object in motionOne 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.  

 

 

 

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  • http://www.dessign.net Dessign

    Maren, I really enjoy reading your posts because they come straight from your experience and are true story… and for those people who tell you, you can’t do something…
    “Listen,  smile,  agree, and then do whatever the fuck you were gonna do anyway.” -Robert Downey, Jr

    -Marios

  • Sharon Vornholt

    Another great post Maren.

    I have followed your blog for some time now. I also follow Pat Flynn’s ”Smart Passive Income” blog.  I have been a full time real estate investor since January of 2008. I also am trying to build an online business and have suffered many of the frustrations and challenges you write about.

    On one of Pat’s posts, he challenged everyone new to interviews to interview someone and record it. I decided to take on the challenge.After giving it some thought, I decided to do a video series called “Escaping the 9 to 5; How I did It”.

    It was truly your blog that gave me the inspiration. After this week, I will have 10 completed interviews.

    Sharon

  • Dave

    Damn, this was good.  Thank you.  Got chills reading some of the inspiration parts and laughed out loud at “I can delegate like a mo-fo”.   Wasn’t expecting that in the middle of an inspiration piece I guess.  Can we get more of your mindset in the future?  It’s good stuff.

  • http://twitter.com/financialsamura Financial Samurai

    I am glad you’ve eradicated the “I want to build a $100 million dollar company by 30″ vernacular out of your posts and have started to appreciate the true joys of entrepreneurship!

     

  • http://ironwomanintraining.com Amara Vadee Poolswasdi

    Your  musings always find me right at the precise time I need advice from someone like you! I especially love this part –

    “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.”

  • ct

    I don’t think I’ve heard of ‘Happiness is the journey, not the destination’ before but in this culture (especially in startups/biz where it’s all about the exit end game) it’s insightful and turns things upside down for me.  I’ve put that text into a desktop wallpaper and post-it note.  Thanks for your writing.  You should collect these postings and someday make a book out of them.

  • http://www.VirtualZeta.com Maren Kate

    Hey CT—

    Thanks for the kind words ;)

  • http://www.VirtualZeta.com Maren Kate

    Thanks Amara!

  • http://www.VirtualZeta.com Maren Kate

    Yep—I’m growing up!

  • http://www.VirtualZeta.com Maren Kate

    Ha, yeah I’ve never been one for proper English ;)

  • http://www.VirtualZeta.com Maren Kate

    That’s so awesome! I’d love to check them out—drop me a link!

  • http://www.VirtualZeta.com Maren Kate

    Ha, love that quote. Thanks!

  • theelevatorlife

    You really have a talent for writing. Always inspirational to read your thoughts and I love how spot on they are.

    I moved to China to start my business and I can’t even count the amount of people that told me I couldn’t do it. But I agree with you, the journey is amazing.

  • Sharon Vornholt

    Here’s the link Maren.

    http://LouisvilleGalsRealEstateBlog.com -  They are all in the video tab.

    Thanks for being such an inspiration.

  • TalesFromTheDailyGrind

    Love this post! So much inspiration and honesty behind being broke and building your dream company when no one else believed in you. (www.TalesFromTheDailyGrind.com)

  • http://twitter.com/dorond Doron Dusheiko

    Just what I needed to hear, thanks Maren! You are an inspiration.

  • http://www.zoealexanderuk.com/ Zoe Alexander

    Maren, this has to be the first post I have read in the last 5 months that really means something to me. I too, have started a new business, in Jan this year, a new maternity brand. Like you I have heard all the negativity associated with starting a new business in a recession, especially as my products are high end, quality, boutique garments!  But I am persistent and extremely determined, and like you I will succeed to make Zoe Alexander UK a global maternity brand! Thank you so much for having such a positive influence on me! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/benschoeffler Ben Schoeffler

    Wonderful post, a true inspiration. 

  • http://www.digitalnomadjourney.com/ Jeff Bronson

    Being persistent and ignoring the “haters” is too daunting a task for most. This means those with true drive will get farther, by being the last wo/man standing in some cases. Doing the things other people will not.

    “People fail because they give up and won’t change enough to succeed.”

    True. They are too complacent, and don’t really want their dream bad enough. They are happy to stay stagnant, hoping something will change, “someday”.

    PS. Great post, but you may want to double check the following sentence. :)

    “The only the that matters, as clichéd as it sounds, is that you believe—unequivocally—in yourself.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/nate.p.lewis Nathaniel P Lewis

    Posts like these are why  LOVE to read escapingthe9to5! Absolutely brilliant, Totally inspirational! 

  • http://twitter.com/BrandonWarren20 Brandon Warren

    Great posts, nutritional food for thought!

  • http://twitter.com/RealWorldMyth Ryan O’Loughlin

    I respect your persistence and courage. This post was motivational. And you kinda touched upon this, but definitely “staying in motion” will build momentum and interia for your business that you can carry on during the low points. Just found your blog, looking forward to reading more! 

  • Core

    Hahaha… No one else has to tell me I can’t do it. I beat up on myself before they get a chance. A nasty habit of being my own worse enemy, trying to work myself out of it.

    Anyways, great article. I throughly enjoyed it. (also wow! 100 sq ft! I’m in a 256 sqft room right now and I think its small (low ceiling) I guess its all about the layout)

  • http://WhosChrisHughes.com Chris Hughes

    Love it! I’ve been in the same spot over the past 4 years… struggling like crazy at times, yet super happy at other times. Right now I’m on a 3 week vacation because my business has been growing without my direct involvement and I’m seeing results. 

    The persistence ALWAYS pays off if you have the mentality of the tortoise and the hair like you do. 

    Great article! 

  • http://SourcesOfInsight.com/ J.D. Meier

    There is amazing power in persistence.

    I’ve seem ordinary people do extraordinary things by carving out a meaningful purpose, playing to their passion, and giving their all … and savoring the journey and the learning along the way.

  • http://www.precious-pets-paradise.com/ Jose

    Zirtual at—the idea that started in a similar coffee shop in Las Vegas
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    I wanted to start a company because I love to build things, I love
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    The idea that started in a similar coffee shop in Las Vegas two years ago
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  • http://www.buyandselljewelrynewyork.com/ Darwin

    The idea that started in a similar coffee shop in Las Vegas two years ago
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  • http://californiahomesforsale.com/ Carlos

    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 

  • http://www.elementecowear.com/ Antonio

    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.
     

  • Darryl Junior

    Wow, very inspirational.. I find myself giving up on things and havent went through half of what you just stated..Motivation

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    still do. Even today I feel a little silly/guilty over the indulgence of
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  • Robbie Addison

    I have always considered myself an object in motion. Since I was a
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  • http://www.facebook.com/octavia.hayes.522 Octavia Hayes

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  • Winnie Coley

    And surprisingly I have also been the happiest of my entire life.

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    It takes a lot of hard work, and it takes learning from failure, but if
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    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
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  • Victoria Major

    Don’t forget that most people fail because they simply give up, not
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    Even today I feel a little silly/guilty over the indulgence of buying myself my two beverages when I’m just one person.

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  • Corrie Carbone

    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
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    now cherish.

    http://www.remodeling-austin.com/

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    Even today I feel a little silly/guilty over the indulgence of buying myself my two beverages when I’m just one person.

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