According to science:

  1. Diets don’t work.
  2. There is no solid evidence that meditation has any tangible benefits.
  3. It’s estimated that up to 90% of startups fail, most within the first couple of years, let alone become a unicorn.

So I guess we should all resign ourselves to being fat, stressed-out slaves to the 9 to 5?

Failure is an option…

There is some truth to the above statements.

Most diets do fail for most people, most of the time.
Most people that try meditation will give up, having seen no benefit.
Though the 90% figure seems exaggerated, it is true most businesses fail.

It’s unsurprising then that we see so many articles advocating for fat acceptance, that sceptics write off meditation as just another SCAM, and that the vast majority of people are scared to quit their day job and start a business.

Don’t be most people

Just because something doesn’t work for most people most of the time doesn’t mean that it won’t work for you. You should be wary of diet testimonials. But they do show that some people manage to lose weight and keep it off. Some diets do work for some people some of the time.

Most businesses might fail, but there are also lots of success stories out there.

Meditation is the odd one out. Despite what you might have read, there aren’t any proven success stories. Though as I’ve argued before, it could still be worth a try.

Is it the plan or the person?

Are there better or worse diets, or better or worse dieters?

Research has shown no significant difference in success rates between any specific diets. Low carb, low fat, calorie-controlled, paleo, vegan, fasting, all deliver the same results on average. Most people lose a small amount of weight, but ultimately gain it all back. Only a small percentage of people manage to stick to any of the diets long-term and keep the weight off permanently.

Questions that remain unanswered (to my knowledge) include:

  • Would the successful low carb dieters still have succeeded had they been assigned to a low-fat diet and vice versa?
  • Might the unsuccessful dieters have been successful on a different diet?

In other words, while we know that there is no “one true diet” for everyone, might there be a “one true diet” for you? One for each individual? Alternatively, are there simply some people that are better at dieting than others? Does it come down to will power, determination and motivation?

My guess is that it’s a mix of both. Highly motivated people with very strong will power will likely succeed on any diet. Others may find Diet A excruciating but do pretty well on Diet B. Low carb no good for a pasta-loving Italian, low fat a nightmare for a cheese-loving French.

There will be people however that are unable to stick to any diet. Just because some people can do something, doesn’t mean everyone can.

In the world of venture capital, it’s common to hear the trope “Invest in Founders, Not Ideas”.

A bad business idea is doomed to fail. But a good business idea isn’t guaranteed to succeed.

What exactly is it that makes someone a successful founder or dieter? There are no doubt many factors, and success in one field by no means guarantees success in the other. But tenacity has to be a major factor.

Keep rolling the dice

Success is all about going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.

Quote attributed to Winston Churchill.

I have failed at diets. I have failed at business ventures. I have tried and failed to meditate numerous times.
But I tried again. And again. And again…

There is a stigma associated with the word failure in our society, to the extent that many of us develop a deep fear of it.
No one wants to be branded a failure.

But this is crazy! If you’re overweight, you try to lose weight and fail, are you any worse off than had you not tried in the first place?
Of course not, in fact, you’re better off because you most likely learned something in the process.

It may be a cliché, but the only way to truly fail is to never try at all or to give up at the first hurdle.

Iterate, Pivot or Persevere?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.

Quote attributed to Albert Einstein

Well, maybe, maybe not. Doing exactly the same thing over and over again might be crazy. But what about trying again with some changes? Eric Reis popularised the concepts of “iterate or pivot” in his book The Lean Startup. Two options to consider when a plan isn’t working out as hoped:

  • Iterate – A minor adaptation to the original plan.
  • Pivot – A major change to the plan, but that builds on foundations that have been laid.

Unfortunately, there’s no golden rule to tell you which is the right course of action. The world is too complex, there are too many variables. But note that quitting is not one of the options.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Is trying the same thing repeatedly expecting different results actually crazy? Robert the Bruce (and the Spider) would disagree.

The world is constantly changing, and so are you. Take for example these 10 visionary startups that failed because they were ahead of their time. It can take a very long time for emerging trends and technologies to become mainstream.

When I first launched Green Pasture Farms, hardly anyone had heard of the paleo diet or grass-fed meat. On top of that, the concept of ordering food online was practically unheard of. The first few years were lots of hard work for little reward. Fortunately, I persisted. Eventually, the paleo diet gained renown, as did the benefits of pasture-raised meat.

It wasn’t just the world that changed though. Over the years I learned huge amounts about marketing, sales, web design, psychology, productivity, motivation, stress management and much more. Every iteration of the business also involved an iteration to myself. In fact, I think all the biggest and most important changes I’ve made have been to myself.

Purely anecdotal, but I think meditation, introspection and philosophy were a crucial part of my successes.

Perhaps you’ve tried and failed a diet once, maybe even twice or three times. But you’re no longer the person you were back then, nor is the world around you the same.

Maybe you had additional stresses back then? Or now you’re more motivated and/or have better support? New healthier restaurants have opened in your area? There are better options available in the supermarket?

Again, there are no simple rules or guidelines to tell you to persist, iterate or pivot. But just because something failed in the past, doesn’t mean it’s doomed to fail forever. Keep trying.

boston terrier wearing unicorn pet costume
Look him in the eye and tell him he’s a failure
Photo by mark glancy on

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