Making decisions whilst drowning in ambiguity and chaos.
Yes - that describes what it's like to be a founder and CEO of a startup. That also describes what it's like to do a tokensale, an ICO, or anything in this new complex-business model blockchain "stuff".
Making decisions whilst drowning in ambiguity and chaos holding a newborn baby in one hand and the Empire State Building in the other hand while balancing on a tight rope standing completely buck naked in front of the mob in a crowded stadium.
That's more like what life has been like the past 12 months and continues to be like for me personally. It's surreal. Time is moving both so slowly and at "warp" speeds at the same time. Most of the time when I'm in a meeting, I am constantly having this "out-of-body" experience that allows me to walk around in the room mentally, while at the same time sitting in the chair and experiencing the meeting firsthand. Surreal. Sometimes my ghost body gets "stuck" in the physical body, where I'm trapped, blind, and suffocating.
There are also many times when it's just really tough. Working with white spaces and green companies, we don't usually have a playbook of best practices to look to. We don't have a board (of advisors or investors) to turn to on speed dial that can provide wisdom and a sounding board. And when a company is growing so fast moving through the stages of its evolution in weeks and months, rather than years - without realizing it, many of the things that a company does actually is setting precedent for its future. Forever.
In moments of really tough decisions, I play the scenario in my head over and over and over. It's me on professional judgment day. I'm standing before a jury of my professional heroes and heroines like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Meg Whitman, Peter Thiel, Ben Horowitz, Steven Sinofsky, Mary Barra, Sarah Imbach, Jeffrey Friedberg, and many more. It's really important to me that I can look at myself in the mirror, and also picture myself standing before the jury of heroes and heroines. I look for "defensible", logical, and figuring out what is the real intent of the decision that makes sense - and then look to what kind of precedent that it will set for the forever future for our employees, our culture, our advisors, our communities, ... and most importantly, our society. Humanity.
And so, that is the state of where I am today - mentally standing before the professional jury.
And fighting daily to find "space". Got tips?
Group gifting trivia from the world of GiftStarter:
My heart hurts. A lot. To say goodbye.
I pushed and pulled and fought as hard as I could to create something out of nothing. I met some very talented and inspiring people along the way. Thousands to people were part of this journey, and I could not have gotten anywhere as far as we did without everyone.
In the end, the 10 big lessons for 2014-2018 are...
Knowing when to walk away.
Spring to Summer of 2016 was really hard. I thought I could be superwoman, having just given birth to my Lentil - that with the help of my awesome team, we could pull through this together. Deep post partum depression. I spent the summer of 2016 in a deep depression. Deep despair. My husband often had to peel my salty existence off the floor and into bed. I did not feel like I even deserved to be alive. I often thought the world, my husband, Lentil, everyone would be better off without me. A waste of space. Unworthy of the air I took in. I looked at the sweet innocent face of Lentil and would end up crying because I felt I did not deserve to be his mother.
My advisors and investors starting sitting down to give me the "talk" in 2016. They told me it was okay - to close it down and give them the write-off. They told me to get going on the next startup because that one was the one they wanted in on. I tried for one last hurrah in the fall of 2016, with my "AJ" by my side (thanks to my investors, especially Rudy, for giving me that one last swing at the ball). Fall of 2016 was not the season of generosity and giving. Power was changing hands - and the air was filled with emotions between the Clinton versus the Trump camps.
January - March 2017 I spent most of it on the verge of tears or crying my face off or finding a place to belong. I'd be fine, and then while brushing my teeth with my husband in the bathroom, I'd tear up. Standing in the kitchen I'd tear up. I tried to get "out there" and involved in the community to pick up my spirits. I tried to do this "Red Scarf" thing which was all about giving it forward to another woman entrepreneur. I spent a bit of time doing office hours. I put together events. I volunteered to help the Riveter launch. I did consulting on the side. I advised any startup that came our way. I really wanted to help this tiny little startup company called CakeCodes (which later became Storm and one I am part of today).
And here we are. May 2018. I should really have called it quits back in the Winter of 2015/Spring of 2016. I definitely should have in the Summer of 2016. I absolutely should have sometime in 2017. It is now officially May. We are in the first week of May 2018 and I am finally officially and publicly - calling it done.
Hope this post helps someone out there. If you ever want to talk, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. It is so lonely being an entrepreneur, a founder, in startups, being a founder CEO, raising funds, doing the grind, having employees, figuring out how to be a mom as a founder, all of it. The emotional depression and the depth of despair that one experiences is so great, I wonder how many of us are suffering silently.
Hugs to you out there trying to change the world.