Business Lessons : Captain America

This is the first in a series of articles that I am producing about business lessons we can learn from Comics. That’s right, Comics. I have been a long time fan of Superhero comics, running a website and podcast called ‘The Hero Nuggets’ that merged comic books and humor. I also happen to have started several companies and helped many others in launching theirs. I am applying what I have learned over the years, with what I have enjoyed reading in my spare time.

The first Hero we are learning from is the Star Spangled Avenger himself, Captain America. The ideal American. The Sentinel of Truth, Justice, and the American Way!

Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, Captain America first appeared in 1941. Joe and Jack were repulsed by the actions of the Nazi party before the US even went to war with Germany, and wanted to have a say in the matter. Enter Captain America. Truth is, however, that this business lesson doesn’t fall the way of political squabbles or punching Nazi’s in the face.

This lesson is instead exemplified in Captain America : Castaway in Dimension Z, written by Rick Remender and released in 2012.

In this series, Captain America is stranded in a strange dimension, where he ends up trapped for years. Bearded, hardened, and protecting his enemy’s son as his own, he fights to survive. After his adopted son is taken from him, he must grapple with rescue, revenge, physical trials, and betrayal before finally escaping a deflated hero. Throughout this ordeal, he is broken down both physically and emotionally.

This is our first parallel into starting a business. It’s not easy. You are going to get beaten down. A lot. Told you aren’t good enough. Told that it won’t work. Told that you’re fighting the wrong fight. Unsurprisingly, these are just YOUR inner thoughts.

The outside world isn’t going to be much nicer.

Just like being trapped in an alternate dimension, your business is going to consume your life for the next 5 - 10 years. If you don’t prepare yourself, you won’t make it out alive.

The one thing that kept Captain America going through this ordeal, and will keep you on the entrepreneurial path, was a rock-hard mental fortitude. His was instilled by his Mother, her mantra to the young Steve Rogers was…

‘…You Always Stand Up’

In my time as an entrepreneur, the two major businesses I started have both failed; nothing has shone through more true than this statement. Every venture I attempted gained me invaluable experience for the next one, whether it was photoshop or illustrator skills, sales experience, or simply filling out legal paperwork. I could have given up, taken a corporate job, and played video games until life passed me by, however, I have learned to keep fighting for my success.

So will you.

I have found so many people are stuck in a fixed mindset, and after their first failure they quit. However, myriads of researchers have found that the one shared characteristic between successful entrepreneurs is that they all have piles of mistakes and misteps behind them. Yet, they continue to trudge down the path, try something new, and work harder until they accomplish their dreams.

In fact, at Draper University where I am a Program Coordinator, we have a saying…

‘Fail and Fail again until you succeed’.

We have the students recite this every morning as part of an oath. Why? Because if you don’t push the boundaries, challenge the system, and continue to grow, then you aren’t an Entrepreneur. Sorry not sorry. No successful business person was afraid to make a mistake. Heroes push the boundaries. When they get beaten down, they continue to stand up and fight for their ideals.

An example :
Uber. They have consistently pushed the boundaries, and fought against the status quo while being attacked from all sides with lawsuits, city codes, and disgruntled drivers or passengers. Despite the constant battles, they keep standing up. Clearly drinking the Captain America Kool-Aid.

Now, I want to point out that I am not suggesting quitting your job, leaving behind your security blanket, and barreling into a business because you aren’t afraid to make a mistake or think you are smarter than the average Joe.

Cap not only has the physical ability to take a beating, but as a side-effect of his Super-Solider-Serum, has a brilliant tactical mind. In addition to standing up physically, you must stand tall mentally as well.

Understand your business. Do the research. Know your market. Gain some traction. Plan your attack (some sort of business plan and financial projections). If the information doesn’t look good, abandon it and move onto something else. Fail Fast. Fail Hard. Continue to Stand Up.

A challenge from Cap and Myself :

Cool tip: I’ve taught my Pitching Arts class to over 150 students and business professionals in the bay area. Many of them successfully raised money afterwards, but all of them increased their comfort on stage. So, if you are a business or just want to learn, gather up 10 friends (or co-workers) and I’ll come teach you for FREE! Just e-mail me : Can only get 5,8,9 people? Send me an e-mail anyways, and we’ll figure something out.

Now what?

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Living in the amazing San Mateo, CA.