The Unstoppable Force: A Fraction More Obsession Than Talent

October 29, 2023 4 mins read
Header - StartUp To ScaleUp

A lot of people say they want to be great, but they’re not willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve greatness.

Kobe Bryant

Dear Reader,

Talent is not a strategy; it’s a resource. Being talented is expected; being obsessed is your edge. #ObsessionNeedsTalent πŸš€ (𝕏 Tweet This)

If you’re not obsessed, someone else is. And they will work harder, faster, and more than you. Obsession is your declaration that you’ll outwork anyone, no matter how hard they try. You’ll simply be in the arena longer.

Obsession doesn’t replace talent, but talent alone will not carry you to the finish line. You can’t be obsessed about something you have zero talent or affinity for; that’s delusion. Talent is your foundation. It doesn’t have to be domain-specific; transferable talent will do.


The First Time Founder SuperPower: Ignorance On Fire – What you don’t know is a feature not a bug!


You’re probably not great at everything (much) when it comes to starting, funding, building, and scaling a startup. Your experience in building billion-dollar empires is zero. So how do founders make it? Obsession. It’s the unspoken nod that you’ll figure it out, no matter what.

Obsession is what pushes you to adapt, innovate, and overcome challenges that talent alone can’t tackle. They’re not adversaries; they’re allies.

Obsession means doing it repeatedly until it becomes talent. It’s choosing to personalize every cold email instead of mass campaigning. It’s about sending that extra email, making an additional call, writing another blog, posting more on social media, tweaking your SEO. Obsession turns ‘or’ into ‘and’ – do everything faster, more.

You might look at seasoned founders and wonder where their raw, relentless obsession has gone. The answer is simple: they’ve internalized it into a form of disciplined execution. They may not exhibit the overt drive seen in early-stage founders, their obsession has evolved into a focused, effective form of action. It’s non-destructive and sustainable.

Recognizing that raw obsession has an expiry date, they race to hire incredible talent that can complement their skills and take ownership. A la the Zuckerberg/Sandberg union, the initial obsession refined into enduring impact. Passion may not be as overt, but it’s embedded in their approach.

Being talented is critical. The talent trap is the illusion that innate ability alone can propel you to long-term success. Talent can make you competent, even exceptional, but it doesn’t equal the relentless drive needed to go from nothing to something. Talent without obsession becomes a liability, it makes you complacent, less adaptable, and ultimately, less resilient. That’s the trap: thinking talent alone is enough. It’s not.

Just ask the countless startups founded by Ivy League grads that have crashed and burned, or the highly skilled FAANG engineers who couldn’t turn their technical super power into a viable business.

Obsession is knowing you have to get out of the basement and into traffic, almost everyone you speak to at first will be a no. Often it’s the market, these outsiders that create the mountain that converts you to being obsessed, not all obsession is self created, sometimes its as simple as wanting to convert a no to a yes.

Obsession doesn’t inherently make up for poor execution, but it can be the catalyst for improving it. An obsessed founder will relentlessly iterate, and adapt. This iterative cycle combined with speed turns poor execution into effective action.

A healthy obsession is when you’ll always make time for your startup, no matter what. An unhealthy obsession is when you feel panic or guilt for not being able to. Know the difference.

At some point obsession goes from tactical to quasi mystical. When your gut instinct catches opportunities others miss. It’s not luck; it’s your intense, obsessive focus. You sense signals in the noise; In the code, the pitch, the room, before anyone else catches on.

Work harder, work longer, work faster. Rinse, repeat, and do it again. The secret is simple; do more, and do it better.

β€” James

(LinkedIn | Twitter | Tiktok)

The First Time Founder SuperPower: Ignorance On Fire Next: StartUp Founders: Wars Are Won & Lost At Onboarding
Join us in inspiring πŸš€

StartUp To ScaleUp Newsletter

Where 140k+ founders read my weekly newsletter offering tactical insights to start, scale, and fund their startup. Real advice from a 3x exited founder.