The most legendary founders saw something others couldn’t. By Nayia Moysidis (Founder, Writer's Bloq)
Ever since I started a company, I've been living in a cocoon. My cocoon. It's a safety layer that allows me to fully focus on my company, keeps me from the anxiety of everyone’s questions, and enables me to keep my sanity. It’s also a cop out.
Last weekend, I went out for the first time in a long while. And I was shocked. Within moments, friends and friends of friends and acquaintances of friends were asking me questions about the startup world. Months and months of built up meddling. The influx of questions wasn’t a surprise considering the understandable catalyst equation: recent Kickstarter campaign success + first announcement of mission statement to the world + power of social media + my dedicated lack of comment on everything prior to this moment = sizeable spike in curiosity.
What was surprising, however, was my reaction to their comments and the questions. Everything sounded so romantic to me. You have your own company, one girl swooned. You’re such a fucking rockstar, another giggled. As for me, well, I gaped at them openly. It was too early in the evening to blame everyone’s reactions completely on inebriation. I contemplated whether my shock to their positive comments was due to the fact that I had been up close and personal in the battle, sustaining wounds and managing plagues, for the last year. Had I once looked so bright-eyed myself?
It took three of my own journal posts from early May 2011 to answer the question. Yes, I had been bright-eyed, seemingly much more so than the individuals who had posed the questions.
As humans, we romanticize. If we knew that love would lead to a series of heartbreaks, would we still date? If we knew it would take us two decades to find our ideal job, would we still start our careers with such enthusiasm? If we knew what we were up against before we started a company, would we bother starting? As I considered these questions, a realization set in. Perhaps being hopelessly romantic isn’t a flaw in our making, but our greatest weapon. Maybe naïveté is a survival mechanism, and the only one we can consistently count on to start us out?
When I set out on this path, I didn’t consider the obstacles. I didn’t even give them a moment of thought. I didn’t think about what would happen if I failed, didn’t ask what the chance was of success, didn’t request anyone’s thoughts on the matter at all. When people shared their unrequested opinions, I shrugged them off.
As the road became bumpier, I receded into my protective layer. I hid from people, and it wasn’t for the reason I’d expected. I wasn’t avoiding their negativity. That had never had an effect on me. I was avoiding their excitement. Because if I stood among them for too long, they might convince me to return to this state. My naïveté might return. And I couldn’t remember the positive effects.
There’s nothing wrong with an overdose of enthusiasm every once in a while. Actually, it’s necessary. Being a founder means being able to balance. You must choose which advice to take and which to disregard, which tasks have priority and which take the back seat, which problems to tackle and which to ignore. You will have to choose how to judge your own progress. And a little enthusiasm here isn’t a bad thing.
In battle, soldiers survive serious injury because of the adrenaline boost. The natural human reaction to extreme pain: its coping mechanism, its survival tactic.
The most legendary founders saw something others couldn’t. And when they succeeded, we all saw their public wins. But oftentimes, we missed their private losses. To make it to the end of the game, they both criticized and encouraged themselves. They knew how to balance their attention on both the successes and the failures. Because if all they saw were the misses, it might be hard to convince themselves to stay in the fight.
So the next time you’re feeling stressed, the next time your company hits a wall, find the romance again. Instead of avoiding the light of day, throw your windows open. You might be surprised what the sun can do.
Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Nayia Moysidis is the Founder of Writer’s Bloq, a literary collective that helps great writers get discovered. Nayia graduated from Columbia’s Creative Writing program in May 2011. During her years at Columbia, she played Division I soccer, explored six continents, and held positions at Film London, VISA, SportsMark, and Simon & Schuster. She has been published in Women 2.0, The Levo League, The Daily Muse, The Huffington Post and Forbes. Follow her on Twitter at @NAYIAisms.