Do I have what it takes?
It's interesting that there are opportunities and ideas so compelling to a person that once exposed to them, there're no turning back. You're completely drawn in, and something in you understands that this idea, or this opportunity is somehow tied into your destiny, what you are meant to do. Maybe destiny is the wrong word, but I do believe that at any given moment a person has a strong desire (conscious or not) to be somewhere, to feel something or to do something. It's typically driven by the urge to be happy, and for me a big part of happiness includes experiencing myself in different dimensions. That's what entrepreneurs do. They reach and stretch, and many times, crawl to a dream, and every inch of the way, experiencing themselves in new dimensions.
That's what got me started building my second company. It was an idea I couldn't walk away from. The more I thought about it, the more I knew I had to build it. I had to bring it to life. I jumped in. From the outside my background did not qualify me to take this on. It would be a highly technical project that required exceptional design and technical skills. At the I was working in finance and couldn't be further from the tech scene. But I wanted it, I wanted something suburb. Anyone who's ever chased a dream in earnest will tell you that a lot of magic happens along the way. My experience was no different. Things started to happen, good things. I put together a very reputable design and engineering team. I ended up raising a substantial amount of funding from outside investors and just like that we were on the move.
The design was fantastic. The various sets of engineers proved their value time and time again. I was still at my day job, working full time, and fully dedicated to my new company. I had an infant at home, and like most, I'm a dedicated father so I made sure I was spending time with my family. The tradeoff was long long nights and many sleepless nights. I loved it though. I had a tremendous amount of energy, things were getting done and moving forward. There weren't enough hours in the day. The whole team was energized and happy.
The 2008/9 financial crisis was still crippling much of the finance industry and precisely at a moment I couldn't afford it, the announcement came that our office was going to be shut down. The initial shock was real, but then that wore off and I felt thing would be fine. I thought I'd just get another job keep going. Well, not only were the right jobs hard to come but the ones that did come by would have drastically reduced the time I could dedicate to my company. I was all in. I dedicated all my time and energy to the building the company.
It didn't work out. It took longer than expected to complete the product and along the way a few key people lost interest and left. Whenever you decide to take a risk, to go after a dream, there is always the thought in the back of your mind, "Do I have what it takes?". And when things are going well, you're not thinking about it, but when things start going the other way you do think about it. You worry, sometimes you panic. In my case, I felt the weight of the idea of not succeeding. I thought about what that would mean to me, my family and our economic situation. The worst of it was the idea of loss, investing all that time and energy and not making an impact. There were times when things had gotten so still and I couldn't see what our next move was. "How do we stay alive?" What they don't tell you when you go chasing a dream is that when you get to this point, the how do I stay alive point, you're often times alone. It's a very lonely feeling sitting there and wondering what you're going to do. You look around and the people you thought would be there, to support you are gone and even worse the people you are doing it for have lost faith. Yup, the loneliness of innovator is something no one talks about. You dream about how things can be and wake up to the reality of how things are, and you feel powerless to change it. No one else can see it. It's a lonely feeling.
What I learned is that failure is a necessary ingredient for success. It's a crucial aspect of happiness. It sounds odd until you think about what's happing to a person going through what I went through. I saw that through it all, through the fears and doubts, through the frustration and disappointment, I was becoming such a determined and powerful person that somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that even this company didn't work out, I could start something else. I could be great at something else. You begin to understand that leaning to win is a process, and that loosing doesn't make you a loser, it just means you haven't yet figured out how to win.