Failure in the startup world is nothing short of the most intense and mortifying pain on the planet. Because it’s the murder of your ego. My ego used to be the size of Texas and Alaska combined. I was pretty sure I was the hottest thing since sliced bread. Except I was really good at pretending I didn’t think so because lord, that’s not ok to let on. And when problems start happening, you hope you can just buy yourself enough time to figure out how to fix it. But the solutions you are thinking of are quick fixes because the one thing that you have to do is the one thing you can’t do. It’s admit defeat. It’s pulling the breaks and saying holy shit this isn’t working. We need to change ASAP. That is scary. Because what if your whole company goes under? That’s not allowed. We just need more time. We’ll figure it out. That’s what real startups do right? But the catch is, you’re in the rut and you’re not thinking radically different. So nothing significant happens, so nothing real gets fixed. And then the problems prolong and the problems get bigger and people get angrier and situations get worse.
I think this is how most startups die.
I have no idea why the universe let us survive, but death was right there, I was staring it in the face, it haunted me at night, it tortured me during the day. I still feel it breathing down my neck, but I think that’s ok. It helps keep all of this real, and reminds me of the transient nature of life (or startups).
I have new commitments and priorities now. It doesn’t matter what the consequences are, but I need to trust my gut and do what, deep down, I know what needs to be done. We need to surround ourselves with advisors that tell us the harsh truths about life and startups. We need to surround ourselves with people that push us to be better, and think about life in interesting and different ways. And most importantly, we need to commit to take care of ourselves. Because without that, we won’t hear that voice deep down, saying that thing that needs to be said, that you really don’t want to hear. And most importantly, have the courage to act on it.
I don’t think people understand just how tiring that is. Having the courage to do the right thing. So. Goddamn. Tiring.
But you do it. Because what you really want to do, all you really wanted to do, was build a different tomorrow. And most of the time, between the HR paperwork, the investor pitches, and the accounts cleanup, you forget that’s why you really did this in the first place.
I think the only way to survive is remember why you are doing this. And even if you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, at least try to feel the warmth of the rays of hope, underneath all the heaps and heaps of shit that’s currently burying your reality.