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Betrayal, Rage, Ambition, and Startup

I woke up wicked angry this morning. Like, can’t get back to sleep angry. I don’t know why. Well, I do know why, but I don’t know why I’m hanging onto it.

There are two reasons why I’m angry and they both have to do with betrayal. Now, I’m almost hesitant to use that word — betrayal — because it connotes something far more dramatic than my intent. But that’s what it was, a little light betrayal, in both cases, one personal, one professional.

So I woke up at 4:00 this morning and started writing about it. My goal here isn’t to drag you through my neuroses. I wouldn’t do that to you. Instead, I’m hoping to walk through why I’m hanging onto this residual anger and how to get rid of it. Maybe you’re angry deep down inside too. Maybe it’s holding you back. Walk with me and let’s talk.

First let’s walk back a couple days, because there’s a cautionary tale to be told — a “why” for the question “Why bother bringing this up in a blog post at all?” I found the answer at Sunday mass of all places, where I finally showed up after lazing my way through the summer. It was the second reading, which kicked off with this:

“Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.”

And just in case I wasn’t listening, it ended with this:

“You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

I mean, you take some of the biblical sentence-shaping out of those two lines and it’s practically Successory office art.

“When you act like the world owes you something you’ll wind up chasing things you don’t really want, which means you won’t get what you really do want. Idiot.”

I imagine there’s like a dolphin for the picture. I don’t know why but you can’t tell me it doesn’t somehow make sense.

So there you go. This isn’t incoherent rambling for incoherent rambling’s sake. Through the lens of common elements like startup, career, technology, growth, all that easy-to-SEO topic nonsense, I’m really trying to communicate a higher level of thinking when we think about what we do when we get up every morning. And in that, I’m really just hoping to make people’s lives better.

Like, startup as a means to spread a message of hope. And not hope like a hashtag, but hope like a reason to keep charging ahead with what YOU believe is right. You. Not your company mission statement or bible quotes or people on Twitter. You.

Let me pull this tangent in and bring it back to less crazy. It also occurred to me that I haven’t written anything good in a while. Now, I’ve written stuff worth reading, pieces about success and failure and reinvention and how to get fired. But it’s all been kind of dry, like a talking resume, advice I’ve pulled from advisory meetings with young people I kind of know, but don’t know well enough to let my guard down and use my real voice.

This is that voice, by the way. And I also say the word “dude” a lot, even though I rarely write it.

The reason I’m not using that voice is because I keep chasing what I don’t want because I feel like the world, nay, the universe, owes me something, mostly because of that betrayal.

I’m a good dude (there you go!). I’m no saint, but I pay more taxes than I think I should and I try to engage each and every person I come into contact with, whether that’s some kid trying to “pick my brain” or the cashier where I buy my Frozen Coke. Cosmically, when bad stuff happens to me I know it’s on me to figure out how to digest it and use it.

So these two “betrayals” are stuck in my craw. Bad. And the anger and the — hate to admit it but let’s go full honesty — jealousy that these events are generating in my brain box are triggering this drive to chase things I don’t really want in an effort to even some kind of cosmic score.

The crazy thing is, that scoring system doesn’t even exist. And I know this, but I keep chasing it anyway. It’s getting to the point where I’m mad because I’m mad. And how nuts is that?

Not as nuts as it sounds. That drive, that ambition, can get you to a lot of places, especially those places that look really, really good on a resume. But that’s not what I want. I could have very easily taken the direct corporate path to a vice presidency at a Fortune 500 company. I’m awesome at Powerpoint. When I have to be.

But that’s not what I signed up for. To be honest, my career was going to be rock star. I was pretty freaking close. But I was too smart for that (sorry, rock star people, that’s not a slight, I just saw the trickery and the phoniness of the music business up front and it was slightly less tricky and phony than regular business).

I ditched the corporate world for the startup world less than 13 months into my career. I’ve always chosen building the useful thing over building the sexy thing, and this recent professional betrayal certainly wasn’t the first one. I’ve been on the short end more often than I want to admit, because I’m part Huckleberry, by choice, for the betterment of my soul.

And that’s startup as a means of spreading hope. I still wake up angry. I can’t help that. I’m human. But I do know that no matter what issues I’ve got going on that it’s far better than the life of cubicle decorating and spreadsheet embellishing that was waiting for me at HugeCo.

It turns out that just because you take your own road doesn’t mean you’re going to be vaccinated against the ills of human nature. I’m not sure the best human beings among us don’t get into a dark room and swear and shout and rage out when no one is looking.

So rage out. Be angry. Wallow in jealousy. Let ambition drive you into places you might not wander. Just remember, the worst thing you can do is let that anger stop you from being you and doing what you think is right.