/ Startup

It's All A Matter of Perspective

TL;DR If you think something is shit, you’re probably wrong.

Running a startup often leaves me thrilled, optimistic, confused, frustrated, and angry, all within a few hours.  It’s not a job for the faint of heart nor the faint of will.  I’m not complaining–I chose it and the benefits continue to outweigh the detriments for me.

Given the roller coaster of emotions, it’s critical to maintain perspective. (NB: I hate real life roller coasters.) Recognizing this isn’t ground-breaking advice here, I find it necessary to remind myself.

The other day we were talking about the quintessential (existential?) questions of a startup: Will we get rich? Will we go broke? Will we succeed? Will we fail?  In this particular conversation, the weight of the negatives was heavy. Every once in a while, to stay focussed, you have to think about your Plan C (yes, that’s after your Plan B).

All-in-all, the conversation got me in a bit of a tizzy. Fortunately, some random train of thought pulled me back. I have an amazingly wonderful life. I have a wife and two kids who love me. I have an awesome house, in a safe city.  I have a job I love, complete with flexibility, benefits, and great co-workers, doing work I find fulfilling.

That’s something to cherish. I won’t be happy if we go to Plan C, but it’s not the end of the world.

When I was a senior in high school, in 2000, there was a massive forest fire that started on federal land outside my home town. My part of town was evacuated for more than two weeks.

The night of the first evacuation (just part of the town), my friends and I gathered to talk about the situation.  Infamously, I said something to one of my oldest friends to the effect of, “You shouldn’t worry, my house is the one that’s going to burn down.” That’s not what happened, of course. Mine stood; hers did not. More than 10% of the town burned down in a very short time frame.  

The entire experience was unbelievable as many disasters are. (This one wasn’t even natural; the government had a controlled burn go out of control through stupidity.)  After moving home I came to understand just how fortunate I was. I realized that losing your possessions was very serious and it gave me some perspective on the relatively lame quotidian concerns of high school life.

Yet, I was still a stupid 18-year-old. I didn’t get true perspective yet (and maybe, fortunately, I still don’t.).

Not many months prior to the fire, a family friend and member of the faculty at the local high school had been involved in a terrible car accident.  She was driving her daughter’s friend back from somewhere on the highway and she fell asleep at the wheel.  The resulting accident was fatal for her passenger.

One day, not long after the first, I recall have a conversation with our friend, my mother, and me. She lived very near houses that had burned, in another part of our neighborhood. As all talk did that summer, we discussed the loss of the life built in those houses (but not the lives, no people died here.)

Our friend said something very simple that again jolted me from my immature understanding. She said that she wouldn’t care if her house burned down or she lost every possession she had if should could have her daughter’s friend back.

I am sure I cannot imagine the guilt and pain.

When I was thinking about my company and my life and reminding myself to have perspective, this story came back to me.  I have confidence that my experience at Wallaby will be for the better for me and my family.  I have even more confidence that if I lost my company, my job, my house and everything in it, I would be OK. That is, as long as I have everyone from inside that house.

It’s not a requirement, but I believe that this perspective enables me to be a better entrepreneur, father, and person. You just have to have the right perpective.