It’s not obvious

Three stories:

An accelerator I talked to the other day offers two things. If you don’t make it into their “real” accelerator – a multi-month program with all the regular perks – you can go into their month-long $5,000 “accelerated” program where they work on your business plan and give you some free AWS credits and a pat on the back. You pay for mentorship. They say you might get funding after you pay, but there are no guarantees. If you’re a startup founder desperate enough you’ll reach for any lifeline and this accelerator takes advantage of that.

It’s not obvious that building an ecosystem takes trust and kindness. But it does.

My friend Rick has been playing music since he was 16. Recently he started playing out at clubs and focused on the easy stuff – Johnny Cash, AC/DC, all that – and he was having fun. Over time, however, he got really good and started writing his own stuff. It’s not as popular but it’s far more fulfilling. He’s finally come to the realization that he needs to write more of his own stuff and really buckle down to be successful. I won’t speak for him but it looks like his days in a cubicle might be numbered.

It’s not obvious that doing what you love means you have to take chances. But it does.

Another friend posted a picture of his son. It was a diptych – one side was the kid at the age I first met him, about 6, and the other was a picture of him now, at 12. The pictures were night and day. I thought about my own kids. I thought it was obvious they’d grow up, that I didn’t have to watch them. I realized by son was now 11 and that I missed those intervening years. I want them back.

It’s not obvious that I’m missing life. It’s not obvious that I do have to watch it or I’ll miss it all. It’s not obvious until you realize that you can’t turn around and see it recede.

You hear stories about startups failing. You hear stories about depression and suicide. You hear stories about people breaking up because they are too dedicated, people hurting themselves with intensity. You hear stories about people giving up. It’s not obvious but we live these stories and it’s not just in the high-tech startups we so love.

It’s also not obvious that we can help others and ourselves.

I’ve been watching this ecosystem grow and expand for the past twenty years. Tech was once the purview of nerds and it’s now embedded itself into our culture like a fence grown into a tree. Neither want to be there but both will be ruined if you try to pry them apart. And like the tree we keep on growing, ignorant of our failings. So it’s not obvious that our business decisions will damage others. And it’s not obvious that cubicle life doesn’t have to be the end of the road. And it’s not obvious that the world is whizzing past and we’re too engrossed in our devices and plans to notice.

It’s not obvious that this can change.

I don’t like these sorts of preachy posts but I thought these three examples – the bad, the good, and the ugly, as it were – are good indications of how we all should treat the information we deal with on a daily basis. We must be kind and not take advantage of those coming up. We must accept that we can be successful, even on a limited basis, by trying and building new things and taking a risk. Finally, we must pull back and watch to see what is changing or nothing can save us.

The first two are acts, the third is a choice. I’m trying both and making the third.

Because it’s not obvious how we can fix things.

But it’s obvious that we need to try.