Jan 20, 2020

Start-up Think

Excerpt from Do the KIND Thing

All my mistakes from those days in the wilderness are responsible for KIND’s success today. Trying to forget or hide your mistakes is a huge error. Rather, hold them near and dear to your heart. Wear them proudly. Big failures hold better lessons than any success— as long as you are in tune with yourself and are open to learning from them. I can trace every one of my accomplishments to earlier failures that I learned from. I know that when you are experiencing failure, it’s pretty damn painful. It is easy in retrospect to wax poetic about it. But in the moment, you don’t think you will survive, let alone have the time to reflect on how valuable those lessons will be for you in the future.

That said, this is the most important time to constructively criticize yourself and reflect on what you did wrong, as well as how you can do things differently in the future. Even when you are succeeding, it is important that you be attuned to your mistakes and actively look for those failures. When things are going well, fast growth can hide a lot of weaknesses and deficiencies. There are companies that seem like juggernauts of excellence because they happen to be part of a fast-growing market. But when that market’s growth slows, or when they get hit by a challenge, their weak culture or lack of internal strength may bring them down. It is easy to lead and seem like a superstar when your company and your brand are taking you places. What is really worth admiring, though, is when you hit a wall and your team’s character is tested.

To build a culture of constant introspection and renewal, we at KIND encourage our team to engage in “start- up think”— to review all practices every year, and to reinvent systems or practices on an ongoing basis if necessary. Question every decision anew, think critically. If you are failing, you are forced to do this. Let those failures invigorate you with the knowledge that, once you know what you did wrong, you can now start doing it right. You are half of the way there. If you are not failing, are you aiming high enough? At KIND we embrace the “fail fast, succeed faster” approach and welcome risk- taking and experimentation (with the qualification that we do not roll out products unless we are confident they will outperform in their category). And if you are succeeding, do not let success get to your head. Force yourself to question assumptions— to use the AND way of thinking to see if you can improve on any and every facet of what you do. Let errors inform you and keep you grounded and keep reminding you that you are neither invincible nor a genius, and that you can always do better.

Culture          Entrepreneurship          Leadership

More from Daniel

2022 High Point University Commencement Address

Today, I want to talk about a light and fluffy subject: your generation’s role in steering humanity in the right direction. No pressure, Dalton. 

But in all seriousness, Dalton, I love what you shared about “leaving everywhere you go better than you found it…and finding ways to give grace and inspiration to the people around you.”  

I want to talk today about HOW to do that as you are all simultaneously challenged and blessed with graduating as our world is re-entering a stage of dramatic consequence. 

The ship of humanity is moving in the wrong direction, and it will be upon all of you to steer it back on track. 

To illustrate this point, I want to compare the circumstances when my father’s generation came of age, to those when my generation and your generation graduated from college. 

My father was fifteen-and-a-half when he was liberated from the Dachau concentration camp by American soldiers. He was barely alive.  He never got to go to school past third grade, let alone college. Several of your grandparents were around your age when they were sent to free Europe from tyranny and darkness. 

By contrast, when I was fifteen years-old, my family immigrated to America from Mexico. I was able to attend college during a period when passionate but cordial debate was the norm. I remember observing political leaders vehemently disagree on a particular topic, while maintaining a friendship rooted in respect. Our world was far from perfect – but the arc of human progress trended in an upward direction. Freedom, open markets, human rights, civility, and the quest for knowledge were all advancing.  

It seemed almost too good to be true.  In fact, it was so good that we began to lose sight that Our Great American Experiment isn’t so much a fixed state of affairs as it is a purposeful daily affirmation – something that we opt into, live out, and vote for not once every four years, but every single day – through how we engage with one another. 

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