It’s very easy to become obsessed with the supposed glamour of running a company instead of actually doing the work – the unglamorous, tedious, hair-pulling fucking work.
Over the past few days, all over my Facebook stream, I can see pictures of entrepreneurs looking successful, when I know for a fact that they are not successful at all. It’s weird, and it creates a strange broken mirror effect. But of course, it’s inevitable.
In 2004, I had just started podcasting, and was lucky enough that I ended up being one of the first podcasters in the world. Good timing and a decent radio voice had given me my big break. Not bad.
But what happened after that is far more interesting. I ended up quitting my job, focusing on doing my podcast full-time, and failed. I had accumulated a ton of credit card debt over a few years, gone through some RRSPs (Canadian 401k’s), and was at a pretty bad place after a while of doing this – pretty deep in debt for a 24 year old. It was really hard, and then suddenly, I had gotten a break while working at a homeless shelter, of all places. I got an email from my podcast company saying I had made something like $10,000 in two months.
“Holy crap!” I thought. I had never seen that kind of money in my life before. Ever. Suddenly, my life had turned around. From one day to the next, I was no longer in debt, and I wouldn’t have to start over. I had crossed the dip.
But up until that time, I was basically faking it til I made it. The exact same thing I accused people of, above, when I posted that on my Facebook wall a few days ago.
As soon as I posted it, the deluge of comments was crazy. I got a bunch of private messages. “I’m faking it right now!!! I’m miserable!!!” And then I got a bunch of questions asking me if my startup was doing alright.
Lucky for me, it was. I couldn’t tell them then, but our numbers were great, and I was announcing in the next two days that Breather had raised $6mm in venture capital from RRE Ventures (this is public now). But the crazy part is, from the perspective of all the people on the internet, failure and success basically look the same until that final moment when you discover the truth. Nobody knows the difference. We’re all trying our best to be the duck – looking super cool above water while paddling like crazy underneath.
But ducks were born to swim. Most of us have no idea what we’re fucking doing.
The main concern isn’t playing the game – I guess it’s natural, although I’m sure it can be lonely at times. The problem is that the endorphin rush of fake success kind of feels the same as real success, for a while. It’s why you and I post selfies every little while. Feels good to look good! Oh man, am I great.
Well, not really. You’re like everybody else. So remember to actually get the work done, not just impress others with photos of what internet celebrities you’re hanging out with. That’s how you actually get to enjoy it later. Or at least, that’s what I see on my Facebook feed.