Leading A Few Panels During Seattle Startup Week

This coming week is Seattle Startup Week, a free five-day event highlighting the amazing startup culture of the Puget Sound. It looks like there will be more than 100 events happening over the next week and should be very fun, entertaining and educational.

In fact, I will be participating in 2 of them as I will be leading panel discussions both Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Below are quick descriptions of each event. If you are free either one of those nights you should come check them out. Here’s the entire schedule.

Pick The Brains of Local Angel Investors and VC’s 

(Tues Oct. 27th at 6pm)

Learn from local Angel investors and VCs in Seattle  about what they look for in a company when they invest.We will be inviting local Angel investors and Venture Capitalists to get insights on the process they use when investing in startups.

Moderators

Nick Hughes

Director of Business Development, Knotis
Nick is an entrepreneur with achievements in e-commerce, digital payments and technology start-ups. He excels at interpersonal communication and leadership, business strategy and product management. | | Currently Director of Business Development for local e-commerce focused Knotis, Nick previously founded the mobile payment startup Seconds as well as recently forming Coinme, a new company built around expanding bitcoin and digital… Read More →


Speakers


Josh Maher

Angel Investor
Josh Maher is the author of Startup Wealth: How the Best Angel Investors Make Money in Startups (http://amzn.to/1NUAoz4). Startup Wealth delivers engaging interviews with early-stage investors in Google, Invisalign, ZipCar, Uber, Twilio, Localytics, and other successful and not so successful companies.  | He’s a passionate supporter of the Seattle startup community, President of Seattle Angel, a non-profit focused on education at the…Read More →


Yi-Jian Ngo

Managing Director, Alliance of Angels
Yi-Jian Ngo, Managing Director, leads the Alliance of Angels. A network engineer by training, Yi-Jian stumbled into the startup world when AT&T rebooted its corporate venture fund and recruited him as a founding team member. Working closely with entrepreneurs and helping them build their companies turned out to be such a blast that he continued that work at Microsoft. Most recently, he was a venture capitalist at Sierra Ventures, where… Read More →


Tim Porter

Managing Director, Madrona Venture Group
Tim is focused on investing in B2B software companies in the Pacific Northwest. He currently is particularly interested in the areas of SaaS applied to both horizontal and vertical applications, cloud infrastructure and automation, data analytics, security, and enterprise mobile. He is a board member or board observer of numerous Madrona portfolio companies. In addition to his work at Madrona, Tim is a member of the three-person Investment… Read More →

Gary Rubens

CEO, Start it Labs
Founded ATGStores.com in 1999 – sold to Lowe’s Home Improvment 2012, Founded Architectural Details, inc in 1990- sold to private buyer in 2007, expertise in ecommerce, online advertising and business growth.He invests in more than 50 companies.
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Raise Capital Like A Superstar

(Wed Oct. 28th at 6:30pm)
Learn from some of the most successful startup capital raisers that received nearly and more than 10M$ in funding. Local CEOs and CFOs and startup founders will share their experiences and advice and learn how to raise capital like a superstar!

Moderators

Nick Hughes

Director of Business Development, Knotis
Nick is an entrepreneur with achievements in e-commerce, digital payments and technology start-ups. He excels at interpersonal communication and leadership, business strategy and product management. | | Currently Director of Business Development for local e-commerce focused Knotis, Nick previously founded the mobile payment startup Seconds as well as recently forming Coinme, a new company built around expanding bitcoin and digital… Read More →


Speakers

Aviel Ginzburg

Co-Founder, Simply Measured

James Gwertzman

CEO, PlayFab, Inc.
James Gwertzman is the CEO and Co-Founder of PlayFab, a Seattle-based company that helps game developers future proof their games with an industry leading live game operations platform. James has over 15 years of experience as a senior executive in the games industry. He believes strongly in the power of alignment, empowerment, and transparency to build truly great business. Prior to PlayFab, James founded and then led the Asia operations for… Read More →

Michael Schutzler

CEO, Washington Technology Industry Association
Michael Schutzler is a successful chief executive with over 30 years experience in  | rapid growth, start-up, and turn-around ventures. As a successful Internet  | entrepreneur, angel investor, and CEO advisor, he has helped raise over $50 Million  | in financing for more than a dozen companies and has served as a coach and mentor  | to more than 50 founders. | Michael spent the first part of his career in the telecom… Read More →
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Fail. Learn. Live.

I failed.

Phew, there I said it.

Even though Silicon Valley and the startup culture in general celebrates failure and preaches  how founders shouldn’t hide behind their mistakes, it’s not an easy thing to admit or talk about.  Naturally, we tend to put our best face on in public and act like all is well even when it’s not.  And when it becomes too overwhelmingly difficult to face publicly, most run and hide and miss the opportunity to help others by addressing challenges openly and honestly.

Well, not me.  I believe in telling the truth and having an authentic discussion around the not so celebrated aspects of entrepreneurship.

Taking more than enough time to think about what I just experienced and how I should respond to it, I feel it’s time to talk openly about it hoping maybe I can help someone else be more open with their failures when their time comes.  Failure is hard to cope with no matter how strong you think you are and by opening up and examining the lessons that accompany failure we can all walk away better, not bitter.

“Just dust yourself off and try again.”

That is what you hear from others when you fail at something, like they know exactly what you are going through and how you feel.  “Yea, sure… thanks man, but you have no idea.”  That is my internal response.  If only life was that easy.

There’s no way another person understands the dynamics of a founder’s mental processes during the moment they realize it ain’t working.  I sure as hell hate to hear someone relate to my experience to something as simple as a kid tripping over a crack on the sidewalk during dodgeball at recess.  So much emotion, time, money and energy is wrapped into the entrepreneurial journey, especially when it turns out not as one expected or wanted.

Yet, during my time of reflection I have been able to separate the wheat from the chaff, come to understand some things are under our control and many things simply aren’t.  This is my attempt to dissect and relate back to the world some of the things I could have done differently.

I Failed.

The experiment failed.  Seconds, my mobile payments startup here in Seattle failed to attain a level of usage and customers to become sustainable.  What’s more, we failed to secure outside investment to capitalize our company for the near/mid term in order to grow into a sustainable company.  We simply came to the end of the runway (cash) and have now decided to navigate the next direction of the team and product.

To say I earned all the gray hairs I now have in the last 15 months would be an understatement.  I dealt with a cofounder and CTO of the company leaving 6 months in because he realized it was going to be tougher than he thought it would be, leaving me with a tech startup and no technical leader to write any code.

This sucked.  Since I had to spend most of my energy in finding the right replacement for this critical puzzle piece during the middle of 2012, we failed to gain any momentum in on-boarding more customers and making necessary product improvements.

I should be more proud in retrospect, I was able to find a new CTO and thus pulled the plane out of a downward spiral and at least leveled it off into a smoother glide.  But as a result of the slow glide we found ourselves in a foggy, hazy and scary place.  In nowhere land, we became a not-dead-but-not-really-living company.

A zombie startup, as they are now calling them.

I, as the CEO, take full responsibility for the outcome of Seconds.  Although not the person responsible for code and development, I was the person responsible for leading the team, driving the customer base and growing the operation.  I failed to uphold my end of the bargain and in the end the company’s fate went down with it.

I learned.

Given the fact we failed at growing Seconds into a successful mobile payments company, it’s important to remove the layers and find lessons applicable to my life and  future companies I will inevitably start or join.   Steve Blank says failed founders are actually “experienced founders”.  I agree to an extent.  More important is the ability to evaluate your failure, pick it apart and glean nuggets of wisdom to apply to your life.  That, or all is a waste.

Below are a few things I now realize in hindsight led to the demise of our experiment.

a) jumped to quick – I was recruited by one of my co-founders to join as the CEO in fall 2011.  I jumped too quickly into the company and within 2 weeks of meeting the team I was full time and ready to take on the world with people I had never met before.  I didn’t know their ups and downs.  Nor their gifts or their faults.  In retrospect, I am not sure this was the best decision and probably would have benefited from a longer deliberation and research of the team I was joining as well as the market we were attacking.

b) didn’t obsessively focus on customers – We didn’t focus enough time and energy outside the office talking to non-customers, potential customers and existing customers about their specific needs and how our product can help them.  Even more basic, although it’s easy to preach about lean startup methods and customer development principles, it’s quite another to get your ass out of the office and into uncomfortable conversations with people who will inevitably knock down your idea and hypothesis.   We didn’t validate the problem/solution clear enough.  Yet that is the only way to go from an erroneous hypothesis to a more valuable one; one which can then use to grow into a sustainable business model.

c) Underestimated fundraising – ha, I actually thought it would be easy to raise money.  Boy did I get that one wrong.  Investors are very strange creatures and at the end of the day they really can’t tell you why they invested in one company and passed on another.  It’s a tough nut to crack – especially for a first timer lacking glorified credentials like Stanford or Ivy League degrees or a past (successful) startup experience.

I figured we would lean on a quick seed round of funding for the first year or so and go from there.  I figured it would buy us some time to dial in the revenue model.  That wasn’t good enough.  Founders must figure out how to build a sustainable operation from day one (or until investment does finally hit the account) or they risk losing it all.  (read:  once you perfect your business model on a spreadsheet you actually have to execute on it and bring in a critical mass of ongoing revenue or the game is over before it starts. See b above.)

The “throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks” method does not work for early-stage, cash-strapped startups.  Got it?

d) didn’t recruit talent – I did not place enough value on recruiting and cultivating talent within our team and personal network.  I naively thought discovering dev talent was for the job of  a CTO/Lead Developer and I should not really put in the time and effort to find these people.  My bad.  Whether you are technical or not, it’s the CEO’s responsibility to reach across the isle and get to know as many talented and gifted engineers as he can.  Yes, a conversation for me is a lot smoother /easier with a non-technical person, but in the long run a network full of strong relationships with both technical and non-technical people will always be better than one or the other.

Easier said then done but team is most important.  You should never stop cultivating relationships and building your dream team, even if it’s just in your head at the moment.

e) emptied the tank – I allowed the tank to hit empty.  Empty of money.  Empty of belief.  Empty of customers.  Empty of options.  Empty of vision.  Empty of energy to keep going.  Empty of emotional strength and connection.   The determinist would say it ran its course and as the world turns… but in the end we just didn’t execute where we needed to so that we could keep (all) the tanks away from the fatalistic empty point.

There should always be another lever you can pull and pivot you can make to keep it going but… I let myself go first and once the leader’s tank is empty not much else can be done.

More lessons are in there for sure… a lot more.   But I cannot find the right words or analogies to make sense in my mind, let alone in this post so these five will do for now.  I am sure over the course of the next months/years I will hit upon another revelation and compose a nice piece for all to learn from.

Needless to say I learned a lot in the last year and a half.

Would I do anything differently starting over?  Of course I would.  If it were Sep 2011 all over again I can’t say I would.  It’s impossible.  Looking back, these lessons could only have taught me something by living them firsthand.  I am grateful of my experience and appreciate what it has taught me.

Failed entrepreneur = experienced entrepreneur.

I lived.

Here’s where it gets tough.  Recent coverage has detailed the fate of a few people in the startup community who – by all means looked great from the outside – but on the inside were tearing themselves apart due to massive stress they were facing in their personal/professional lives.  In the end they decided to take their own life rather than deal with their challenges.  I cannot (and will not) attempt to defend or attack their decisions, but I can only say I now understand.

I was both terrified and haunted when reading through and trying to understand what had happened.

I, too, have thought about it.  I have stood and thought about things I never imagined I would need to think about.  Not about ending it all, but about my place in the world and the value I bring to it.  I figure someone who follows through with an act such as ending one’s own life must feel as if there’s really not much to live for anymore – or else they wouldn’t have made the fatal decision.

The emotion of a failed startup is rooted in rejection.  None of us want to be rejected and we just want to be proud of what we have accomplished.  As the plane enters the downward spiral and you as the founder cannot gain control, things (shit) starts to hit the fan.

The scariest problem is how quickly it can turn into a downward spiral.

The fact that these people were driven to and ultimately succumbed to suicide are the true failings of entrepreneurship, the tech community and society in general.  If founders feel they truly have no more value to add simply because they didn’t live up to outside expectations and lost investor’s money, we are in big trouble.

And if it has anything to do with media coverage and the resulting negative shitstorm of outside comments we now face when our failure is publicly written about, we are in very big trouble.

Founding a company is one of the most emotional activities people will experience in their lives.  Most companies are extensions of their founders, everything from the code created to the core founding principles of the organization.  A founder’s greatest dream is to take an original thought and see it spread around the world, influencing millions if not billions.  When that doesn’t happen – your vision or idea doesn’t take off and start spreading around the world – you stubbornly start to question yourself and your value.

You also start to slide down a slippery psychological slope that might not have a (positive) end.  Once the slide starts, seemingly mundane daily occurrences start to pile up.  Problems arise in a founder’s mind when rejection becomes more than just a no.  To a rejected founder, an unreturned email from a potential partner becomes more than forgetfulness.  A no from a potential investor becomes a fatal rejection, such as a shove off a large cliff meant to kill an opponent.  A customer discontinuing their service is akin to a tribe shunning you from their tight knit society.

To an outside individual, these small insignificant acts are commonplace and normal during a business day.  But to a founder who is teetering on obscurity and rejection – they can indeed be the straw that breaks the camels back.

By all accounts I am homeless – I find myself sleeping on family/friends couches and spare rooms so I don’t have to deal with rent during this chunk of time.  I have been living on a few dollars per day and being really creative on staying alive.  I have no car or personal transportation, casualty of my decision to be an entrepreneur.  I have strained my family life to a place it has not been before.  I also have strained my financial position to a place it has never been before.

Truth be told, it’s a tough time right now.

But I’ll be alright.  As hard as it has been the last 6 months, I made the decision I was going to live through it.  I have committed to live through the toughest of times so whenever I do get back to normal I will be stronger and more humbled than before.  I decided that if I choose to end it now – to quit on life – they will have won.  All those people who say it’s impossible, snickering cowardly behind a twitter account or tolling comments on blog posts and news articles will have triumphed over us.  That would be the tragedy.

Life is worth more than the ignorant comments from cowardly people.

I remain committed to becoming a successful entrepreneurial story no matter how long it takes, even if it means I need to join another company in the near term.  Why?  Because the world needs more examples of people overcoming hardships.   Also because we don’t need more people driven to suicide purely because they feared what TechCrunch, PandoDaily, The Verge and Business Insider (and the idiotic cowardly commentors) were going to say once it was known they failed.

We’re better than that.

Fail.  Learn.  Live.

The Numerous Mental Disorders You Probably Have As A Founder

“God, did I just actually think that?” 

Many have wondered what goes on in the minds of the people who go on to start successful companies.  Some may think pure ambition, hopes of everlasting riches or even recognition for doing something great are the driving forces behind a founder.  Others might believe people have a vision or some sort of predestined aura working beyond their comprehension to align the lucky ones with the future.

Whatever is going on behind the scenes of a founding entrepreneur , you can be sure it’s straight out of a psycho-thriller.  The thoughts, feelings, emotions and urges pushing a founder toward success are so dramatic there are no words to accurately describe the experience.  The question is are these normal?

I have no idea what the hell I am doing and where this company will actually end up?

Entrepreneurship is basically a physiological disease, with various mental disorders running rampant.  Being an entrepreneur is something far different than what most people think. It is not about behavior; it is not about business type; and it is not about title. Instead, it seems as if it’s a personality trait with it’s own quirks and characteristics.  There are plenty of small business owners and start-up founders who do exceptionally well — but are not what would be considered an entrepreneur. Just like in big business, you can be a successful general manager without being an entrepreneur or entrepreneurial.

Dammit!  That guy is worth hundreds of millions more than me!!  All he did was start a photosharing app…  What’s he got that I don’t?

So how do you determine if someone is an entrepreneur ?  And are entrepreneurs actually crazy by normal society standards?   That seems to be up for debate.  A thin line separates the temperament of a promising entrepreneur from a person who could use, as they say in psychiatry, a little help.  Academics and hiring consultants say that many successful entrepreneurs have qualities and quirks that, if poured into their psyches in greater ratios, would qualify as full-on mental illness.

If it’s a disease, entrepreneurship then is a combination of many mental disorders that when found in correct combinations, come together to form a very unique individual.  Entrepreneurs are all in all the time. Entrepreneurs love what they do and obsess over it. It is a predisposition; a path that has already been laid for you. It is a character trait, a labor of love, a zeal that cannot be trained, a condition that cannot be treated, an illness that cannot be caught. You’ve either got it or you don’t. Even the Quora community has determined mental disorders are associated with founders.

Wait… did or didn’t I know this was going to happen.  Was it a dream?  I could have swore we already figured this #@%^ out!   Geez, I have no idea when the last time I got a full night’s sleep.

What mental disorders are to be found more common among entrepreneurs than the general population?  After realizing my personal thoughts were “uniquely abnormal” and after numerous interactions with founders of other companies (and discovered the same weirdness), I determined to do some further research.  What follows is an attempt to describe the most common mental disorders associated with the general entrepreneur with descriptions found on Wikipedia.  I came to choosing these specific ones from familiarity and similarity, meaning I noticed a strong association with a founders psyche when reading the definitions.

Anything sound familiar?  As you read these you will start to realize we all are a bit “off our rockers.”  Yet also apparent from reading this list is the notion that maybe the entrepreneur is the lucky one who can actually channel their craziness in a way that actually moves society forward, not backward.

(*please note I am only suggesting it is just the combination of some or all of these in small doses that make up the general entrepreneurial psyche)

Asperger syndrome

Aspergers syndrome an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests…. The lack of demonstrated empathy is possibly the most dysfunctional aspect of Asperger syndrome.  Individuals with AS experience difficulties in basic elements of social interaction, which may include a failure to develop friendships or to seek shared enjoyments or achievements with others (for example, showing others objects of interest), a lack of social or emotional reciprocity, and impaired nonverbal behaviors in areas such as eye contact, facial expression, posture, and gesture.

People with AS may not be as withdrawn around others as those with other, more debilitating, forms of autism; they approach others, even if awkwardly. For example, a person with AS may engage in a one-sided, long-winded speech about a favorite topic, while misunderstanding or not recognizing the listener’s feelings or reactions, such as a need for privacy or haste to leave. This social awkwardness has been called “active but odd”.

Get the hell out of my face right now!  Geez, can’t you figure anything out!   And why do you complain about everything all the time.  You should be grateful you work for a kick ass startup.  

Cognitive disorders

Most common mental disorders affect cognitive functions, mainly memory processing, perception and problem solving. The most direct cognitive disorders are amnesia, dementia and delirium. Others include anxiety disorders such as phobias, panic disorders, obsessive–compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder are also cognitive mental disorders. Psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and delusional disorder are also classified as cognitive mental disorders.

This company is worth half what is what worth last year.  I’m a loser.  

As an entrepreneur, depression can set in as well.  It happens to the best of us, especially entrepreneurs who hold strong feelings about their performance and the inevitable outcome of their company.  Ben huh, CEO of Cheezbeuger Network recently opened up about his challenges with depression.

Mania

A manic episode is defined in the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual as a period of seven or more days of unusually and continuously effusive and open elated or irritable mood, where the mood is not caused by drugs or a medical illness and (a) is causing obvious difficulties at work or in social relationships and activities, or (b) requires admission to hospital to protect the person or others, or (c) the person is suffering psychosis.

To be classed as a manic episode following must have been consistently prominent: grand or extravagant style, or expanded self-esteem; reduced need of sleep (e.g. three hours may be sufficient); talks more often and feels the urge to talk longer; ideas flit through the mind in quick succession, or thoughts race and preoccupy the person; over indulgence in enjoyable behaviors with high risk of a negative outcome (e.g., extravagant shopping, sexual adventures or improbable commercial schemes).

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a complex mental disorder that makes it difficult to tell the difference between real and unreal experiences, think logically, have normal emotional responses, and behave normally in social situations.  Schizophrenia symptoms usually develop slowly over months or years. Sometimes you may have many symptoms, and at other times you may only have a few.  People with any type of schizophrenia may have difficulty keeping friends and working and they may also have problems with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

At first, you may have the following symptoms:

  • Irritable or tense feeling
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating

As the illness continues, problems with thinking, emotions and behavior develop, including:

  • Lack of emotion (flat affect)
  • Strongly held beliefs that are not based in reality (delusions)
  • Hearing or seeing things that are not there (hallucinations)
  • Problems paying attention
  • Thoughts “jump” between unrelated topics ( “loose associations”)
  • Bizarre behaviors
  • Social isolation

Oneirophrenia

Oneirophrenia is a hallucinatory, dream-like state caused by several conditions such as prolonged sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, or drugs (such as ibogaine). From the Greekwords “ὄνειρο” (oneiro, “dream”) and “φρενός” (phrenos, “mind”). It has some of the characteristics of simple schizophrenia, such as a confusional state and clouding ofconsciousness, but without presenting the dissociative symptoms which are typical of this disorder.

Persons affected by oneirophrenia have a feeling of dream-like unreality which, in its extreme form, may progress to delusions and hallucinations. Therefore, it is considered a schizophrenia-like acute form of psychosis which remits in about 60% of cases within a period of two years. It is estimated that 50% or more of schizophrenic patients present oneirophrenia at least once.

Narcissistic personality disorder

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder  in which the individual is described as being excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity.  Narcissistic personality disorder is closely linked to egocentrism.  Narcissists also tend to be physically attractive on first impression, giving them advantages when first meeting people.  Some individuals believe that Narcissistic personality disorder seems like the the person suffering has high confidence and a strong self-esteem, however this is not always the case.

Megalomania

Megalomania is a psycho-pathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of power, relevance, or omnipotence. ‘Megalomania is characterized by an inflated sense of self-esteem and overestimation by persons of their powers and beliefs’. Historically it was used as an old name for narcissistic personality disorder prior to the latter’s first use by Heinz Kohut in 1968, and is used these days as a non-clinical equivalent.

Arguably, however, ‘in addition to its pathological forms, megalomania is a mental behavior that can be used by any individual as a way of coping with distress linked to frustration, abandonment, loss, or disappearance of the object’ in everyday life. In this sense, we may see ‘megalomania as an extreme form of manic defense…against the anxiety resulting from separation from the object’.

In the social world, ‘megalomania…can be a characteristic of power-drunk or control-freak dictators, some executives, some politicians and some army generals’. All such figures may be said to have ‘a “Big Ego”. A baby’s ego, in fact, insufficiently shrunk….So they’re much more likely to miscalculate To offend people’.

Psychotic disorder

Psychosis (from the Greek ψυχή “psyche”, for mind/soul, and -ωσις “-osis”, for abnormal condition) means abnormal condition of the mind, and is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state often described as involving a “loss of contact with reality”. People suffering from psychosis are described as psychotic. Psychosis is given to the more severe forms of psychiatric disorder, during which hallucinations and delusions and impaired insight may occur.

People experiencing psychosis may report hallucinations or delusional beliefs, and may exhibit personality changes and thought disorder. Depending on its severity, this may be accompanied by unusual or bizarre behavior, as well as difficulty with social interaction and impairment in carrying out daily life activities.

Brief hallucinations are not uncommon in those without any psychiatric disease. Causes or triggers include

  • falling asleep and waking: hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations, which are entirely normal
  • bereavement, in which hallucinations of a deceased loved one are common
  • severe sleep deprivation
  • sensory deprivation and sensory impairment
  • Caffeine Intoxication

Studies with sensory deprivation have shown that the brain is dependent on signals from the outer world to function properly. If the spontaneous activity in the brain is not counterbalanced with information from the senses, loss from reality and psychosis may occur after some hours.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism, in psychology, is a belief that a state of completeness and flawlessness can and should be attained. In its pathological form, perfectionism is a belief that work or output that is anything less than perfect is unacceptable. At such levels, this is considered an unhealthy belief, and psychologists typically refer to such individuals as maladaptive perfectionists.

Hamachek describes two types of perfectionism. Normal perfectionists “derive a very real sense of pleasure from the labours of a painstaking effort” while neurotic perfectionists are “unable to feel satisfaction because in their own eyes they never seem to do things [well] enough to warrant that feeling of satisfaction”.  Burns defines perfectionists as “people who strain compulsively and unremittingly toward impossible goals and who measure their own worth entirely in terms of productivity and accomplishment”. Perfectionism itself is thus never seen as healthy or adaptive.

This button looks like shit!  And it should be over there, not here.   This shade of red sucks and makes my eyes hurt.  And why the hell do I have to tap this to do that?  This just has to be perfect before we release it!

In its pathological form, perfectionism can be very damaging. It can take the form of procrastination when it is used to postpone tasks (“I can’t start my project until I know the ‘right’ way to do it.”), and self-deprecation when it is used to excuse poor performance or to seek sympathy and affirmation from other people (“I can’t believe I don’t know how to reach my own goals. I must be stupid; how else could I not be able to do this?”).

In the workplace, perfectionism is often marked by low productivity as individuals lose time and energy on attention to detail and small irrelevant details of larger projects or mundane daily activities. This can lead to depression, alienated colleagues, and a greater risk of workplace “accidents. Adderholt-Elliot  describes five characteristics of perfectionist students and teachers which contribute to underachievement: procrastination, fear of failure, the all-or-nothing mindset, paralysed perfectionism, and workaholism. In intimate relationships, unrealistic expectations can cause significant dissatisfaction for both partners.

As you can see, being an entrepreneur is a unique combination of actual mental disorders. Pretty interesting, huh.   It is in how the individual decides to channel their “unique characteristics” where we find true greatness.  I hope this doesn’t scare you.  I hope it gives you a better understanding of who you are (or who you are dealing with) on a daily basis.

It’s A Tight Balance Between Psychosis and Brilliance

You know you are an entrepreneur when you say…

I have no idea when the next paycheck will come in.

This can be the scariest thing in the world… just hold on.

I have no idea when the next round of funding will come together.

Your dream could end at any moment… just hold on.

I have no idea if my business will even be successful.

How are you supposed to know what will happen a year from now… just hold on.

I have no idea who will be the next engineer to help build my product.

Don’t worry, you can barely embed youtube code into your wordpress blog… just hold on.

I have no idea what I am actually doing, am i crazy?

Cat chase tail, cat chase tail, cat chase tail… just hold on.

You also know you are an entrepreneur when you say…

I know so deep in my heart this is the only direction I want to go.

You must trust your gut… now quit that job and start living how you’ve always wanted to.

I can’t stop reading posts and articles about other startups, I need more!

You have a disease; it’s called entrepreneurship… learn to live with it and just effing do it.

Holy crap, I do know more about Google, Facebook and Twitter than any of my friends!

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Lonely Man on the Corner

See the lonely man there on the corner,
What he’s waiting for, I don’t know,
But he waits everyday now.
He’s just waiting for something to show.

Genesis – Man on the Corner

Disclaimer: What I am about to write is controversial.  As you read please remember this does not insinuate I lack caring in my heart for human beings of all levels of society.  It is merely my opinion of how a person chooses to live their life and what opportunities a person chooses to act upon.  There are no right or wrongs here, just observations and thoughts.  Also, it is important to note the thoughts below regard what people are choosing to do in the moment of poverty, not how they got into poverty in the first place.  I anticipate differing perspectives and opinions to be shared in comments.

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You’ve seen him.  He’s the lonely man over there on the corner.  What he is waiting for nobody knows.  But he waits everyday, and he’s just waiting for something to show.  The quotes throughout this article are lyrics from a song Man on the Corner by Genesis. The video is below and it’s a must listen.   I recently listened to it and was shook by the emotions I felt during the song.  And so I started to think deeper on the concept of poverty.  I started to think about why some are rich; why some are poor; why I drive a nice car and some are stuck wearing the same clothes every day.  I asked myself, “what could possibly be the difference?”  And why some people find themselves on a street corner just waiting for ‘something to show’.  You may differ in your perspective on poverty in this country, but I believe poverty and entrepreneurship are distant cousins.

This man chooses to sit on a corner and hold a sign.  He has nothing (at least from what we know) and feels his best option is to do nothing, look desperate, and ask for money.  His value proposition rests on the morality of another person feeling remorse when they pass him, forcing themselves to face their inner soul and ask “am I a bad person if I turn my head and don’t give him money?”  He wants to be given something for nothing.  He takes from the world, but does not give in return.  He offers no product in which a dollar value can be placed on it and he has no service to offer another.  He just sits and asks for help.  He has chosen to do nothing.

And nobody knows him,
And nobody cares,
‘Cos there’s no hiding place,
There’s no hiding place – for you.

Genesis – Man on the Corner

I will juxtapose the man on the corner with the man in the hot seat.  What is the difference between the man in the image above and the man in the image to the left?  The man in the hot seat has, in theory, the same intentions as the man on the corner.  He is asking for money and he is looking for help.  He believes he cannot make his dreams come true unless he receives a gift from someone else.  His future, indeed, depends on another persons good faith.  But that is about where the similarities end.

For those have not picked up on it, the man in the image at left is a person pitching Paul Graham (an investor in the red shirt) on a business idea in hopes he will invest money towards his vision.  But in contrast to the man on the corner, the man on the hot seat does not believe in handouts or in receiving something for nothing.  He believes in creating value through enterprise.  He knows that if you have something, anything – a product, a service, a distribution channel, knowledge, land, a water source, natural elements, really anything – you can offer it to another for a profit.  He chooses to live his life working hard to add value to society, not take away from it.  He has taken ownership and responsibility for his life, understanding he can choose to do anything he wants with it.  But with that decision he knows it is up to him, and only him to make it happen .  The man in the hot seat is an entrepreneur.

Looking everywhere at no one,
He sees everything and nothing at all – oh.
When he shouts, nobody listens,
Where he leads no one will go – oh.

Genesis – Man on the Corner

At times entrepreneurs find themselves looking poverty straight in the face.  It might be in a situation where their income (or lack thereof) cannot fulfill the demands of their debts, whether it is a roof for shelter, food for sustenance or gas for their travel.  They choose to risk their current stability for the return of a better life.  There is an eerie aspect of entrepreneurship and I think it’s due to its distant cousin of poverty.  The mere thought of poverty can be the biggest moving force an entrepreneur receives.   It is incredibly scary and immensely motivating at the same time.  Only in risk one really experiences reward.  So we endure the possibility of poverty for the reward of wealth.

For the record, I am quite privileged to have a roof over my head, food to sustain my health and a nice car to drive each day.  I am doing fine but at this point in my life I hover right above to line, choosing to forgo a stable job for a chance to determine my own destiny.  Also for the record I have stared poverty in the eye and experienced what it could be like.  I have had my electricity turned off and creditors calling my phone for not paying bills on time.  I have had to dig change out of my car to buy a $.99 hamburger.   As a late-twenties ambitious entrepreneur who hadn’t “made it” yet – old enough to be established on my own but young enough to have not built sustainable wealth for myself – it’s was a tough slog.   I’m a tweener as they call them.

When you leave a stable financial situation and leap towards your dream, you risk falling into poverty.  Or should I say you learn how to operate with poverty as a strong possibility in your life.  You learn how to acknowledge where your responsibilities lay in the equation of life.  You start to realize your decisions will make or break you.  It is through this experience I start to think about poverty in a new way.   Whenever I drive by the man on the corner, I cannot help but think: “I could be out there right now.  That could be me.  As I am sitting here in my car it is unbeknownst to me how I will pay rent next month since I just took the leap and started my life as a full time entrepreneur.  But I will find a way.  I will find a way to not only pay rent but to grow my business as well.  I will choose to do something, not sit and do nothing. ”  I argue it is at this point of realization you really become an entrepreneur.

So Here’s the difference between poverty and success:

Man on Corner waits; man in hot seat acts

The man on the corner waits for something to fall into his lap, hands or box.  He takes no responsibility for his actions and believes by just waiting, help will find it’s way to him.  The man in the hot seat acts, on everything.  He believes it is through doing something, anything really, value can be created.  And when he creates value, wealth will find it’s way to him.  It is by doing and acting we entrepreneurs find success.

Man on corner values nothing; man in hot seat values everything

The man on the corner values nothing, not even himself.  If he did value himself, he would be doing something other than sitting desperately on a corner asking for a handout.  He has lost the ability to place value on anything in his life, thus has nothing.  The man in the hot seat values everything, especially himself.  He has such a belief himself he is asking others to invest large sums of money into his enterprise.  And he believes so strongly in himself he knows he can bring the investment amount times X back to the investor.  It is through immense value in self an entrepreneur will be successful.

Man on corner plays victim; man in hot seat plays hero

The man on the corner has ultimately bought into the victim mentality, meaning their outer circumstances determine their inner self worth.  A victim does not take responsibility for actions and outcomes, therefore they do nothing to change their circumstances.  The man on the hot seat understands it is he who determines his destiny and thus plays the hero.  A hero understands they are unique and hold power to orchestrate a positive outcome for all involved.  By believing you as an entrepreneur are the hero, your self worth has nothing to do with outer circumstances.  This frees you up to act according to your vision and experience success.

I am not sure Phil Collins would agree with my interpretation of Man on the Corner but I am curious if you do.