The mithycal life of some entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, is incredibly helpful when we are called to scientifically analyse the life phases of these eccentric, ingenious characters but yet always committed to build a better future for everyone. The adventurous attempts of Musk, for instance, began in the early 2000s, when he launched his private rocket brand, SpaceX. Not many years later, he destined millions into his electric car company, Tesla. Everyone was laughing after him, since all of his rocket vechicles exploded and the cars were months behind the schedule. Suddenly a point of no return arrived: there were enough money to finance only one more launch and, on the other hand, if the cars didn’t appear both of his businesses would end, and so his fortune.
When interviewed Musk states that he was about to have a mental collapse but, surprisingly and luckily, the rocket launch succeded, NASA hired SpaceX with a huge contract, the cars were delivered and today he still runs the two billion worthing business.
In Silicon Valley nowadays you can’t say to have succeeded until you have failed. In this sense failure or close failure constitutes a matter of pride. It becomes a story to be told, a parable , a company’s founder memory that accurately describes what and why his business went wrong and, maybe, how he made it to survive.
In certain terms the frame seems to repeat over and over again in the same way: a fantastic idea and a fabulous plan to make it real. Next, adversities that hardly test the resistence of the entrepreneur. Eventually the downfall (usually because they run out of funds); however most of these people will anyway state that great things are like a phoenix: they are born from the ashes.
The reason why many are still concerned with failure, are obsessed with fear to not succeed, seems to be unconscious: the entrepreneurs may have adopted one of the strongest narratives in our culture: the one related with hardships and redemption.
For the Western culture adversity is not useless, is not something to be avoided. It has a cathartic and transformative power, it constitutes a necessary step to self fulfilment. Professor McAdams, at the Northwestern University in Illinois, has listed five stages that compose this narrative: 1) a sense of being original, different, creative; 2) a strong sense of determination 3) the advent of hardships of many kind 4) a re-interpretation of these adversities into positive experiences; 5) a commitment to be socially useful. The professor spotted that people who absorbed this mental attitude tend to be generative: in other words, they are more responsible, constructive, optimist and resilient. Another thing that make them different from the others is that they are deeply concerned about their legacy and would like to be remembered as world problems solvers. But nevertheless this strong sense of ‘improvement burden’ usually is accompanied to a sometimes arrogant disposition, a fierce and proud spirit of self-importance that get very well along with the selfish-geek-stravagant ego that can easily be found around the Silicon Valley.
Now, there are three main chapters of the tech version of the Redemption Story mentioned by McAdams: the Awesome Journey, The Pivot and, eventually, Making the World a Better Place.
The first stage consists in endless hours of work, the advent of the first hardships, many occasions of learning and so on. This chapter is like the ‘moral challenge’ of the classic literature: all the obtacles that our hero encounters along his way are read and seen in function of his later triumph.
The second stage, the pivot, is represented as an acknowledgement moment, the deep understanding that the time has come to change something in the plans. In this sense pivoting makes a rebirth out of a failure, it’s rather an evolution step than a setback. Even if the faith in pivoting might be a delusion (because the stats say that who failed the first time is more likely to fail again) it’s an important part in the narrative of progress. It stimulates perseverance and grit and keeps the moral high: it’s a winning mind attitude that fosters one of the most important resources that each entrepreneur should have: resilience.
The third and last step is the will to improve the world. Although it may sound a little presumptuous, the techstars storytelling always culminates in an authentic wish to improve the social environment. In the narrative of redemption the will to be prosperous is perfectly compatible with this inspiration that, often, carries out extraordinary philantropy works. It is true, indeed, that these great exploits are often interested-biased or performed with paternalism but, at the end of the game, what really matters are actions, and not intentions.