This past week has been a really interesting week for me. Mondays always start early and Fridays always end late. The first part of the week is pure hustle and the latter part of the week is administrative work, project work, etc.
As of this weekend, I've spent exactly 4 full weeks in New York continuously. Being on a plane on my way somewhere, anywhere, is much more soothing for me than being in one single location. After brunch today, I was tempted to jump on the next flight to Miami and then return either Sunday night or Monday morning. I had the flights on hold.
And as I pondered that thought, I realized that the possibilities I had in front of me were unbelievable - wine in Napa, boats in Miami, clubs in LA, etc. All of it is possible. All of it could have been done.
And then I decided to be good and not tire myself out for the week ahead.
However, the thing that started this thinking process is a brunch conversation that I had with a friend of mine and the COO of a portfolio company. She’s incredibly smart and has been working on her company for 3+ years. There have been ups and downs. Disappointments and failures. If I start listing out their path to this point, most people would call her crazy.
Here’s the thing - that craziness is what will make the company succeed. Nothing else.
Calling entrepreneurs crazy is completely OK. Belittling their ambitions is absolutely not.
If you're working a corporate job, I will tell you a personal story that only one other person knows:
It was Fall of 2013. I had come back from a completely disastrous trip from Amsterdam after trying to close our Series A. The deal fell apart and in the most horrific way possible. I was in shock. I was scared. I was absolutely terrified to a point where I couldn't speak to anyone. I called a friend of mine. Her and I went for drinks. She’s an upcoming actor. She had gotten her first paycheck - a mere $60. She bought me drinks that night and just sat there looking at me. I had a few beers, thanked her and walked home.
Those feelings of pure terror are meant to scare the living crap out of you. Because only at that point do you realize that there is no turning back. You can only go up from there.
It has been nearly 2 years since that entire week and it still scares me. But, it also taught me an important lesson about startups.
Startups are a journey. And harder than most other journeys. If you survive this journey, you can survive a lot of what the world throws at you. Paul Graham, amongst his many essays, has a great piece titled “What Startups are Really Like?” I really would like for everyone to read that piece.
I'll add a few additional points to what Paul has said: no matter what you do, know that you are going to be challenged. Some days you're going to want to quit. But, if you see the light at the end of the tunnel - do not quit. If you don't see that light, change paths. Do not quit. Looking back at your life, nothing good has happened because it was easy. There’s a reason why people date wrong people for a decade or more. There’s a reason why people get fired. Or quit terrible jobs. Pursue your dream without fear of failure or the option of quitting.
And a lot of days, it will feel like this:
“The Struggle is when you wonder why you started the company in the first place. The Struggle is when people ask you why you don’t quit and you don’t know the answer. The Struggle is when your employees think you are lying and you think they may be right. The Struggle is when food loses its taste.” - Ben Horowitz
Secondly, find people that will support you and not your idea. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Any engineer can make a product function. Your job is to create a company. Your job is to be your cheerleader. Do it better than anyone.
Lastly, always remember that whatever you are doing - you are doing it for yourself. If you hate it, don't do it. If you don't believe in it, it won't come true. But do not ever bear the entire burden on your shoulders. You will collapse very quickly. All of this will take time. Put in your time. Earn your freedom. Put in your 10,000 hours.
There are people, strangers included, who will listen to you. If you ever need help or advise, my email and phone number have always been publicly available: firstname.lastname@example.org or 201-693-4510.
I wish you the best of luck. Get ready for the most adventurous 10,000 hours of your life.
*The 10,000 hour rule has been deemed controversial. However, the use in this post is primarily to highlight the importance of persistence and deliberate pursuit of excellence.