Don’t Look Down

Max Nussenbaum
Dec 28, 2016 · 2 min read

Someone on our team asked what keeps me motivated when building a company gets hard. Here’s my secret: who cares if I’m motivated?

My moods are like weather, less a force from within and more a barrage of outside winds battering me in every direction. And they can be twisted in an instant, by anything: standing behind a particularly sad-looking person at the supermarket; a long-forgotten teenage humiliation rushing back to the surface of my consciousness; reading the Wikipedia summary of the movie Garden State. (I swear, that last one really did happen.)

Asking me how I stay motivated is like asking a pool ball how it keeps rolling. We might have an answer for you, but we’re kidding ourselves if we think we’re in control. No matter how much momentum we feel right now, the edge of the table is coming for us.

So I try to practice the skill of not relying on a certain mood to do a certain job. We entrepreneurs and artists think we’re so special, with our routines and our motivation and our needing to have everything just so. Those artsy stock images of the laptop and the Moleskine and the cappuccino arranged with millimeter-level precision are toxic. Nobody asks the bricklayer how he puts the next brick in place when he doesn’t feel inspired.

This image is killing you.

And the company? I started a startup on a whim, with no idea of what I was signing up for, and then I blinked and it was too late to change my mind. People think when you run your own company you get to be your own boss, but that’s a lie. Our customers are my boss. Our investors are my boss. The market is my boss. If this were a real job, at least I could quit. But I can’t. How does anyone do anything? I don’t know, they just do it. The only way out is through.

Doing a thing is hard enough without simultaneously worrying about how you’re feeling about doing the thing. It’s like the coyote chasing the roadrunner off the edge of the cliff — he can keep going if he doesn’t look down. Me too. So I just don’t look down.

The Startup

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Max Nussenbaum

Written by

spelunker, herpetologist, ultracrepidarian, onanist, has a hook-hand. More: http://maxnuss.com.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +582K people. Follow to join our community.

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