Keep calm and pivot

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IMG_5783With startups, there’s constant talk about “pivoting” — knowing when to change direction when something’s not working right. Yelp! started out as an automated email recommendation service, YouTube started out as a video dating site, and Flickr started out as an online game. (Here’s a slideshow with more details on these and other companies that pivoted.)

Jonathan Crowley of Foursquare talked about recognizing when to pivot and also knowing when to throw in the towel. “It’s hard to let go of something, but you’ll have other ideas,” he said and mentioned the idea of being a “serial entrepreneur.”

And investor David Tisch pointed out that having to pivot doesn’t necessarily mean that something failed; it could mean you’ve found another approach or idea that works better.

In one of my favorite episodes of Friends, Ross buys a couch and decides to carry it home himself to avoid paying delivery costs. The highlight is where he yells “Pivot!!!” several times while trying to get it up the stairs in a pretty hilarious scenario (about the 3:50 mark of this video). The final scene shows him trying to return the couch — which is now in two pieces — back to the furniture store.

I’m trying to come up with an insightful takeaway of some sort. But really, a friend happened to send me the photo on the left and I got a good laugh out of re-watching that part of the episode. Besides, there are enough sources of grief, stress and discouragement in the world — sometimes it’s nice to have a lighthearted reminder that when sh*t hits the fan, just keep calm and pivot.

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