The Emotional States of Resourcefulness

“Rational thoughts never drive people’s creativity the way emotions do.” — Neil deGrasse Tyson

The act of being resourceful is not derived from one single thought or action an individual or group has or does. It is, however a combination of consistent and decisive thoughts and actions that are within the spectrum of a variety of resourceful emotional states. Resourceful people and companies always find the resources to reach their audacious goals.

Photo by Robert Baker on Unsplash

In 1990, J.K. Rowling was on a delayed train from Manchester to London and had the idea of “Harry Potter.” It wasn’t until 7 years later, after her mother died, the birth of her first child, poverty and a divorce, that she took this pain and transformed it into what some would say is one of the greatest creative masterpieces of our time.

Thomas Edison was one of the most resourceful people in history. In 1914, one of Edison’s plants exploded in chemical-induced flames. The New York Times reported that Edison simply said, “Although I am over 67 years old, I’ll start all over again tomorrow….There is only one thing to do, and that is to jump right in and rebuild.” According to a 1961 Reader’s Digest article, one of Edison’s sons, Charles, said as the fire was burning down the multimillion-dollar plant, his father came up to him and said, “Go get your mother and all her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again.” When Charles objected, Edison said, “It’s all right. We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish.”

That night, Edison lost $23 million in today’s dollars that could have ended his career. But as always, his stoicism, determination and perseverance enabled him to rebuild quickly and generate $10 million in revenue the following year.

In 1999, Marc Benioff, the CEO of had a decision to make, stay at his cushy job at Oracle making over $1M a year, or go out on his own and jump into starting a business.

“Through a lot of deep contemplation, you have to go inside for that answer. You can’t get that answer outside. Only you know what is right for you: Your purpose, your ideas, your time frames, how all those things line up, that’s what’s in you,” he said at one of his annual Dreamforce conferences. “And then all of a sudden, I’m like, ‘This is it. That’s the trust.’ I learned to trust myself because now I have the message, it’s time to go, it’s time to actually make that leap.”

Marc tried to raise money from traditional venture capitalists like Sequoia and US Venture Capital among others.

“I had to go hat in hand, like I was a high tech beggar, down to Silicon Valley to raise some money…And as I go from venture capitalist to venture capitalist to venture capitalist — and a lot of them are my friends, people I’ve gone to lunch with — and each and every one of them said no,” Benioff said. “Salesforce was never able to raise a single dollar from a venture capitalist,” he added.

He said they thought the idea was ludicrous. Instead of giving up, Marc used resourcefulness to figure out other ways to get to where he wanted to go. He decided to talk to his friends and see if they would invest in his idea. They did and as they say, the rest is history.

In an interview with Marc Andreessen, the founder of Netscape and now the co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz’s, Marc said, “Why even go to venture capitalists? You should just raise money privately unless someone like yourself (referring to Marc Andreessen) actually adds value because you’re an entrepreneur. But most of them (VCs) aren’t going to give you any value anyway.”

Paul Graham, the incredibly successful founder of Y Combinator, wrote a post in 2009 entitled, “Relentlessly Resourceful.” In it he was trying to figure out how to describe to investors what to look for in entrepreneurs. “They’d be relentlessly resourceful…..If I were running a startup, this would be the phrase I’d tape to the mirror. “Make something people want” is the destination, but “Be relentlessly resourceful” is how you get there.”

What are some of the emotional states of resourcefulness that inevitably leads to success?

Burn the boats

There is a common saying, “burn the boats”, meaning give yourself no other option but to move forward. There is no returning to safety. You must win, or die.

This reference is from the 1519 exhibition of Mexico and eventual conquest of the Aztec empire by Hernán Cortés and hundreds of his men. Cortés faced imprisonment or death for defying the governor if he returned to Cuba. He had a choice to return to Cuba or fight. He decided to fight and ordered his men to destroy the ships so they could not return. They entered the point of no return. The common misconception and expression of “burn the boats” should actually be “sink the boats” since Cortés’ men were ordered to actually scuttle the ships. However, burning the boats gives us a better visual to motivate and take action.

Be relentlessly resourceful.

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