Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Jason Calacanis and the Helplessness Vaccine

Last night, Jason Calacanis re-released (The) Startup Depression.

Having retired from blogging this past July, Jason communicates now through periodic email blasts, and, a few days ago, he sent out an essay titled (The) Startup Depression. TechCrunch and Silicon Alley Insider posted it. Jason asked that that they take it down. And, last night, Jason, drowning in email requests for copies of the essay, cleared a few cobwebs and posted it on his blog.

It's about failure and frustration and starting up under difficult external circumstances.

And it's good. Downright inspiring in fact.

My favorite moment is when he reveals his thoughts about folding:

Anxiety and depression from a failed, or failing, startup can be intense–even debilitating. When outside factors such as markets or buildings collapsing are added to the mix, I’ve seen great entrepreneurs just fold.

Now, I’ve never folded, and I don’t say that as some badge of courage. No, sometimes it’s really, really stupid to keep fighting. Most consider it especially stupid to fight when you know you’re going to lose. I don’t.


Fighting when you know you're going to lose. The stubborn refusal to admit helplessness. Immunity from despair and complacency.

It's a crazy thing to do, to fight when you know you'll lose, but it's not so crazy when you don't believe in losing.

Jason never folds because he digs the ass kicking, he knows that failure motivates him and focuses him on the next steps. He never folds because failure isn't failure. It's education. It's a step on the path, wherever it might be going.

But now I'm putting words in the man's mouth. And I'm getting sleepy. So I'll stop.

The point, I think, regardless of whether it's Jason's or mine or some combination, is that it might do us all good if we stopped acknowledging the existence of big picture failure and just kept working, kept trying to fix what's broken, kept trying to perfect what doesn't work well enough.

The ass kickings along the way will motivate, and the journey will be a whole lot of fun.

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