One thing I've come to realize is the tension between having conviction in an idea and being committed to realizing that idea and vision.
In order to get to a point of conviction, you need to be committed. Committed to do the work, to put yourself out there, to be open to feedback, and willing to be wrong - in public. In order to be committed, it is useful to have conviction. Conviction in the idea, in the business, in the strategy, etc. It is a lot easier to commit to an idea when you're convinced it is going to work.
So, there is this chicken and egg problem inherent to founding.
In the end, conviction comes from doing the work - building the first version, validating the idea, and so on. So, at the beginning at least, you have to take a leap of faith. I've struggled with this. For me, I've come to frame it in three phases: commitment, conviction, and re-commitment.
(1) Commit to building the first version and validating the idea. This is the disciplined part. Be disciplined to put in the work everyday to build that first version.
This is where lean startup / MVP people will say paper prototypes, landing pages, etc. I think that's bull shit. How are you going to become convinced to spend years of your life on an idea off of people's reaction to a paper prototype? Garbage in, garbage out. I have a lot of thoughts on lean startup - maybe another post.
There is of course a balance. You don't want to spend years building in a silo and then realize it's a bad idea. If you happen to be technical, this is easier (if you're not, get technical or partner with someone who is). The first version needs to be good enough where the data you get back is useful in getting to a point of conviction. It needs to be a fair representation of your idea. In my mind, 3-6 months is okay. If you can get there faster, amazing.
Then, put it out there, get feedback, and be honest with yourself about the results.
(2) Next, calibrate your conviction of the current path. This is the hard part. It will never be 100% clear, but essentially you're looking for evidence. If it is not obviously promising, it is probably best to mark it down in the unconvincing column.
Shut it down, move onto the next idea, and start at #1. Take a break in between. Don't burn yourself out, this is the game. All is not lost. Each attempt will funnel learnings and new skills into the next idea. I used to think people just said this to make you feel better after failing, but it's true. You will be better on the next go around.
(3) If you're lucky enough to have conviction, re-commit. Commit to building it - for real. This is the scary part. This is where you take on accountability. You get customers, raise money, hire people. You are accountable to customers, to investors, to employees.
Accountability is good. This is why #1 requires discipline. There is no accountability, no momentum. Just yourself and your idea. Once you have conviction, you should seek momentum as soon as possible - take on accountability to deliver on that conviction. Once the momentum starts, it is no longer about discipline - the accountability and momentum will drive you forward.
I haven't gotten this far, so I can't say what happens next. My guess? This is where the real game begins 🙂.