Why Startup Founders Fail: The Slippery Slope of Doubt

This is where startup founders take that bad deal

Joe Procopio
5 min readMay 1



I’m going to leave that word there for a minute to get you into the mindset of being truly open to what doubt is, why it happens, and what it can cause.

Because what it can cause, it’s not what you think. It’s much, much worse.

Take a breath, because we’re going to dive into some dark spaces.

What Doubt Is

Doubt is why you fail.

You can believe that or not. I don’t care. I’m just asking you to have an open mind about it.

Why does a professional basketball player miss two straight critical free throws at the end of a game? I mean, on a practice floor, they can make 100 out of 100 free throws. You can’t. I can’t. They can.

The reason they miss is 100 percent pure concentrated doubt. For one brief fraction of a microsecond, they lose the belief that the ball will go in the basket like it does 100 out of 100 times. It’s imperceptible. It impacts one set of muscle movements by a fraction of millimeters.


Now. If you believe that, you can believe this next part or not. Again, don’t care. Just have an open mind.

If we are to have any explanation for the unexplained reasons why we succeed or fail — outside of externalities, a higher power, and straight science, all of which I believe exist and have a role to play, I’m talking about the rest of it, the you of it — one has to start chaining together some rules to explain the unexplainable.

So, I start with this unflinching truth: If you believe in something strongly enough, and you work hard enough, and you make the right decisions when those decisions need to be made, you will succeed.

I am NOT saying that if you wish for it hard enough, you’ll get it. Far from it. What I am saying is that it’s easy, in hindsight, to figure out when we were lazy or we made the wrong decision. We rarely check whether or not our lack of belief was the root cause.

We don’t want to believe that we didn’t believe. Because that says something ugly about our…



Joe Procopio

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