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Are the problems you are dealing with today the same problems you were dealing with 6 months ago?

Valenture Institute recently had its first in a series of fireside chats with entrepreneurs. For our first conversation, we brought in one of the best entrepreneurs I know, my brother Sam Paddock.

We spoke to Sam about his experience on the ground in the startup world, the reality of what it takes to find product/market fit and then scale a business, the challenge of meeting heavy cultures, radical business pivots, the mindset required by anyone in a startup environment, and much more.

On the topic of dealing with problems, which is a lot of what is done in a startup environment, Sam said something that really stuck with me:

"The best indicator of progress in a startup is not the absence of problems to deal with on a daily basis, rather, it's whether the problems you are dealing with today are the same problem you were dealing with 6 months ago."

Love love love love love this!

It's tempting to believe that we'll have done our jobs when "things calm down" and we have less problems to deal with every day. It's a lovely ideal, but totally unrealistic in the startup environment, especially for a high-growth business like Valenture Institute. If problems are inevitable, then the more interesting question is whether we're still dealing with the same problems we were dealing with 6, 12, 18 months ago. If we are, then we're not moving forward in the way we could/should as a startup. The ideal is that we regularly graduate from our current set of problems, which enables us to deal with the next next set of higher-order problems facing the business.

I've reflected on this a lot, and the more I think about it, the more I realise that it's a framing which can be applied to any sphere of our lives.

At home, the fact that my dog Bella tries to wake me up every morning at 3am is a problem I've allowed to persist for the last two years, and then I have the audacity to still get upset with her when she keeps doing it? I'm somehow magically hoping that the problem will go away without actually being willing to do the hard work of changing this habit pattern. Solving problems takes work, and the invitation for me to step up and do the work has been there for the last two years.

In our intimate relationships, we can be guaranteed that there will be a never ending list of problems for us to deal with, but again, a sign of a healthy and productive relationship is not that you get on perfectly with each other and have no problems to deal with - that's probably a dishonest relationship. Rather, it's that as a couple you are not still dealing with the same problems you were dealing with 6 months + ago. Instead, you're now dealing with a new set of problems which have arisen in response to the changing context of your lives.

It's the same with family, friends, health, community, finance... everything.

In a strange way, I find it liberating to realise that problems are inevitable. Every single problem is an invitation for growth and learning, and if we approach it as such, then bit by bit we can become more integrated humans, and play our part in solving some of the biggest problems facing the environment and humanity.


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