Getting Back Up
I’m back in the entrepreneurial ring.
A simple statement that has been anything but simple to arrive at. Starting 14 months ago I have traveled through anger, despair, anxiety, and fear to arrive back at happy.
Launching on Kickstarter last week, I got back into the ring.
I never imagined it would have taken this long. Having driven a startup for nine years with every ounce of energy I had, I never anticipated that it would take 431 days to regain the confidence it takes to again present my work to the world.
What I learned is that time was the most important ingredient in my healing. Like being in a massive accident, it took months for my heart, body, and mind to recover.
Unrecognizable at the time, I needed to unplug from the world. I needed to travel. I needed the startup community’s encouragement. I needed to talk about what I had been through. I needed to spend hours writing and days reflecting with the love of my life. I even needed a beautiful new baby boy to show me life’s simplicity.
I needed all of that to give me the confidence to stand back up and return to the ring.
Standing here again, it means more than ever before. And not because I’m more determined or hungrier to succeed.
But because this time I know what I’m standing for. I understand my purpose and why I’m here. I value the importance of living life. I appreciate the unwavering support of love. I deeply recognize that this time around, it’s about enjoying the journey.
There comes a point in everyone’s life where getting back up seems impossible. When the pressure of the world, seems too great to shoulder again. And although only you can pick yourself back up, I hope this provides a little bit of inspiration on your quest.
Overcoming The Fear
Someone recently asked me, “What happens if you fail again”?
I never thought about it that way. In all of my time at Contour I was never afraid. Like a teenager falling in love for the first time, I had never had my heart broken.
Which means I never protected myself. I went running into the relationship with everything I had, never expecting that the result would crush me. I trusted those around me, doing everything that was best for the business. Sacrificing both personally and professionally, I was all in.
I still remember my last day. Like a boxer getting punched in the mouth, I can still taste the blood on my tongue. Even after 14 months, it doesn’t go away and I’m not sure I ever want it to. It is a lesson I will rely on the rest of my life.
If you read about the best fighters, they always talk about fear. They recognize that every time they compete they have to overcome their natural instincts to quit.
Even for a big wave surfer, conquering fear is part of life.
“When you overcome the fear and all the elements that are working against you and ride one of those waves, there is a feeling of gratification and accomplishment that is beyond words.” – Greg Long
Getting back up as an entrepreneur is no different. You have to forget what happened in the past and be willing to put yourself out there again to compete. Especially the second time around, you have to find a way re-approach the world with the same naive spirit. Because it’s the only way to see an opportunity that you believe in.
Being Vulnerable Again
Willing to be in love again is really hard. Forgetting about the past, it takes even more to rebuild the trust that was lost. And yet to love again requires you to be vulnerable. It requires you to let down your guard and let people back into your life.
Being vulnerable is also the most important ingredient in creating and yet it can the hardest decision to make. Willing to tell the world what you believe in, even if others disagree, does take courage. The risk of being rejected is always there, no matter how much practice you have.
For me I started back at the beginning. I spent time reflecting on what makes me the happiest in life. Starting with lists of activities, experiences, and moments, it took a while to discover that what makes me happy, is building. I love starting from a blank piece of paper to imagine something new. I love being passionate about the people, problem, and brand we craft. I love the nervous feeling of putting myself out there. I love building things that people can believe in. I love to create.
And as Steve Jobs so eloquently said, “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”
One Small Step At A Time
The bigger the cliff grows in our imagination, the harder it is to jump off.
As a kid I used to compete in diving. Slightly terrified of heights, I can still remember the anxiety of moving from three meters, to five meters, and eventually to 10 meter platform. Constantly afraid I would slap the water, I eventually quit. Not because I didn’t love it. But because I had built the height up in my mind to the point that it became too high to jump.
Starting is the hardest part. The first step, the first idea, or even the first date. And yet taking one small step at a time is how you get there. Even if your vision far exceeds your ability to deliver on it today, don’t worry about it. Greatness is never an overnight success. It is always a journey woven with an unlimited number of experience that contribute to where you end up.
My first step back was writing. At first only for myself, I slowly started publishing. One post at a time I gained more confidence, week by week. I attended Startup Weekend to get my hands dirty again building products. I taught a class about turning an idea into a company, which gave me the confidence to create a series of workshops about building hardware startups. Which lead me to finding a new collection of builders to begin my next journey.
Opening my heart back up I have begun to create again. Starting in August, with a small team, we moved from ideas to sketches to prototypes to Kickstarter. Not knowing if we would fail or succeed, we jumped.
And it worked.
Our success in the first week is not a testament to our abilities as a team. Instead it is a reflection of our willingness to be vulnerable. We are perfectionist and yet we put our prototypes out there for the world to reply.
*Image Credit: Schmeegan via Creative Commons.