If you take risk and fail, you get nothing. You don’t get an “A” for effort, you don’t collect $200 for passing Go. You get nothing. The sacrifices you’ve made mean nothing. No one cares what you’ve been through.
Ben Horowitz’s blog post (also in his book, “The Hard Thing About Hard Things”) about The Struggle (http://www.bhorowitz.com/the_struggle) is heartbreaking.
The Struggle has no mercy….The Struggle is the land of broken promises and crushed dreams. The Struggle is a cold sweat. The Struggle is where your guts boil so much that you feel like you are going to spit blood.
To be honest, I don’t even think I’ve reached the pinnacle of “The Struggle” yet. I suspect that The Struggle becomes unbearable when you have lots of customers, employees and investors looking to you for answers. It sounds like being in a grip-vice, slowly squeezed from all directions. I can see how the pressure to build a successful company can drive a person insane. I’ve just had a taste of it. And it sure as hell doesn’t taste like gum drops and rainbows.
The real insanity is when you can’t stop. When it becomes a masochistic endeavor. You’ve spent too long struggling that you can’t give up. You’ve invested too much money, time and emotion into it that giving up would be like throwing away your life’s work. What if Leonardo da Vinci had stopped painting the Mona Lisa half way through? How would he have known that it would eventually become one of the most famous paintings in the world? What if you were so close to building something great and you stopped right before it could be realized? That’s how sick and twisted an entrepreneur’s mind works. It sabotages you into thinking that the answers to your problems could be just around the corner.
I think that being an entrepreneur must feel like an extreme sport athlete (ie. sky divers, cliff jumpers, etc.). You risk so much just to feel alive. You’ve never felt more alive than the excitement you get from jumping out of a plane. Entrepreneurs feel most alive when they prove the world wrong or when they get a big contract signed or when they get a term sheet from a VC. And similarly, when those sky divers are on the ground, all they’re thinking about is the next time they can jump out of that plane.
In the end, there’s no glory in it. If it’s glory and respect you want, don’t come looking for it in a startup. You’ll find none of it here. You’ll grind at it until your fingers bleed and your hair falls out, and after everything is said and done, there won’t be any groupies waiting for you when you exit and there won’t be any journalist dying to write your story. No one is coming back for your body.
But fuck all of that. It was never about them anyway.