My start-up, it failed
It guts me to fail. It guts me. I led my start-up for 6 years with 16, 17, 18 hour days and it did not succeed. It didn’t grow to the scale that I wanted and my investors needed it to; doesn’t matter if it sells or liquidates. It did not succeed. I know the world does not owe me anything and it is my obligation to bring to bear whatever and my team has for creativity, value and meaning. I know that. I know that. I have succeeded before, fucked up before, and I have been on the other side of the table as a successful and unsuccessful investor… I know the risks, the roller coaster ride, the trials and tribulations, the crazy call to arms of what we call start-up and entrepreneurship, the joy of getting to the mountain-top, the hours not being totally present with the family, the scary vertigo of being on the edge of the precipice and wondering if this is all worth it… I know all about the reason and emotion that pours into an adventure as this… I know it all… and yet… and yet… it guts me to fail. It just fucking guts me.
So I listened to Glen Hansard’s Bird of Sorrow, and then another version of it, and then latch onto his achingly beautiful redemption song by him… which resulted in me seeking and finding Dinah Washington and Max Richter sing what is true and full of grace… which led to me finding this John Legend gem, which then made me listen to so much to the Michael Giacchino masterpiece of Lost that I think I rubbed massive number of molecules off my iPod drive, that I ended up at the temple of George Michael. And from that temple, I went on long runs with Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar in my soul.
And did it help? Did it soothe? Did it comfort? On some days, yes.
I can be blamed for the emotive over-reaction. It is OK, I can handle it. When you do something that you absolutely believe in, and to some great measure moved heaven and earth to make it real, there is this connection to this creative act that is inviolate, unbroken, sacrosanct. And when that creative does not reach the success point that is defined by you, your investors, your team, it fissures you from the inside. So yeah, unless you have been part of this, or mentored folks who were in it, there may be a gulf of not being able to relate to what I or my many, many, many comrade-in-arms go through. So in the rivers of compassion and empathy that is humanly possible, just be with me and don’t pass judgement.
I try to make sense of it. I try to dissect the decisions I made. I parse through the milestones and events. I take pride in the fact that we had revenue, customers, products, were at break-even momentarily. I am happy that we did things right by getting to the right early adopters and have then validate and test as quickly as possible, that we built relationships and trust that will stand the test of time beyond this adventure, and that I had a great Board of Directors with whom I communicated deeply and transparently. All this sustains me through the hurt, the pain, this debilitating feeling of I failed.
Whether it was the global macro trends that I had no control over, the succession of customers in different markets pushing out orders and contracts so quickly that for a 10 week stretch I thought I was in a Rocky movie getting pummeled by Drago 24/7, or not being able to risk mitigate quick enough, I failed. It happened on my watch. It is my responsibility.
So I went on those long runs outside when it was so cold that icicles were on my eyeballs. Or on those runs in my head as I sat with my wife and kids drinking in their presence and love. Or on those runs when I was present, absolutely present in the today. I went… I went… and then I came back. Yes, I came back.
You see… I am going to do this again. I am going to try to do something that impacts humanity, again. I am going to reassemble a team and engage, again. I am going to learn and absorb more from my peers and colleagues and mentors. I am going to ask for the ticket to make a difference, again.
I am going to staple myself together, staple by staple. I am going to try to become whole, again. I am going to start orbiting the sun, again.