If you dabble in gambling and sports, and you haven’t heard of FanDuel yet, you soon will, because they have taken the US fantasy sports world by storm, and are just launching in the UK. Speaking last week at ScotSoft’s Global Forum in Edinburgh, Rob Jones from FanDuel took his audience through the story of the evolution of FanDuel – the struggle to get funding, the moments where they realised they had found a gap that no-one else was filling, and the risks they had to take en route to the success they have found. His message was universally applicable to all companies starting up in their field – and he shared a slide which reminds us all of the importance of how we think about problems.
This is the slide:
You may not be able to read the words unless you hone in on the text, but this slide very visually describes a pathway to success that is not linear, pre-determined and assured from the outset, but rather a pathway that is beset with hurdles, unexpected different perspectives, plans not falling into line, and a lack of order that mathematicians will recognise from their study of chaos theory. It will resonate strongly not only with other startups who are looking to scale up their activity, but also with anyone who has ever had a dream or ambition about anything, and who discover that the route they are taking is maybe not the route they started out on. If life teaches us anything, it is that it is not easy to predict where we will end up, and we need to learn to deal with this somehow.
Many attributes are valuable when it comes to solving the issues which pop up and threaten to derail what we are doing, and what we planned to do. Resilience, enthusiasm, optimism, clear vision, hard work … all of these matter. Above all, however, it is what we believe about ourselves in this process of solving problems that is most likely to determine our success. Developing a growth mindset, as proven and advocated by the educational researcher, Professor Carol Dweck, is, ultimately, the key to successful activity: if we believe that we can adapt, change our thinking, and grow our intelligence through the actions we take, then we will; if we believe that we can do anything if we set our mind to it, and find the right strategy, then we will.
Start-ups are challenging, but they are also exhilarating. So too, it must be said, is most of life, in whatever sphere we find ourselves. For the vast majority of us, each day will bring something unexpected, and each day certainly contains the potential for something to happen which throws us entirely off our present track. When the storm surge comes, as it will, then we are far more likely to ride the crest of the wave if we are practised in believing that there is nothing to stop us learning to surf. We may not be able to surf yet, but – as Carol Dweck points out in her TED Talk in 2014, the power of ‘yet’ is phenomenal. You think you can’t swim/ski/hoverboard/lose weight/do Maths/speak Mandarin/understand quantum theory/organise your life? You may not be able to do it yet, but you can, with the right strategies. And this is what our children really, really need us to tell them and believe and model for them.
The story of almost every start-up company reminds us that the seemingly impossible is always possible – we just have to find the right approach that works for us, in the environment in which we find ourselves.
A growth mindset – everyone should have one. And everyone can.