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Losing a Battle, and Focusing on Winning the War -- Part IV: Recovery

Part I  Part II  Part III

Once I realized the jig was up, it was time to tell my team, pick up the pieces, and figure out what else I was going to do with my life now that LaunchGram was over.

Telling my team was no small task. In fact, I think it was the scariest part of the whole thing. I was afraid I’d lose my friends. Not only did I want to prevent that from happening, I wanted to make sure create the best outcome possible for everybody. It was my responsibility to make the transition out as smooth as possible.

Closing down a company is a lot like a breakup. Sometimes the circumstances dictate that you can be friends, other times they don’t. I remember getting lunch with my mentor, Christian, a month or so ago when I was in the thick of this decision. He told me, “When the nights get hard, double down on the people in your life.” So that’s what I did. I doubled down and focused on turning my co-founders back into friends.

I wanted to wait until after New Years’ Eve so everybody could enjoy their holiday, but after who knows how many glasses of champagne, vodka and whatevers, and a few PBRs, the emotional side of me came out and spilled some of my conclusion with my co-founders. I could have handled that better.

I took each of them on a walk the next day to talk about next steps. Everybody knew it was coming to a degree, and there was an odd sense of peace mixed with turbulence in the air that’s hard to describe. We were simultaneously afraid, but confident we’d figure things out.

Throughout the whole process, I had a number of off-the-charts incredible mentors, advisors, and friends who helped me through the process. Despite feeling awfully alone at times, I was tremendously lucky to be surrounded by support. Each individual had a [very] different opinion on what to do, but at the end of the day it was up to me to make the call (see: Feedback Fatigue).

After the decision was final and I slowly filled each of these people in, a couple even offered temporary employment as a bridge to help us figure out what sort of future we intended to build. To those of you - you know who you are - thank you.

When a dam breaks, the village below does not simply stand up and rebuild. It takes time, and the village is really never the same afterward; some things are broken. Similarly, when you lose a battle, you come out on the other side changed. There’s a tendency to come out with a higher aversion towards risk and there’s a high likelihood you’ll feel lost. I sure did. But I also came out stronger and smarter - able to read the battlefield and see things coming before they hit.

That said, I questioned what my role in the business world was: was I a product guy, a marketing guy, a sales guy, or something else? For so long, I had identified with being a founder who wore many hats, some of which fit better than others.

Then I remembered the beauty of The Avett Brothers’ line, “Decide what to be and go be it.”

The beauty is that you don’t get to decide what to be just once. You have to repeatedly revisit the act of deciding what to be over and over again. If you’re really going to do what you love, you have to be vigilant in making sure you know what you love doing each day.

I saw a TEDx talk in Washington D.C. a few years back that talked about this idea. The speaker called it, “prototyping your life,” as a way of figuring out what you’d like to be so you can get on with being that.

In his recent NYT bestseller, The Social Animal (which I HIGHLY recommend), David Brooks said,

“the truth is life is about producing failure. We only progress through a series of regulated errors. Every move is a partial failure to be corrected by the next one.”

Losing the battle with LaunchGram was a “regulated error.” I’ve emerged battle-hardened, entirely more mature and significantly humbled, but not knocked down.

What I really learned is that life isn’t about fighting one battle. It isn’t about throwing one big hail mary pass. It’s about a series of focused and purposeful battles.  It’s about knowing each battle is part of a larger war to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve.

“Deciding what to be,” “doing what you love and doing it more often,” and “enjoying your work,” are all things worth fighting for, but fighting is hard. It’s emotionally draining, and it’s even painful at times.

But it’s possible. You just have to fight. And people only win battles when they’re fighting for what they love.

So fight the battles, because the war is waging, and it’s one worth fighting for. It’s a war for a better future and after all, the future is ours.

Thanks so much to Danielle MorrillNick Seguin, Jarrett Klingbeil, and my Mom for reading drafts of this post.