A startup involves the growth of three things: A company, a business value provider, and a person.
The life cycle of a startup has three parts, one after another. It is like a music piece. It is also like a movie series such as Star Wars. There is the prequel, the story, and so forth. In the case of a startup, an entrepreneur must live through the prequel.
No one can skip a step. No one is exception. Even Jobs.
The official startup cycle begins with a choice and ends with a business.
However, before someone can do this, he/she must go through a three year training/learning period. The training must be through real live-fire direct experience with failures. This part is starts with quitting your job and typically ends with a failure and understanding.
Even before that, someone needs to get ready. This is the prequel.
Startup is executing a well chosen business idea and build a business. In the end, a self-sustaining business is formed, the investors are rewarded. And the startup process is finished.
Well, it is not so simple. For example:
(1) A well chosen business idea is not just a "good idea" or a "billion dollar idea". It is an well based on well informed knowledge of a market or industrial sector. To learn such knowledge, you must have prior exposure;
(2) The execution of a startup involves building the company, building the marketing channels, building quality offerings. The execution takes a multitude of experience in terms of management, engineering, sales.
(3) To build a business that will be exclusive and hard to copy, one needs to bake as much quality into the pie as possible. The knowhow to build quality must be performed on the fly. This takes a lot of experience of managing people and egos, as well as technology.
To startup a business, you must survive first. Your design must be a survivable company, and you must prove beyond any doubt that it can survive.
A startup plunge is a fail-forward risk taking without knowing anything that is about to happen. You learn to assemble a parachute on the fly and hopefully you don't plunge to death. If you do fail, then take another plunge - you would be better prepared this time.
So, any startup requires PREREQUISITE LEARNING of all the skills and experiences I just mentioned. Such skills are not something you can understand by learning, for the following reasons:
(1) Schools and books don't teach the real life aspects;
(2) Even if someone teaches you (like I am doing right now), you would not listen carefully;
(3) Such skills can only be learned through DIRECT experience and through failures. You are not attempting to succeed - you are trying to find EVERY possible way things can fail.
This pre-requisite learning takes a THREE YEAR TRIAL RUN. To qualify for this trial run, you must have quit your current job and must do this in a dedicated, focused fashion. Why?
(1) Only when you get into the uncomfortable and risky situation can your head really tune to the learning process;
(2) Only when you quit your job will others take you seriously.
SO FAR, the process of startup consists of 3 years of learning and 10 years of actually running. Thirteen years is a long period of time, for building a business that can survive independently on earth.
Any entrepreneur at the beginning is imperfect.
You jump in. You learn as you jump. You soon learn that everything you have carefully planned for don't work. You learn through directly seeing how mistakes can happen even with the best plan. And you adjust, but you don't abandon. This is where the full hardiness comes in.
You transform yourself in this process. At the beginning, you think everything can happen and dedicate yourself to thinking - you never start, but you think everything is easy. At the end, you focus your energy on building a worthy business - one that solve a problem for the world and get yourself paid. You stop thinking and giving, and starts listening and acting. You become a winner, a business man.