“How can you take such an ass-kicking and not learn a lesson?” I said to my dog, yesterday.
He was staring at a skunk through the glass sliding door at my home in Toronto – eager for me to open the door and let him at this unsuspecting animal that was just slowly walking through my backyard. A month ago he killed one, but in the process he got sprayed which temporarily blinded him for 30 minutes, and caused him to foam at the mouth along with his eventual collapse in the backyard. I thought he was dead. Two hours later, after scrubbing him with dish detergent and baking soda, he was doing much better. The house reeked. The dog reeked. I reeked. We were exhausted. One of the worst experiences of my life.
So, why was he now standing at the back door shaking, begging me to open the door and let him charge this creature who will surely spray him with the cripplingly toxic spray that he was hit with last time? He will most likely win the battle as last man standing, but doesn’t he understand that he is in for another eight hours of pain and discomfort? Doesn’t he know that this time he could lose an eye or suffer the pain of lacerations and gashes? Probably not.
In the pursuit of achieving a desired result most living creatures will keep performing the same thing over and over again no matter how painful, expecting different results, because they have no idea where the pain comes from or they are just ignoring these facts hoping persistence will pay off. For humans, it’s the definition of insanity. For a dog who wants to kill a skunk, it’s just instinct combined with an incomplete education. My dog has no idea that this creature has a toxic spray it will deliver directly into his face if he comes anywhere near it. He would probably have to kill a dozen skunks before he started connecting the dots properly. That’s a lot of pain and suffering but I can see my dog is prepared for this and is well suited for the task, but he most likely will never kill one without getting sprayed. The odds are stacked against him.
If it’s not obvious, I’m about to draw a parallel between startups and getting sprayed in the face by a skunk – the equivalent of failure.
I, like my dog, have stared at many opportunities, shaking with excitement. Ready to run out the door and attack, only to take it right in the goddamned face. While I have had many successes in my career, I have also failed big a few times. However, I’m getting better at this. As a 43 year old entrepreneur now, I can see the spray coming a lot sooner. I know when to back off and change my approach. I’m smarter. I listen to people who are smarter than me. This helps a lot but guarantees nothing.
My current startup is struggling. Bad decision made in the early stages cost us money, necessary traction, and our product was
not good shit. Great decisions made later on have come as funds are running low. The product is now incredible, traction is picking up, and sales channels are paying off. My team is amazing. However, the continuation of these facts is critical to our survival.
I can see the spray coming. I can even smell it, yet it is not here. I will not back down. I’m changing my approach and will go straight for the neck, just like I hope my dog will the next time the opportunity presents itself to him.
And I’m still shaking with excitement.