One thing we’ve learned from the diet crazes since the 1980s is that every single thing has been alternately touted as healthy or poison. No-fat, carb-heavy. Scratch that, no-carb, fat doesn’t matter. Scratch that, it’s only about low-cal. Scratch that, whole-30 and don’t track calories. Scratch that, fast for sixteen hours a day and do anything for the other eight.
Ask any person and they’re equally variable: Which thing worked for them, or didn’t, or worked for a while but it wasn’t sustainable.
So there isn’t an objective answer to the question: What is the best diet?
The right question is: Given that any of this could work, What works best for me?
This is also how start-up advice works. For every clear example that proves “X is right,” there’s another equally compelling story of success where the mantra was “X is wrong.”
So the question is: Which advice is right for me?
In diets, half the answer is physiological — how your body reacts. The analog in startups is: What is right for this company, in this market, with these competitors, with these customers, at this price-point, with this business model, with this team, with their goals. Often the answer is different from what made sense for Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, even though those are the stories we constantly hear.
In diets, the other half is sustainability — can you keep this up for a meaningful amount of time? It’s fine to say social media could be the key to your marketing success, but if you think Twitter is insipid and Facebook is fake and Instagram is not serious, will you really be successful if you force yourself to post things? It’s fine to say user interface design is critical, but thousands of successful companies have crappy design, so if you’re not a designer and don’t care to invest in one, you should instead be asking what made those companies successful in spite of poor design.