Life is filled with setbacks — some big, some small. Not making the baseball team, failing on an exam, breaking up in a relationship. Each is painful in its own ways, and some are more memorable than others.
When I was a kid, being a late bloomer both academically and physically, setbacks were all around. School was the breeding ground of setbacks. I was often yelled at by teachers and teased by bigger kids. But as I grew older, setbacks became less and less frequent. I found that, over time, through hard work, success seemed to trickle in. School became easier once you get the tricks. Work became easier when you work at a good organization and set up for success. I started to forget what it felt like to have setbacks.
And then, I started a company with Jordan and Doug.
Nothing in life prepares you about starting a company, other than being a part of starting a company. There are many un-natural things about being an entrepreneur, but dealing with setbacks as an entrepreneur felt especially un-natural. I was suppose to know the right things to do and get them done perfectly. Instead, I felt like a fraud and an incompetent firefighter.
So over the past three years, I have learned to observe setbacks as they are — malfunctioning that should be fixed. It’s a bug in the codebase, to be triaged. Programmers learn to deal with bugs by (mistakenly) writing bugs in the first place. Sometimes it means you get woken up by Victorops at 2am. However, good programmers also know that learning from bugs is just as important, and have processes like effective post-mortems to make sure they don’t happen again.
As setbacks can cause pain, it can also give you great perspective. It deepens your understanding of what it means to be a part of something, and provides the necessary experiential learning. I am grateful everyday for the people I get to work with, for the people who uses what we build, and for the opportunity to work on something I love.