Most startups fail, and yet most CEOs project inevitable success. What gives?

I can explain this in one of two ways:

  1. Most CEOs are crazy

  2. Most CEOs are lying

It’s probably a little bit of both. CEOs have had some success and expect it to continue. CEOs are also strongly pressured to convey enthusiasm, both to the world and to their employees, even if slightly dishonest.

This isn’t necessarily bad. People prefer working in a context of promised success. Failure and uncertainty are really hard to deal with psychologically.

Psychological cost of uncertainty#

There is a psychological cost to uncertainty or possible failure that someone in the organization has to pay. Either it’s …

  1. The CEO, who swallows that uncertainty, spins it, and lies a little bit to the team, telling everyone that everything will be ok.

  2. The team, who accept that their work may fail and deal with it.

Personal Choice#

I try to be an honest person. This isn’t due to any kind of ethics; I just find dishonesty to be emotionally very stressful. I live a better life when I don’t hold anything back.

This often has negative consequences, but overall it filters for colleagues who have a frank and realistic view of the world, which I appreciate.