10/02/2012 05:42 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How to Navigate the Anxiety of Building a Startup: Lessons Learned From Timeless Wisdom


My family in Colombia comes from a region that is notorious for the incredible work ethic, and entrepreneurial spirit. It is the heart of the coffee region, Pereira. My great-grandfather, Alfredo Hoyos Mejia, who lived until he was 96, was an incredibly successful business man. He was a self-made millionaire, and one of the country's most important poultry and livestock cultivators. He was as famous for his business whit as he was for his incredible charisma. Until the last day of his life, he could tell you exactly how many heads of cattle he had on his farms. Those in his family were given timeless pearls of wisdom to help guide any new venture. On the days that inspiration seems to be drying-up, I remind myself of the things he taught us. Here are several that I would like to share with you:

1) A watched pot, or iPhone, never boils. Things have their own timing, and when we are pressing for an outcome (like a text message, a phone call or a new source of funding), the negative thoughts we are holding in our mind can cause us to suffer for no reason. My great-grandfather would shake his head when he saw people checking email on their vacation or answering a text at dinner. He would always say that "al que le van a dar, le guardan" -- which means, if it's for you, they will save it.

2) Leave room in your life for inspiration. When we are really engrossed in something, whether a new initiative or relationship, our most inspired moments come as a direct result from doing something unrelated. Lightning will only strike when we are aerating. We need distance to see clearly, and space.

3) Surround yourself with beauty. Whether it's art, an incredible view or a person. When you are surrounded by beauty something inside of us awakens. This can cause incredible inspiration through the senses. He never stopped marveling at his surroundings.

4) "Juntos pero no revueltos" or "Always sunny side up and not scrambled." It's important to never lose yourself. You are not your job, no matter how important you think it may be, and you are not your relationship. If you get fired or break up, you will still be left with you -- and you a chance to be better than ever before.

5) You are the owner of your destiny. Be careful who you let make your important decisions, just because someone has a degree or a title, doesn't mean they know what is best for you. My great-grandfather rarely listened to what "experts" told him, not even in medical situations.

6) Don't compromise your values because of what society tells you. When Don Alfredo was already fighting arthritis would still work hard to climb the stairs by himself. He would tell us, "I want to die the way I lived, always challenging myself and always on-top."