Being in Charge is Hard
I have written two posts for the Olin Business School blog, one for a class I took, and a few for a baseball blog that I run called Cardsblog, but this is my first totally intrinsically motivated article. April 30,2017.
I have a good friend that is able to write a post every single day and he’s been doing it for over a year. While I find that quite remarkable, it’s not something that I want to do. I want to write one a week on either Sunday nights or Monday mornings that talks about the things I have been thinking about over the past week, or really anything else that might be on my mind.
I was thinking about what I am even qualified to write about as well as what has been relevant for me recently and the idea popped into my head about the difficulty of being in charge.
To share some background: when I arrived in college I was planning to try out for the varsity soccer team. Right before I got here I saw on Facebook two guys that posted on the Class of 2019 Facebook page something along the lines of “we started a Cardinals baseball blog during our time in college and we are looking to pass it down to new students since we have graduated.” I gave the guy who made the post, Mike, a call and we chatted about the possibilities. Then I mostly forgot about it and came to school to try out for the soccer team. It was sad, I prepped hard, ran a 4:59 mile (one of my biggest accomplishments), but was eventually cut.
Then the blog popped back up. I’m realizing I’m probably giving too many details so to jump to the point, myself, along with one other guy that I found through my advisor acquired the blog (probably paying a little bit more money than it really warranted). This was around November, 2015. We ended up bringing on a 3rd owner and then two additional writers for our first spring.
We redid the website, got active on social media, primarily with Twitter, and we relaunched the site on March 1st. In hindsight, our first season with the blog went pretty well. We onboarded an additional 6 writers before the summer, were posting content daily, and even (albeit very luckily) scored a partnership with St. Louis NBC News, KSDK, where they would post our articles on their website (free content for them and publicity for us).
On and on but essentially we onboarded more writers, reached about 15K views a month (not that many for those of you unfamiliar with how page views work), were posting two articles daily and hit the offseason (where we had all this momentum and then the Cardinals missed the playoffs by a game! — Tragic).
But throughout this thing we had three owners and another guy who ended up getting some equity in what we’re doing. Out of us four we had one guy editing articles and working with the writers to make sure they were posted, another running our social media and newsletter (I’m a big fan of newsletters) and we had the third working on advertising and also helping with the editing. Then I was doing tech changes on the website as well as ‘strategy’ which basically meant marketing, growth, drawing viewers to the site and improving the tech/visual appeal.
When I came to college I also got involved in a new entrepreneurship group on campus called Y’s Thoughts that was meant to bring together (and create in some sense) an interdisciplinary entrepreneurial community at WashU. I could get into a long winded story, but to keep it short, after a year and a half of involvement and the guy that initially started the group going abroad, I became president for this semester, where I was working with an executive board of about 10 others to try to work towards our mission.
Being in Charge
It is extremely difficult. Now I didn’t help myself by deciding to take on Cardsblog, Y’s Thoughts, as well as miscellaneous smaller commitments like exec for my business frat and working a 5 hour per week internship. But, nonetheless, I wouldn’t have taken those things all on if I wasn’t confident in my ability to do them.
So thinking back on this semester, in both Cardsblog and Y’s Thoughts I feel as if we have stagnated. We haven’t seen much growth in Cardsblog since about October and in Y’s Thoughts, although we learned a fair amount this semester, we didn’t push too many buttons towards creating a stronger and more action oriented interdisciplinary entrepreneurship community here.
It can be awfully difficult to stay motivated
This is enormous. Starting something up, in a lot of ways, I have found to be relatively easy. The process of hustling where you see the immediate and constant impact of the work that you’re doing is an easy motivator. Plus, people in college are searching for extra meaning and when the mission behind an idea is solid (which Cardsblog and Y’s Thoughts both had), it can be easy to get other smart, driven people on board.
Finding partners and people to work on things with might be more challenging if I weren’t a college student where everyone is looking for something to do, but I have found that it has been easy, especially with a large network to tap into to find interested people. The challenge comes when there’s little progress being made. For only so long can the excuse “we’re a new blog” or “we’re a new club” explain the lack of success. And even when it could explain it, it shouldn’t fly for it to do so. We saw reasons for optimism in both domains early on, but it has been so hard from there.
I think the reason I have found it difficult is because, like I said, it’s very easy to be excited about taking something from off the ground, but after that it takes a lot more. A good example is trying to lose weight. It’s easy enough to go around telling your friends that you’re going to diet and lose 30 pounds. Everyone is going to give you positive reinforcement, they’ll make you feel good about it and so on. But what matters is not how you feel when you’re telling people you want to lose weight, or when you start up a baseball blog. What matters is what you’re doing when nobody is watching and that external influence begins to fade. It’s about what you eat when you’re craving that donut and late at night. Or when you have to send out 100 emails to potential partners but nobody will know the difference if you only send out 10.
Is there a solution?
The solution, as I’ve learned, is to be extremely passionate about what you’re doing. If you fully believe in your mission, it doesn’t matter how many people are telling you that you’re doing a good job, because you’re going to continue going back to the trenches to make it happen.
After having these experiences with Cardsblog and Y’s Thoughts I have learned a lot of valuable things. I won’t get into all of them here, but I do want to touch on the motivation and passion thing.
Regardless of how motivated and passionate I am about these two ventures, the experience of helping get them off of the ground has been great. And if that’s what someone is going for, then it might not matter as much how passionate they are about the type of work. But if the goal is to go balls to the wall and see something through, then it’s worth sitting down before jumping in and envisioning how you might feel about working on the same idea in a year and when times get rough.
It’s easy to convince yourself to get involved in building something out because it’s sexy, a good learning experience and high potential, but if the passion and energy aren’t there in your gut, then almost certainly you will not be able to reach the potential of what you would have been able to do had you truly cared.
Year 1, article 1.
NBA (those are my initials)