The 3 Laws of Thermodynamics and Entrepreneurship [Scuffed Shoes]

[Part of our fortnightly series, Scuffed Shoes will take a closer look at entrepreneurship. The series is contributed by K Srikrishna, an entrepreneur and an angel investor.]
It never ceases to surprise me, whenever I find myself actually using something that I learned in college. The Three Laws of Thermodynamics are one of those things.

Even understanding thermodynamics as a topic, let alone the laws governing it, was a challenge. It was not something I expected to ever use again – especially after I’d stopped being a practicing engineer. Yet I was delighted to find that the Three Laws of Thermodynamics – were applicable to being an entrepreneur as well. For those who are not up on (or have forgotten) the 3 laws here they are – stated in plain English.

1st Law – You cannot win, you can only break-even The first law of thermodynamics basically says you can’t create something out of nothing – at best you can conserve what you have

2nd Law – You can only break-even at absolute zero The second law says, you can do the conserving only at absolute zero – in other words – chaos or entropy will get you at any temperature above absolute zero

3rd Law – You cannot reach absolute zero Oh, incidentally, the third law says you can’t get to absolute zero

Similarly there are three laws that govern entrepreneurship

1st Law – You cannot lose, you can only win The history of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs is filled with examples of folks who continuously reinvented themselves and their businesses – winning against all odds. A case of reality trumping fiction – often stranger than the most Hindi movie plots – business history is rife with stories of unsinkable entrepreneurs who just wouldn’t say die! I like to think of this as passion.

2nd Law – You can only win if you persevere Every one of those cliches you’ve heard – its darkest before light, race goes to the steady, not just the swift – is true. In order to win, you gotta persevere – hang in there against all odds and at times be plain stubborn and unreasonable.

3rd Law – You cannot persevere without the right attitude All the perseverance in the world won’t help if you don’t have the right attitude. One man’s perseverance is another man’s pig-headedness. So an attitude that lets you take the good with the bad – many a days for every step forward you’ll seem to be taking two backwards, that this too shall pass, that allows you to celebrate and enjoy the journey each day rather than wait for the great big event that’s coming down the road is critical to survive entrepreneurship. Prudence is what I like to term this.

As anyone who’s been married will tell you, passion can easily turn into pride, perseverance into pig-headedness and prudence can become complacency – so finding the right balance and staying passionate, persevering and being prudent is key to entrepreneurial success.

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