Being in the arena

Photo by Craig Zdanowicz on Unsplash

Starting a business, no matter the shape or size, is a lonely endeavour. There is no one else to blame when things go wrong. I didn’t know this feeling myself before starting a small consultancy with two friends. The biggest feeling of dread, particularly in the early days, is this undeniable sense of inertia. Nothing will happen without concerted effort and discipline. 

The curse of hindsight

Looking in the rearview mirror is another constant. I would always spend time dissecting errors, looking for ways to improve and not celebrating any wins. In the past year in particular, I’ve been looking at past decisions and trying to understand how we could’ve improved them. It’s easy to dissect a lost sale or a wrong hire, it’s harder to look at bigger decisions that we’re made that had a lasting impact. Were these errors of intellectual laziness? Was I simply too ignorant? It’s a soul crushing exercise because the finger always points back at you. 

Hindsight is always 20/20. It’s easy to spot what could’ve been or regret the good advice that you didn’t take. It’s still all on you.

Going for broke

In the local tech scene, there was some big news this past week about a startup that failed to meet its ambitious goal. Many people took to social media to decry the errors and failures that this company made – how can they be so stupid! 

I am a little bit more sympathetic. I don’t condone what they did or understand the rationale behind any of their decisions, I was on the sidelines. All I know is that I’m not in their shoes and who knows what I would have decided. Trying something new is hard and has a high degree of uncertainty & failure. Playing revisionist history is easy after the game is over. You know how it turns out so it’s easy to see how things should’ve been different. 

Sticks and stones

It’s become far too easy to criticize those that fail. I’m afraid of what this will do to the local ecosystem. We need people to take huge bets and risks, not sit back for fear of criticism. Failure to meet an ambitious goal should be applauded. Failure for lack of trying should not. Doing nothing means stagnation and that’s never been a recipe to solve any of society’s problems. 

I’ll leave you with the quote you probably guessed from the title of the post. I refer back to this often to be reminded that doing the work is what’s important. 

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

– Theodore Roosevelt, 1910

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