One cannot answer for his courage when he has never been in danger
— Francois de la Rochefoucauld (1665)
I was sitting on the couch with tears in my eyes. I had just hit save on changes to my startup’s website, adding a nifty announcement bar across the top that said “2011-2015. Beloved startup of David, Felix and many wonderful colleagues. We are now closed. Thanks for all the fish.”
This is one of the things you do when your startup shuts down. You tell people. So I told, and I was definitely very sad. My wife asked how I was doing. She’s been my biggest fan and constant supporter. I looked at her and said “I’m okay.” And I was. How fucked up is that?
Founding a startup, for me, was a constant exercise in running along the cliff edge while trying to grow wings. The highs were super high, the lows super low. And there were so many massive swings, sometimes multiple times a day. The hardest part was not the surviving the lows but the constant shifting, the never knowing what the hour would bring. The EEG rhythms of normal life look like ripples on the pond compared to the seismographs of startup life. I have proof*:
Like hands on a jackhammer, my brain grew numb to the vibrations of founder life and the range I considered “normal” expanded steadily over time. Our first client, first term sheet, first term sheet not signed, landing a massive client, getting into TechStars, paying myself a salary, telling my wife I was skipping paychecks, and then more paychecks, having our credit card suspended…again, the perfect hire, being recognized on the subway, firing the team….After four years it took a lot to throw me.
Maybe it’s the Lexapro but the emotions of finally hitting publish on the going out of business announcement fell in the normal range. Tears be damned.
*Proof is completely fictional but it feels right.
Most life blogs talk about starring up at a cliff, giving advice about how to get to the top. Start climbing and don’t stop. Don’t look down. Climb as though your life depends on it. Visualize being at the top. Glory for the taking. Just do as I do.
This is not one of those blogs.
This is about being at the bottom of the cliff because you fell off and landed on your ass. Well, my ass. I fell on my ass. And it is also the voice I had privately as a founder. The thoughts and aggravations that I wanted to talk about but didn’t because it was off brand. Well, world. It is all on-brand now!