Christopher Lin is a Fizzler who opened a recent forum post with this story:
“I went to the University of Utah, and majored in Entrepreneurship. At the orientation, there were 2 speakers, and the first one opened in front of the entire business school:
‘When I started my first business. I lost my wife, and it was worth it.’
Imagine a group of young starry eyed college kids listening to this opening message.
He continued, ‘I wish 10 years of horrible failures upon all of you, so you can truly become great entrepreneurs.’
Another slap in the face. Are we in the right room?
I'm now hitting just about 10 years after my first business, and barely hitting minimum viable income. It's been a rocky road of squirrel chasing and lack of focus, but I am optimistic that I've laid the foundation to build something great now.”
Wow. In those two bolded statements above is some inflammatory, scandalous, polarizing stuff!
But there’s more in there than just sludge for debate.
There is a question about what it means to fail, what’s at stake if your idea doesn’t work, what the “real world” requires from you and what you require from yourself.
More than anything, the conversation you’re about to listen to is about whether you give yourself permission to fail.
“Permission to fail” can feel buzz-wordy and insubstantial, but what you’ll find in this episode at large — and in Barrett’s story at the very least — is this could be the very reason why you can’t find the clarity or the courage for the next step.
Listen to the episode:
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““When I started my first business. I lost my wife, and it was worth it.” Whoa.”
Barrett reads from an email he wrote about his previous business in this episode. We wanted to publish that here in text as well as in the episode. Here it is:
Four years ago, I founded a company. It was probably bound to fail from the beginning, if for no other reason than simple lack of experience. But I stayed at it for three years.
That's three years with no day job, two years with little to no income, and an unbearable number of sleepless nights, fights with N., and days spent working alone.
I got so stressed out during that time that I convinced myself I had cancer. I went to the doctor repeatedly to try to find what was wrong with me. It turns out there was only one thing wrong: a failing business and no one alongside me in the trenches. In other words, despair.
In the process, I racked up $10,000 in credit card debt. N. added another $10,000 of her own just to keep us paying our bills and living an ok life. I lived in my parents' basement. N. lived at home with her parents. And it was all self inflicted.
Finally, three years in, after working with Seth, I finally started to see what I couldn't see before. The audience was all wrong. I wasn't clear on what, exactly, I was selling. I had no clear path to earning any respectable amount of revenue. It was time to shut it down.
That's when I showed up at Fizzle. Broken. In debilitating credit card debt. My confidence in shambles. Craving collaboration and learning and mentorship. Starving for technical skills, the lack of which had contributed so much to our failure.
It was a hard process and I'm still unwinding the physical and emotional toll it took on me and my relationships to N., family, and friends.
That's what I'm thinking about when I'm pissed off that we're not executing. Or when I don't understand why we've chosen a podcast topic. Or when we don't put out a course all year.
It's because I know there are hundreds and thousands of people who think if they just take the leap, quit their jobs, and believe in themselves, they'll have a successful business. But we all know that's just not true.
I want us to be the solution. I want us to speak truth to what they're going to experience. I want to acknowledge what they're feeling, sure, but more importantly I want to give them the tools to actually change their situation.
TALKING about self doubt would not have been helpful to Elon Musk when SpaceX's third rocket launch failed. What was helpful was launching the fourth rocket. All of his energy needed to go towards solving the root problems in order to move beyond the doubt and fear and prove that Musk was able to execute on his plans.
So when we choose a topic like that, I recognize it might feel good to the audience, but I come to it pissed off because my greatest fear is that we'll give people an excuse to feel sorry for themselves. That we'll talk so much about the symptom that we'll never help them address the root cause. It's not a lack of empathy, it's empathy so deep that I know what the downside could be if we don't approach the topic just right.
In other words, it's personal. It's not that I'm unhappy with where we are, it's that I have a sense of urgency about solving the problems these people have in their businesses. And the more we shy away from leaning into the work at hand — teaching — the more we cheat our customers out of everything they need to know to have a fighting chance at building a successful business.
For all those who feel it:
““Your work is not your worth.””