Staring into voids that stare back

I had mentioned this in my write up about our 10 year anniversary.

This is not a path for all. Really for very few. Joining a startup is nothing ? NOTHING ? like placing your family?s financial livelihood and fiscal viability at risk. Anyone suggesting otherwise really doesn?t have a clue as to what risk is. This entrepreneurial life is not one for the feint of heart.

It is going to scare the crap out of you. The terror will be sustained. It will never go away. You have to learn how to manage it. To use it. To leverage it.

You stare into the abyss.

And it DOES stare back.

Lots of people will snicker at that. Entrepreneurs, those who sell stuff for a living will understand completely. Most won?t.

And this post yesterday from Scott Weiss at Andreessen Horowitz

It?s pronounced whiff-eee-o, that horrible, terrifying moment that nearly every entrepreneur goes through when they are certain that their company is dead. I?ve seen it happen in so many different ways: A legal ruling goes against you; Apple refuses to approve your app unless you change the feature that makes it special; Google launches a competitive product, and aims right at you; A critical technology partner decides not to renew their contract. It?s that moment before you gather yourself to do battle, when all seems lost.

Its in that staring deep and hard into the yawning void that one gets their inspiration. Call it sheer abject terror, or motivation. Whatever. It juices your processors into overdrive if you are an entrepreneur. You are at your most creative when you are at your most fearful.

And things are never as bad as they may seem. This is what the entrepreneur understands. They get that its hard. They get that you are gonna get your ass whipped from time to time. But … what doesn’t kill you does make you stronger.

As Scott writes

After the IronPort WFIO had receded in my rear-view, I realized that you can almost always get to the other side. You just need to keep in mind a few things, and have some emergency tools ready to pull out.

It?s never really as bad as it seems.

Companies are damn resilient. Although it certainly feels like death at the time, it rarely is and companies just keep on moving forward. Ingenuity and guts usually help you find your way out of the jam. In fact, much of a company?s value is usually created by figuring out a solution to the big obstacle. Certainly, that was the case at IronPort where our entire business was built on the back of our anti-spam product.

Basically our value isn’t merely encoded within our products. Its the product of decades of solving tremendously hard problems, so that our customers don’t have to. There’s value in them thar hills.

And more than that, you need to lead, from the front, and not let them see you sweat, as you face these fears. Leading from the rear is not leadership. Its failure. You have to fight your internal demons, in silence. You have to be relentlessly positive, even if you think you are swirling down the crapper.

As Scott wrote

The leader needs to be the first one there, the last one to leave, and be willing to do anything it takes ? like answer customer care calls or personally drive a replacement part to an irate customer. Nothing is beneath a leader in times of crisis.

I’d expand on this, and say nothing is ever “beneath” a leader. A true leader will get their hands dirty on a regular basis, will get into the muck, wrestle with it, and show the troops how a high ranking master does it. Or get the hell out of the way and let someone with the internal fortitude and external preternatural calm take the reigns.

Very good read.

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