As a startup founder — or anyone doing hard things — the path is often riddled with obstacles, uncertainty, and moments that feel insurmountable.

Yet, it’s in these moments of intense difficulty I’ve discovered the greatest growth and development occur.

It’s not that I crave difficulty. It’s that I’ve learned to see it as a positive signal that eventually yields success.

It’s a mindset and road less traveled, but one that shapes you in ways unimaginable.

It’s a reminder for me that I’m running towards the fire—not away from it. And that feels good.

The Joy of Not Quitting

There’s an inexplicable joy in not quitting when everything seems against you.

When the odds are stacked high, and the way out isn’t clear, it’s a stark reminder of how challenging it is to build startup ventures, and create something novel to positively impact the world.

At these junctures, many falter, but this is precisely when you should dig deeper.

Maybe the product launch flunked. Your new feature is not getting product-market fit or another investor says, “it’s too early, too late, or too different from their investment thesis”, meaning you’re face to face with a bad ending.

When I face such moments, instead of getting demoralized, I become more focused. It’s a mental shift from despair to determination. It’s a trigger to tell myself, if I can keep going and avoid giving up, success becomes even more attainable.

Most people stop when it gets tough, which is understandable. Yet, for me I remind myself hitting tough points is part of the process, and pushing through — especially when the majority stop — is part of the method to succeed when others don’t.

By persisting, you set yourself apart, giving yourself a real shot at succeeding.

Proximity to Disaster

I’ve had plenty of the pleasure and pain associated with being part of numerous ventures that struggled and stopped, to businesses that broke through and went beyond my wildest dreams.

When tough moments occur, I remind myself that this isn’t the first time I’ve been near disaster. And likely will not be the last.

Reflecting on my career, there was a seminal moment back in 2002 in our mobile games development startup in Edinburgh where the business was on the brink because of a catastrophic launch of a game we built for one of the world’s three largest gaming device brands. That experience taught me a crucial lesson: the remedy for pain is progress, and progress is made one small step at a time.

Stakeholders were unhappy. Legal threats made in every meeting. It felt like all we had worked for was over because of one mismanaged moment.

It was the hardest time I’d experience in my career but I learned most from it.

Compounding Is The Magic of Progress

Each day, I woke up with a resolve to make a little progress—on litigation, the product, and my life.

And I learned that progress, like compound interest, is the most magical force on the planet.

You see initially, it’s slow and almost invisible. But give it time—30 days, 90 days—and you start seeing significant changes.

Think of it like climbing a mountain. If you constantly look up at the peak, you might feel overwhelmed and tempted to stop, give up and quit because the task seems impossible.

But if you focus on taking it step by step. Make a little bit of progress each day, without constantly looking up at the peak just the next meaning point ahead before you know it, you’ll look back and be amazed at how far you’ve come.

The other lesson is perspective is critical.

For instance, when I was in the moment of shouting stakeholders and lengthy litigation it felt like the world was ending.

Yet, looking at that moment as a sharp dip plotting over the company’s lifetime and my career, a huge drop that once felt catastrophic now appears as a minor blip in the grand scheme.

It’s important to think long-term, and remember perspective.

The Key to Perseverance

To power through these challenging times, certain fundamentals are indispensable: nutrition, sleep, exercise, and a little progress every day.

Surround yourself with supportive peers, friends and family.

Simple actions like taking a walk with a friend can work wonders to clear your head and give you the strength to keep making it happen.

Having loved ones who believe in you, even when they worry about your well-being, provides the mental and social strength to keep moving forward.

Make sure you’re aware of it, and put it into place for your overall well being.

The Bigger Picture

Recently, I wrote a post to remind myself of the fleeting nature of life and the dangers of limiting beliefs.

We have around 800 months if we’re lucky. This short time should be a call to action: talk to that person, apply for that job, or better yet, start that business.

Limiting beliefs are the barriers we place on ourselves.

Are You Ready To Run At Your Fire

By running towards the fire, embracing challenges head-on, and refusing to quit, you break through these barriers and realize your true potential.

The path of a startup founder — or anyone doing hard things — is fraught with difficulties, but it’s also where the most significant growth happens.

When faced with extreme challenges, remember that persisting through the tough times is what sets you apart.

It’s not about avoiding the fire; it’s about running towards it and emerging stronger on the other side.

Life is short, so make every moment count and push beyond your perceived limits.