a book. My Formula for Success (which I first put down in writing in 2017).

It’ll never get old to debate whether you have to work long hours at the expense of other aspects of your life in order to be successful, but it’s popping up again this week in Startup Twitter.

That debate continues to miss the point for me (though I firmly believe the answer is yes, you do have to work long hours). It misses the point because what matters is what makes you successful, which I believe is a simple formula:

(Work Output) * (Strategy) * (Luck) = Success

You can work 40 hours/week if you have a strategy that is orders of magnitude better than your competitors or if you’re extremely lucky. You can work 40 hours/week if you have the same strategy and similar amount of luck, but are able to complete 10x the amount in 40 hrs/week as your competitors complete in 100 hrs/week.

But, the fact is, you have to produce something. You must produce quality work output. In the real world, it’s rare that your strategy is so much better than your competitors that you can afford to slack in your work output. You aren’t so much luckier either.

So, all things being equal, yes, working more will lead to better outcomes. It is what it is. Suck it up. Startups are hard. Harder than you can ever imagine, actually. If you want to make change in the world and/or run a successful startup, expect to work long hours. If you aren’t willing to do that, get a “normal” job -- it’s not a bad thing to do.

And, so, in this separation week, and heading into 2020, I wish you all the success in the world.