• Women 2.0 HowTo Conference San Francisco, September 30 - October 1, 2014

Life Is Not Fair

Unfair

Know your worth, be loud about it, and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.

By Christine Tsai (Partner, 500 Startups)

Recently I tweeted this great quote: “In life, you do not get what you deserve. You get what you negotiate.”

This seemed to resonate with a lot of people. Why? Because at one point or another, everyone has witnessed and experienced that feeling. You work hard, people around you agree, and you produce awesome results. Yet somehow…

  • You get passed over for a promotion or raise
  • Others get credit for your work
  • Others take credit for your work
  • You can’t convince investors to believe in you and your company
  • You don’t land an offer for a job you really want and are convinced you’re the perfect fit for

… and the list goes on.

Whatever happened to that old adage “Good things come to those who wait?” Even the new version of this adage “Good things come to those who work their asses off and never give up” doesn’t quite ring true. Rather, the most accurate adage seems to be “Good things come to those who are loud about what they do and ask for what they want.”

If you really deserve good things, then why you have to ask for it? It is a question I’ve asked myself many times throughout my career. Long ago, I used to think, “If I work hard and do great things, then people will recognize that and recognize me for it. Why should I have to constantly remind people of my accomplishments? Shouldn’t they notice it already?”

That recognition rarely happens. In fact, what’s more likely to happen is something bad. I have countless painful examples from my career to prove that point. Interestingly, bad things always seemed to happen when I felt like I was on a roll – when things were going really well, and I was proud of and super excited about what I was doing. There’s always someone wanting to bring you down or get a piece of the action.

Life is unfair. You’re an awesome startup that’s solving a huge problem for a huge billion dollar market. Yet investors push back and say “this market isn’t big enough” or ask to see more traction… and then they turn around and fund another company that has barely launched. You’re running an incredibly successful project and leading an entire team and producing great results… and then you find out that rather than you getting promoted, someone else is coming in to manage you and your team – the role you think you deserve.

What I’ve learned from all that pain is this:

Know your worth, be loud about it, and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.

It may go against your nature to ask for that raise, to ask for that promotion, to ask for investors to fund you, etc. But you absolutely MUST step outside your comfort zone if it means getting what you want. And asking for stuff always involves negotiation. Everything in life involves negotiation. Don’t expect people to read your mind. If you never say anything, then nothing will ever change and people won’t know what you want or who you are.

Finally – don’t get what you want the first time around? Dust yourself off and try again. And again. And again and again. I have many perseverance stories I’d love to share, but I’ll save that for another time.

Be aggressive.

This post was originally posted at Christine’s Brain.

About the guest blogger: Christine Tsai is a Partner at 500 Startups where she works closely with early-stage startups and directs the 500 Mentor Network, platform partnerships with companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more. Prior to 500 Startups, Christine worked at places including Google, YouTube, OSIsoft and ChevronTexaco. Christine holds a B.A. in Cognitive Science from the University of California at Berkeley. Follow her on Twitter at @christine_tsai.