Play by their rules
I feel lost. I just want to cry and hide. London is tough already and this whole Amuse quest I have taken on overwhelms me and makes me feel so little and unimportant. There are so many unknowns where I am expected to immediately know what decision to undertake. There are so many things I have to figure out on the go, wade into executing business model which hasn’t been tested before. To hell with my wasted time (if failed). The only thing I care about is not to let anybody down. I often feel like a fraud proclaiming about my huge ambitions and big promises and so far, being able to show only a small fraction of success I’m going for. Why is everything taking so long?!?
Today has been another great day! I held another discussion with well-established fintech businessmen and women and I’m working hard on convincing other well-known corporate partners and sponsors that the model we chose for Amuse is worth investing their time and money. Michael, Stefano and Pascal give immense support and great advice and together we sure are going to close the fund for our 1rst official batch α1 2016 very soon.
All right ingredients are there in the end. Hundreds of ambitious, talented Polish tech wanna-be-entrepreneurs?
Check. Structured by Amuse environment for know-how exchange between London and Poland? Lower living costs in Poland so much favourable, especially during the acceleration & seed stage period? Strong network of mentors and corporate advisers? Check. Check. Check.
I’m SO excited people whom you may think do not have time for themselves, make it to meet with people like me – fairly new in their industry. Although it’s time consuming and the workload seems to be getting only bigger and bigger each day closer to the launch day, I know that it will be all worth it.
I’m also very proud of my co-founder of IamIN.io. As we are getting closer to the launch, everything looks more and more demanding but I’m sure we will manage the workload and continue executing our priorities.
I couldn’t have dreamed of better partner in crime.
Do all my days go smoothly and do I always know what to do next? No. That’s the reality of building a company which model hasn’t been validated before. Do I feel stronger than others and 100% convinced that I’m doing the right sacrifices? Hell no.
I sometimes wonder why the hell I could not stick to the normal citizen lifestyle. I see all these friends and family members of mine, having their promotions, operating within well-established environment and it makes me wonder if I could ever become happy being in their shoes. Am I the only loser here who hasn’t figured things out?
Having a vision, building a company from scratch demands not only conscious naivety but most of all – putting a smile each day and showing to others that you can cope with any kind of obstacles. It’s not about laying or exaggerating. It’s about managing expectations of others towards you and of what you promise to build/become.
Confront your fears and validate your “self”
Of course, being alone in these thoughts makes no good to you. As Ben Horowitz rightly noted in his latest “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” book, it’s like a “Fight Club” rule:
“By far the most difficult skill I learned as CEO was the ability to manage my own psychology. Organizational design, process design, metrics, hiring, and firing were all relatively straightforward skills to master compared with keeping my mind in check. I thought I was tough going into it, but I wasn’t tough. I was soft.
Over the years, I’ve spoken to hundreds of CEOs, all with the same experience. Nonetheless, very few people talk about it and I have never read anything on the topic. It’s like the fight club of management: The first rule of the CEO psychological meltdown is don’t talk about the psychological meltdown.
[…] In the end, this is the most personal and important battle that any CEO will face.”
In theory, showing your weakness and unawareness should be perceived as strength. However, our society teaches us from early age that we should not express our emotions too much in public. Business etiquette expressly forbids this.
This means: do not talk about your struggles and failures unless you can balance it with something positive. Something, which will make other people to follow you (your future top notch employees, investors etc.) as they need to see you as one of those superheroes whom they can rely on.
We need to be brave and feisty, at least to the outside world. Go and deliver this pitch, demonstrate that “yes, you can” but postpone crying from everything crashing down till you get home and be only with yourself.
Taking over your destination is not easy. But since when do we appreciate things not hard earned?
I used to be a proper rebel, by proper I mean meta-anarchistic individual (also called a “Millennial”) who would reject illogical norms and rules (though no drugs, crosses and killing kittens practices were involved). I was unruly and did not want to live within the system of deceitful mirrors.
I expected other people to understand my point of view (no matter how good intentions I always had), forgetting that my complex vision may only be clear to me. Nobody can scan through my jumbled mind. I needed to learn to dose and filter information and work these norms and rules to my advantage. Slowly, slowly, I started to learn that in order to break the rules, I need to play by them for as much as the situation demands it.
Even if I disagree with someone’s plain wrong opinion, but I have no leverage at that point – I am going to lose. Period.
You can’t skip some things. And even if Sheryl Sandberg is telling you to ‘lean in’, you can’t actually lean in with your boobs out and expect other people to take you seriously. You have to somehow blend in (to prevent any possible chauvinist remarks). At least….until you have some leverage. Then you can be whoever you want to be and wear whatever you want.
I’ll have a Coke, please.
For us entrepreneurs, mental toughness means the resilience and persistence in not letting daily setbacks and obstacles, negative feedback, or erratic schedules divert me from the clear goal of achieving my vision. It is what makes all the difference for success – and not intelligence, talent or background. Mental toughness is what gets us through the self-doubt moments and the emotional rollercoaster of entrepreneurship.
No one expressed this better than MailChimp founder Ben Chestnut:
It’s hard. And just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does. There’ll be times when it just keeps getting worse and worse and worse. Meanwhile, everyone else around you is getting better and happier and richer. You’ll feel like the only one who hasn’t figured it out yet. You’re sinking, your life sucks, and your business isn’t going anywhere. Oh yeah, and you’re not getting any younger, either. And just when you think about finally throwing in the towel, and saying ‘f*** all this,’ that, right there, is the test that all founders are eventually faced with: when things get too hard, you decide to stay, or you decide to quit. My advice is this: before you decide, look at all those great, successful businesses that inspired you to start your own. They stayed.”
The higher your ambitions, the more you will be required to always be on your wings. People don’t want to see your weakness (even though they appreciate talking about it AFTER you accomplish something measurable). So yes, fake it till you make it, but find some safe environment where you can be your true self and cry the shit out of yourself.
Everybody has self-doubts and experiences fear, even those forever-smiling-endorphins-pumped-jumping-jack-omega3-engulfing personal trainers or filter idealised Instagram people with millions of followers. We all are subject to the same rational and irrational moments of weakness.
It’s all a theatre full of people wearing masks.
Play by their rules, master the show, then build your own theatre and stage whatever play you wish to be playing (as a leading role).