Want a job at a startup? Then enter the fucking Arena!

Here’s a little secret that few students know. Success is built on a boatload of failures. The road to success is trying a million things, discarding the many that fail, and continuing on the few that succeed. To win the contest you have to enter the arena. And when you enter the arena, most times you will be defeated.

When we sponsored our first collegiate code war at C.U., one team spent ½ hour trying to run the server component on Linux (it was a C# app). And when they couldn’t do that, they gave up and left. A week later one of them applied for an internship here at Windward. I immediately told them no thank you. I don’t care if they were considered the most brilliant programmer at C.U. – if they are not willing to step outside their comfort zone they’ll be useless at a start-up.

On the flip side I received a resume from a student who had written several iPhone apps. He was very embarrassed about them because they had all been total flops. I viewed those as a giant vote in his favor because he had created something and put it out there. And when it failed he tried with another and then a third. This is someone understands that the road to success is strewn with failures. We offered him a position.

Which brings me to the impetus for this post. One of our interns was talking to two students, telling them they should participate in our code war. Their reply was that they didn’t do well in competitions and so they weren’t going to enter. This is sad as both will always take the safe road and then wonder why they don’t achieve the great success they see others achieve.

Without a willingness to put yourself on the line, with the possibility of failure, you will never be successful.