For today’s lesson I want to focus on a concept I learned from Howard Love’s book called the Start-Up J Curve. It’s a book geared towards educating entrepreneurs. Don’t all of a sudden tune out just because you aren’t an entrepreneur or don’t plan on being one. I’m going to extract some of his larger lessons and show how they can be applied to anyone in life.

First, though, I must give you some context into what the book teaches. Howard Love wrote the book in response to a very popular myth about startups. The myth is that if you track a startup’s progress on a graph, you’ll end up with a diagonal line from the bottom-left corner to the uppermost right corner. That’s because supposedly if you build your your business around one really great idea then you’ll enjoy continued, linear growth until you decide to sell.

That was not the case with over 50 companies Howard Love was involved in. But he did notice patterns and has since identified six distinct phases during a startup’s life cycle, each with its own growth patterns.

Phase one is the creation phase. It’s where you come up with an idea and your optimism and enthusiasm propel you forward. Others latch onto your passion and invest capital. However, reality begins to set in and you have a hard time overcoming unanticipated obstacles: things take longer and require more money than anticipated. Emotionally, you’re dipping.

The second phase is the release phase in which your product is finally brought to market. Though it’s taken longer and more money than you’d budgeted, you feel excited again because it’s done. You product will now be in the hands of millions of happy customers. Except, oh wait, more good news. NOT. Your product lands with a thud since it doesn’t appeal to anyone or they’re confused by it.

But this is where the next phase, and I would argue most important phase, comes in. The morph phase. It’s where it’s time to assess what works and what doesn’t work about the product. I’m a firm believer in learning from your mistakes. But you need a method to extract those lessons. What I love about the way Howard Love describes the morph phase is that he emphasizes looking at the positives of your product. No matter how minute they may seem. Do not focus on what’s wrong about it. Instead, find the single thing that is actually working and move the product toward that. You do this through several iterations until you end up with a product that people love. And this is where things materialize and shift into an upward trajectory taking you into the model, scale and harvest phases.

I don’t want to focus on these too much as they get into other territories I don’t want to focus on today, but then again I don’t want to rob you of the takeaways either. So, simply put the model phase is where you figure out revenue streams for your product. The scale phase is where you take the revenue model created for your product and add people, processes and money allowing your company to go to the next level. In the harvest phase is where you essentially begin to reap the rewards of your hard word – not to say it’s rainbows and butterflies but the decisions being made are of a different nature.

The J-curve that Howard Love identified is a more realistic version of a start-up’s trajectory rather than the myth of the straightforward diagonal line. Note though that understanding the J-curve doesn’t make the journey any less difficult. It does however prepare you mentally for those hurdles and give you strategies to overcome them. And that’s what’s important. As the adage goes, it’s 90% mental, 10% physical. And I feel the J-curve model can be seen in all aspects of life, small and large, and therefore used to our mental advantage.

Think about it, any project you tackle, it’s as if you’re launching a start-up. It has desirable goals and outcomes you want to accomplish. You start out with so much enthusiasm and then reality quickly creeps in. That’s when you have a decision to make. To continue or not. Now, in this case, I’m not advocating to continue doing the same thing expecting different results. No, no. The key lies within the morph phase. I find most people pick apart their efforts and highlight what didn’t work in order to shift into something that may work. That can work but Howard Love illustrates and easier way. Look for what’s working, even if it’s a single thing instead of many. No matter how disastrous something may seem, there’s got to be one aspect that offers a glimmer of hope. Go after it.

Want an example? Howard Love was involved with a company that curated the top 10 sites across various categories: sports, film, medicine and so on. They were so proud of the work. And yet it turned out horrendous. Search engines became so advanced that a product like this wasn’t necessary. And yet they saw a very interesting report. Their curated wedding ring websites received loads of traffic. Cut to later on and now they are a service that educates users on how to best purchase wedding rings. And they’re doing amazing. Who knew? But that’s the power of being open to unexpected changes and focusing on the positives rather than the mistakes. Instagram was the same. They were originally a location app. AirBnB started off as something different. Every successful company you study has evidence of the morph phase.

I used the quote before in another lesson but I’ll say use it again because it’s so good. “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill said that. I bring it up because learning from your mistakes can be a misleading term. Learning from your mistakes should teach you what not to do, but more importantly what to do. Always reset your compass back to the positive side lest you end up closing your mind off and therefore never grow.

Remember, there’s always at least one aspect that works, no matter how disastrous it seems. And I’ve found, you can’t create solutions when you’re fixated on identifying problems. One way to phrase it for yourself is “maybe it would work if…” vs “it doesn’t work because…”

Simple, huh? Focus on the positives. Life is funny that way. The biggest truths are the most obvious.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Start-up J Curve, you can purchase the book on Amazon through our affiliate program. It costs you the same except we get a portion of the sale. It’s a win win. You get a great book, we get a kickback from Amazon for sending you.

To wrap-out this lesson, here’s a few quotes to reinforce the ideas brought up:

“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.” – Willie Nelson

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” – Helen Keller

“In order to carry a positive action we must develop here a positive vision.” – Dalai Lama

“Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.” – Zig Ziglar

“Pessimism leads to weakness, optimism to power.” – William James

“I’m a very positive thinker, and I think that is what helps me the most in difficult moments.” – Roger Federer

“Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” – Colin Powell

Before you click away to another lesson from Phil, here’s a few more things. One, I’d like to add my two cents and highlight a quote that speaks to me regarding the message from today’s teachings. It’s from Buddha. “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so let us all be thankful.” See, there’s always something positive to gleam from any situation. To review this lesson, you can read the transcript on Phil’s website. The link is provided. Be sure to leave us a comment because we love reading what you say. If you enjoyed this lesson, please be sure to hit that like button and tell your friends and family about us. Also, you can support this show on if it doesn’t burden you financially in any way. Every contribution is truly appreciated and help defray the costs of putting on this show – which as you can imagine takes a lot of effort. To be notified when future episodes release, subscribe on either Apple Podcast or YouTube. Plus, the show is now available on Google Podcast, Spotify and a host of other amazing platforms. That way you can get the show on your favorite and most convenient app. All you have to do is click the link to the specific platform and then subscribe there. Lastly, if you’re a new host or college student seeking an internship in the LA area and would like to join AfterBuzz, visit AfterBuzz TV’s contact page. A direct link is provided. Or of course you can Tweet @PhilSvitek or Instagram me @BonjourJuliet. Thanks for watching. I’m Juliet Vibert, a producer on the show and we’ll see you next week with another one of Phil’s life lessons.

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