One large iced green tea, one small extra-hot, hot chocolate. It’s the sweet and sour of this drink combination, the hot and cold duality of their natures that I love. I’m sitting in the same Starbuck’s that I have spent many a late night brainstorming the future of Zirtual at—the idea that started in a similar coffee shop in Las Vegas two years ago and has grown into a 25 person company based in the heart of San Francisco.
A year ago, when I was living in the Tenderloin, subsisting off of Ramen and Red Bull dropping $5 for two drinks at Starbucks would have caused me physical pain. I pinched pennies like nobody’s business and still do. Even today I feel a little silly/guilty over the indulgence of buying myself my two beverages when I’m just one person.
Regardless, as I wait to pick up my friend at the nearby BART station I decided to drop into my old haunt and enjoy a beverage—or two—and reflect on the last 18 months of my startup life.
An object in motion tends to stay in motion…
I have always considered myself an object in motion. Since I was a little girl I’ve never been satisfied with the status quo, and for most of my life I thought this was because there was something, inherently, wrong with me.
Not until I came to San Francisco and was surrounded by people whose drive was far more manic and who’s life goals made mine look paltry in comparison—did I realize that since birth I’ve been primed for the work I now cherish.
If you don’t feel like you “fit” in your current life, leave. Search the world high and low for like-minded people, not so you can join their clichés and congratulate yourselves on being so brilliant, but so you can know that the things you’ve always wanted aren’t wrong and that it’s “right” to chase down your dreams—no matter how far fetched they may seem.
Happiness is the journey, not the destination
I always thought I wanted to start a company so one day I would be rich and not have to worry about the things being poor entails. Only lately have I realized I wanted to start a company because I love to build things, I love creating value and watching others enjoy it—and I love providing jobs.
In the last 18 months I have struggled, came to the brink of sanity and broken down in tears more than I have in the rest of my life combined. And surprisingly I have also been the happiest of my entire life.
Anything worth having is worth working for and the more it’s worth having, the more work it takes to have. Often the more work it takes the more pleasure you will deride from the journey.
Always go against the grain
Human beings are strange, if not utterly predictable, pack animals. We stand in lines because we see other people standing in line, not realizing that if we slip the bouncer a $20 we can shave an hour wait time off our lives and get to the fun part faster. We listen when people say “you can’t do X” instead of questioning the deeper motives behind their negativity. We live by adages like “you can’t have it all” because we assume that they must be right since they’re so well repeated.
Instead, when someone tells you can’t do something that you want to do—shrug— and continue on. When you hit a wall, look for a shovel and never, ever give up on your goal. People fail because they give up and won’t change enough to succeed. Change is your best friend and it’s just another word for innovation.
Know your true strengths
When I got here a year and started going through the Founders Institute I was told maybe 100 times how I couldn’t build Zirtual into a real, Universe denting company. I listened, and often got discouraged, but I knew my one strength—I’m damn persistent. It was disappointing that these people, who I assumed were so much smarter than me, didn’t believe in me but in reality—why should they?
The only the that matters, as clichéd as it sounds, is that you believe—unequivocally—in yourself.
I knew that whatever I lacked in intellect, technical savvy or experience I could make up by sheer persistence. I thought of the tortoise and the hare, put my head down and just kept plugging away. I changed a lot, personally and professionally. I “pivoted” Zirtual easily a fifty times in that year and will pivot it another thousand in the next five.
I can delegate like a mo-fo, some call it laziness, I don’t care where it comes from—it works. I can out persist most people—I spent 3 months in hostels traveling back and forth from Palo Alto to SF on the grubby train each day, lived with two guys in a 100 sq foot studio and haven’t taken a paycheck in almost 2 years. I dare any of my more experienced colleagues to take the risks and put up with the crap I’ve dealt with in order to succeed.
Don’t forget that most people fail because they simply give up, not because a competitor wipes them out. Most people fail when success is just around the corner. They just don’t have the cojones to keep going.
If you never give up you will eventually succeed—I’ll put money on it.