A good friend of mine (whom I owe quite a bit to with regard to my interest in the start up world) and I frequently have arguments about various aspects of start ups. My friend is business savvy and I’m tech savvy; although, I’m always trying to look more business savvy and he’s always trying to look more tech savvy. We frequently have differences of opinion on many topics.

One of the (rather broad) topics that’s often brought up: What’s the Right Way(TM) to do a start up?

One thing that I’ve become aware of thanks to my friend is that I don’t do enough reading. Sure, I catch up on Eric Reis‘ blog posts and Steve Blank‘s latest stuff thanks to Hacker News but really I don’t do any deep-dive reading. I will admit it: I haven’t read Four Steps to an Epiphany cover-to-cover.

I do know this: There is no golden path to start up success.

One thing that intelligent people understand is that in order to succeed it’s best to learn from other peoples’ successes. Why else do you think there is such a market for start up founders’ memoirs? Do you think they’re genuinely interesting or something? Nope, the reason people read these things is because they want to be the authors.

Businesses are dynamic and, as they say, no two are alike. So why do people think that emulating others’ path to success will make them successful themselves?

Tools of the trade != scripture

What I like about the lean mentality is that it’s about developing and evangelizing tools that start ups need to succeed. Did you read that? Tools. Not methodologies or practices or kattas or exercises but tools. I’m sure you agree that to call them anything else would be disingenuous.

Unfortunately, people don’t want tools — they want a checklist. What they want is a short cut or a magic pass phrase or something. So what happens with these tools? They get strung together in to steps. People publish generic plans.

Lets drop the pretense…we shouldn’t be worshiping them.

Please, stop with the lists. If you want to be successful you need to learn to think critically (remember that stuff they made you do in school?) about your business, your market, your product, and your capabilities to execute. Come up with your own plan based on those factors, don’t try to lean on other people’s ideas.

Does that necessarily mean you need to throw out their suggestions? Well, no, but don’t take it as gospel either! Think for yourself, mate.