The Wall


Last week I was on day 17 (in a row) of working one-hour+ on this search for a startup. Things were moving. Each day was fun. I think I wrote an average of 1000 words a day, not because I was trying to, but because I had a lot to say.

Then I hit a wall so hard and didn’t even see it coming.

Out of ideas. Feeling unmotivated to keep moving forward. Not sure if people would ever buy anything I produced. Seriously, the song of self doubt is on repeat.

Last night I watched Chase Adam from Watsi talk about his startup experience. In that talk from Startup School this year, he tells the story of getting lucky (which they did). They got Hacker News to bite, and were approached to be the very first nonprofit member of YCombinator. That’s lucky.

But in Great By Choice, Jim Collins talks about luck not as something that only happens to some people. Luck happens to everyone – both good and bad. Some people start with an advantage, and I would argue that in the grand scheme of things, I started with a huge advantage. I went to school every day on a full stomach. Got my first email address in 1998 (LEGOBOY7@JUNO.COM SUCKA! HIT ME UP!). My first computer came the same year. So yeah, there’s no way I can honestly whine about lack of advantage.

What is really crushing me is not lack of opportunity, but lack of focus.

Should I do grad school or a startup? Maybe just learn about Data Science or move to Africa? Maybe I should get really good at JavaScript. Or do management consulting. I don’t know.

Forgive this bemoaning blog post. I’m writing to vent. It’s good for the soul. And maybe I can climb over this wall.

11 thoughts on “The Wall”

  1. Wow man. Ditto on this post. And the last few I guess.

    So much self-imposed pressure to search for my life’s “startup” (read “purpose”) that I forget to enjoy the journey. Lose focus, and change direction, that I question my original resolve to begin with. Resonate with that.

    1. Hey man, thanks for this.

      He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep. – Ecclesiastes 5.

      Sometimes I’m like…I just need to chill out. 😉

  2. I feel your pain in a slightly different way. I’m 34 and I’m still pursuing working for other people at least in the interim. I’ve had a series of abysmal interviews and I mean abysmal. It has me questioning if I made the right choice over 10 years ago when I dropped out of college, pursuing my CompSci degree. But then, what do I have to go to next? Music? Does “professional driver, closed course” really speak to me like I think it does or am I just annoyed with Atlanta traffic and consider most people amateurs at best?

    You’ll stumble on your idea, likely in a place where you can’t write it down. You certainly have enough exposure to great ideas but finding your own is a challenge that unfortunately none of us can face for you. I liken ideas to plants. Sometimes, like weeds, you just need to shut your mind off and it’ll spring up on its own. Other times it takes careful cultivation to see any signs of life, taking many harvest iterations until that perfect crop comes in. Nothing will grow on infertile ground though (lack of imagination/motivation) so as long as you keep the conditions right, you’re bound to produce.

    1. Yeah man. Angsty!

      In the middle of not being sure of what to do, the Lord is good.

      Right now I’m trying to evaluate if really significant work can be “incubated.” There’s so much lore around garages and basements and the sort of organic evolution of big ideas (apple, amazon, etc.) that it’s hard to believe that good ideas come out of a systematic process. I think they do.

  3. Yeah, I remember going through this (actually, several times in my career). I could hear the Spirit speaking through your quote of Ecclesiastes; one of my favorite books. Good reminder for me.

    One of my mentors in college said something once that didn’t really resonate at the time, but the Lord has brought it back to me several times through out my life whenever I need it. He simply said, “People change. You’ll change. It’s okay to pick a path for a while, and then go with a different one when you want to change.”

    Now, years later, other quotes from others come together and resonate, like John Maxwell talking about how he “re-invents himself” every 2 years or so.

    Everyone’s struggle is different. But for me, the long slow realization has been that I have this fear of “missing out” on all the opportunities that I’m letting go in the act of committing to one of them. And boy does that fear go deep. In fact, I think some of our core values as a society are based on the fear of “missing out”. Just look at the entire Marketing industry. How pervasive. Take away the fear of “missing out” and every Marketing Department in America suddenly has no message.

    Over time, I think God has been in the process of replacing my fear of “missing out” with a far more powerful and positive motivation: inspiration to make a difference in the long-term. The fact is, it really doesn’t matter which thing you decide to make a difference in as long as it’s something you personally consider important and worth doing.

    There are probably lots of those “important and worth doing things” right now. But eventually, God will help you find your own personal passion and you’ll realize what you’re called to do. For me it was rather unexpected. I’m a software developer. But I found that I’m really passionate about helping others through counseling and friendly advice. That’s completely unrelated to anything I thought I wanted. But it’s way more fulfilling than software development to me.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing openly, being vulnerable, and providing a venue for reflection. Good for me today.

    1. Hey man, this is what I needed. Thanks.

      I regularly wonder if, by choosing a particular direction, I’m missing out on all the other things I *could’ve* been doing. Wanderlust.

      That speaks to how I believe it’s my responsibility to make my life meaningful and that I can’t really trust the Lord and enjoy today.

      Really appreciate your thoughts, Jon.

  4. A major part of any start-up is persevering through the valley of the shadow of doubt. PS – FWIW, out of your proposed options, I recommend getting really good at JavaScript. Mastery of just about any tool is often an incredibly valuable skill set. And one day, you’re likely to look back and thank yourself for putting in the hours. 🙂

        1. makes sense. just curious, thanks.

          There’s a lot of crazy stuff coming down the pipe for the browser. Too much to keep up with it all. But being good at JavaScript (particularly *really* good) is going to be super helpful.

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