I’ve written enough posts about why entrepreneurship is tough, and so has everyone else. From a roller coaster ride to severe depression and fear of failing, there are a million reasons why you shouldn’t try to build a huge company, and instead go take that cushy job at Google. But let’s assume you’ve already taken the plunge and you are neck deep in the stinky shit that is a startup. What then? What can you do to survive it all?
Simple: Have a sense of humor.
Let me explain. First of all, you should probably just have a sense of humor about everything in life, not just the hard things like starting a company. Why? Well, we’re all going to die anyways. Until someone figures out the secret to immortality and everything suddenly changes for mankind, you have a finite amount of time on this earth, and you probably don’t want to spend it losing your hair due to anxiety attacks.
Here’s the next point: Many of us are in a position to do certain things, purely by a stroke of fate. I could have been born in Palestine as a Hamas militant or in South Sudan where I’m trying to keep from being a victim of ethnic cleansing every day for the rest of my life. Instead, I was born to a hard working immigrant family in the United States, which gave me a US Passport – an open ticket to the world (except for those countries that we’ve recently been pissing off). I didn’t do anything to earn this. I didn’t get to choose. One day I opened my eyes and I was in a fancy hospital, and not in a mud hut. The rest as they say, is history.
Funny things happen in this world. Maybe you call them coincidences, or maybe you call them the hand of God. You need to control what you can control and say fuck the rest of it. And then laugh. Here are 2 examples in the past 24 hours of my life:
1. I stalked Michael Jordan in the bar of his hotel for 3 days until I found the opening (and the balls) to walk up to him and introduce myself. My entire life growing up in India, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined a situation where Michael Jordan would shake my hand and say the word “Vasu” out of his mouth. Never. Was it God making me meet Michael? I’d like to think that I worked (stalked) my ass off to make that happen and I wrote my own destiny.
2. Last night I left the groceries in the trunk of the car in the parking lot of my hotel and walked back in. 10 minutes later I realize and have to walk back out. It’s now midnight. As I’m about to open the door to the car, what do I see? My iPhone charger on the ground – it had fallen out when I got out of the car. OMG I thought – the universe made me forget the groceries so that I would find my iPhone charger. But then I thought, well fuck you universe, why’d you make me drop my charger in the first place?
Like I said, funny, crazy, ridiculous and coincidental shit happens all the time. Learn to embrace it.
Everything is relative. I’ve got 40 people in the office right now who are screaming and bitching each other out because our product is behind schedule and the internet is too slow. Everyone is pointing fingers and saying we’re not being tough enough on people to get the job done. Meanwhile, I’ve got startup friends in Tel Aviv who have to run into a bomb shelter every 2 hours and try to continue coding there. You think they’re upset that their product is a little behind schedule? No matter how bad things seem, someone else has it a lot worse (and someone else also has it a lot better). Remember that, and move on.
Startups are all smoke and mirrors. Fund raising is a dog and pony show. If you can’t have a sense of humor about how much bull shit you are spewing out of your mouth every single day, it’s gonna be pretty hard to get through it. The same day that we had a massive story about us kicking ass in the news a few years ago, we were laying people off because we didn’t have enough money to make payroll. The same week that we were hiring more developers in the office and announcing big plans, I was standing in a bathroom holding funding documents, trying to get an investor to finish his business and sign before the 3:30pm wire deadline, otherwise we couldn’t make payroll that week. When I used to use the word “outsourcing” to describe the thousands of sports analysts that we have who break down games for our teams, investors used to grimace and tell me this model wasn’t scalable. The minute I changed a few letters and started referring to it as “crowdsourcing”, everyone was suddenly interested in investing. Give me a fucking break.
If you aren’t laughing yourself to sleep every night, you’re going to have a tough time making it. The best thing that could happen is you’re going to sell for a billion dollars. The worst thing that could happen is you could lose it all and you have to go get a real job, or start another company. Neither option is going to solve all of humanity’s problems, and neither is going to make you live long enough to spend a Billion Dollars. As Louis C.K. would say “we don’t have real problems in America. We have white people problems. In other countries, people have real problems. Like, oh, we could have our heads cut off today.”
Enjoy the journey. All sorts of random shit is going to happen. Almost all of it will be out of your control. You can’t write this shit.
Have a sense of humor. Life’s too short to take seriously.