I used to play Street Fighter a lot as a young boy. Like a lot.
And it turns out that I was not the only one. The release of the game had an unexpected impact on gaming and was the beginning of a massive phenomenon. It was launched in 1987 and by 1995, sales of Street Fighter II had exceeded $2.3 billion in gross revenue (that’s equivalent to something like $9 billion in 2016). So it was hugely popular, and you can still play the game today on iOS here.
So last night I was playing Street Fighter (some of us never grow up!) and I realised that there are some striking lessons in the game about entrepreneurship. As a child these lessons went completely unnoticed because as a youngster you quite frankly have little to no idea what do with your life, but now as an entrepreneurially minded person, these lessons seem glaringly obvious.
And in hindsight, it is perhaps for these reasons that I loved playing the game as much as I did, and maybe, just maybe it’s for these same reasons that I love the game of entrepreneurship so much.
So I thought I would take a stab at listing them here.
- All successful entrepreneurs have a clear “why”
In the first release of the game, the player takes control of martial artist Ryu, and then competes in a worldwide martial arts tournament, spanning five countries and 10 opponents. This to me sounds exactly like a modern day business environment. One market, spanning multiple countries with numerous competitors to boot.
In my interviews with some of the worlds leading entrepreneurs and CEO’s on my Digital Kungfu Show, I always ask this question: “What’s your why as an entrepreneur and what gets you out of bed in the morning?”
Interestingly, almost all of the answers I get from my guests fall into the category of purpose. For instance, the responses I get are things like “to make a difference to the world” or “to create value for others” and “to “discover what’s possible”.
In the case of the character Ryu, it is simply to “fight” as you can see in the game ending video below:
Understanding your “why” is probably the single most important aspect of starting a business and becoming an entrepreneur, because when things do get tough (and they will) it will be the reason that you fall back on to keep going in the face of adversity.
2. We all have a unique gift
All of us have a unique gift or talent that we own. Some argue (like my close friend Bruce Muzik) that gifts in life are earn’t and not given.
Each character in the Street Fighter game also has a unique gift — a special power or “move” as it were. Ryu has the “hadoken”, Blanka the “electric thunder” and E-Honda the “super killer head ram”.
In life, skills need to be refined and perfected over time and to become a world leading expert at anything takes roughly 10,000 hours to truly master.
Acknowledging that we all have a unique gift to offer the world and then focusing our energies on developing and nurting it so that we can make a unqiue dent in the world is a fundamental belief that any entrepreneur should have.
3. Perseverance wins
In any context, whether you’re fighting in a tournament or founding a startup, at some point on the journey things will not go as planned.
You’ll lose a round of fighting or maybe lose your biggest client, but when things get tough — the tough have to get going. Those who do not persevere wind up in the entrepreneurial “woosie zone” where all entrepreneur dreams and businesses go to die:
4. Know your opponent
One of the most intriguing aspects of playing Street Fighter is the fact that every opponent you face has a different fighting strategy. The same is true when it comes to competitors in business, because just like a fighting tournament your goal is to win — whether that means capturing a majority market share or building the leading brand in the category.
But whatever your objective, you should never develop any strategy in isolation of the competition, and for me at least, battling stiff competition is what makes playing Street Fighter and the game of business so exciting.
5. Embrace new challenges
The only constant in life and business it that change is inevitable. Innovation and disruption are now constant themes in the business world today and entrepreneurs and businesses who are more adept at embracing the ever changing business landscape will most likely come up tops.
Each stage of street fighter is unique and of course comes with its own unique challenges. Adapting quickly to each stage environment is key to winning — and you can experience the different stage music here.
6. Decisions shape the destiny of your life and business
Decisions really are our ultimate power. The reality today is that things can literally change forever in a single moment. Make the right decision and you can reap the benefits but contrary to that, the impact of making the wrong decisions can literally put you out of business.
In the case of Street Fighter, making the decision to attack when you should be defending against the “super killer head ram” can cost you the match and ultimately the tournament.
7. Success without fulfilment is the ultimate failure
Entrepreneurs often start out to achieve something — success in some way shape or form. This is often wrapped up and labelled under the banner “achievement” but all too often achievement is perceived to be more important than fulfillments and to be brutally honest, it is the biggest fucking lie out there at the moment.
Success without fulfillment really is the ultimate failure in life.
The character E-Honda’s ending demonstrates that even though he’s won the tournament or achieved “success” he still chooses to focus on cooking food with his friends.