The Odds of Successful Entrepreneurship: How to Overcome the Holy Grail Syndrome


By Tijs Besieux

In this article, Tijs Besieux discusses the four steps to overcoming the Holy Grail Syndrome, which could hinder an entrepreneur’s road to success. Because what makes entrepreneurs successful is their ability to combine several talents and passions into one unique and valuable vision.


I want you to think about your favourite entrepreneur. What makes him or her so successful?

At my university I coach students. “Matthew” is one of them. As the end of his work toward his master’s degree approaches, Matthew starts to actively think about the future. He participates in a highly competitive academic program. Matthew is a top percentile student at a top university. As you might imagine, the pressure is on, and he struggles when it comes to choosing a future career. Why?

One of the things I have observed that can limit people is what I call the “Holy Grail Syndrome”. Matthew is relentlessly on the lookout for the one thing that will provide him with success and eternal happiness, the one talent that sets him apart from the rest and will assure a fruitful career. Matthew wants to be an entrepreneur. Whether in an existing firm (intrapreneurship), or by launching his own startup.

During our third coaching session, Matthew and I suddenly reached a breakthrough. Two insights kindled our discovery.

First, there is the author Malcolm Gladwell. I adore Mr. Gladwell, because he combines genius with the talent of storytelling. He taught us a valuable lesson about consumer goods; I gladly refer you to Mr. Gladwell’s TED talk on spaghetti sauce in case you have not seen it. The key takeaway of his story is that the sum of consumers does not look for “the one spaghetti sauce”. Rather, individual preferences can largely differ. Some like a lot of meat, others crave big chunks of vegetables. And thus, the entire spaghetti sauce industry transformed from “the one spaghetti sauce for all consumers” towards “spaghetti sauces for consumer clusters”.

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