Relax. Startup Success Has Nothing To Do With Hard Work

Instead of grinding every day, here are seven areas to focus on

Joe Procopio
5 min readNov 18, 2021


image by teksomolika on freepik

I recently had a long conversation with a founder friend who had worked herself to the edge of burnout. A yearlong period of slow growth and stagnation had left her frustrated, exhausted, and ready to give up.

As a startup founder, executive, and adviser over two decades, I can totally relate. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been racing toward the brick wall of mental and physical collapse — brought on by the mantra of winning by working harder than everyone else.

Along the way, though, I learned that there’s a huge difference between creating a culture of hard work and creating a culture of results. So before you start making ill-advised pivots borne out of mental desperation, ask yourself which of those two outcomes you’re chasing.

Because one is a path up, the other is a spinning wheel.

Hard work has its limitations

I’m not here to downplay the importance of hard work in the startup world; quite the opposite. Hard work is the minimum requirement for a startup to keep its doors open. New businesses often fail when their leadership just assumes that things will just work out in their favor.

What I want to make perfectly clear, however, is the fact that hard work alone won’t make your startup successful. This is the trap I see a lot of entrepreneurs fall into after they get their first taste of success. The belief is that they worked very hard to get where they are, and working even harder will get them even farther.

But here’s the thing: A startup doesn’t get paid for mastering a commodity, a startup gets paid for harnessing innovation.

Hard work should be reserved for short bursts of mitigation

In every business, new and old, there will always be outlier events that threaten to wrestle defeat from the jaws of victory. It could be a competitor you didn’t see coming, a large customer prospect overstating your chances of getting their business, or your best employee going to work for someone else for more money.



Joe Procopio

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building & GROWERS. Write at and More at