🍣 Tenderness takes time
No need for a system, just listen.
I started watching the Connor McGregor latest Netflix docu-series on a flight back home. Although i’ve never been an MMA guy, and it’s possible i will never be, the first episode felt oddly compelling. Maybe it’s because i saw in McGregor a father character which i hadn’t suspected he had in him, maybe it’s because i love underdog stories, maybe it’s the Irish accent that’s gotten to me. In fact, this last one is probably most definitely true. But the real kicker that got me to keep thinking about that first episode is this moment he stops, reflects on his past failures, and goes:
“The day you stop learning is the day you start losing.”
And it hit me hard, in a good way, not like a punch to the right rib that sends a nanosecond-long signal to your brain suggesting you probably broke something. It’s more like a punch to the gut that takes some air out of you, but soon you realise your endurance for future gut punches has increased. If only you maintain the courage to keep facing them, and, well, learn to keep going. Which feels like an important reminder especially as we experience moments where we feel we’ve failed, and feel afraid. And even if our brain says this too shall pass, our heart is not having it.
Outlast the darkness
The below image is another way of looking at it. Indeed, there are a lot of quotes out there about the beauty of failure, and whatnot, and a general understanding that if you’re not failing you’re not innovating enough, or whatever. What feels more significant to me is not the focus on the endgame itself (fail more in order to ultimately win, important for startups), but the focus on the internal emotional experience we go through in order to get to that endgame (important for the soul).
Founder burnout is very real, but my suspicion is that most people with intellectually or creatively challenging jobs also carry a huge amount of emotional baggage in seeing them through. For better and for worse, if you’re paid for your brain, it’s quite hard to disentangle your sense of self worth from what your brain can produce on a regular basis. Or as my pal Rachel once told me about how she thinks about planning, “our job is to drop regular hits and it can get exhausting pretty quickly”.
And yet, the darkness exists.
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