Even in Failure, Founders Deserve True Respect

"I've been winding down my startup and I feel like crap. I see all of my fellow Founders, not to mention all the people in my life, and I feel like I let everyone down. How should I be feeling about myself as a Founder when I failed at the very thing I told everyone I was going to do?"

May 19th, 2021   |    By: Wil Schroter

From time to time I find myself working with a Founder who's in the unfortunate position of having to shut down a startup. It happens way more often than people realize, yet each and every time it leaves the Founder very alone, wondering what the hell they just put themselves through.

They feel dejected. They feel ashamed. They run countless "what if" scenarios that consider what the startup would have been like if they had chosen a different path. In the end, they just regress further and further into a position of failure and all the shitty emotions that come with it.

I only know this because I've done it — it sucks — and I don't wish that soul-crushing epilogue on anyone. What I have learned, however, is that from that pile of rubble there is not only some hard-fought lessons to be learned, but a sense of true pride that should not be overlooked.

No One Else Even Took a Swing

It takes a hell of a lot to step up to the plate as a Founder, risk everything and take a swing. What we don't really comprehend when we're stepping up to the plate is that everyone else we know is in the stands. They are the fans, watching from afar — they aren't stepping up. They aren't willing to take on the risk like we are.

When we strike out, we feel the collective disappointment from all of those fans. We think about how we fell short of their expectations, and it's often impossible to not feel a sense of shame for that outcome.

What we don't contemplate, and what's most important, is that we were the ones who had the balls to step up to the plate and take a swing — not them. It doesn't matter how they feel because anyone can sit in the stands and watch from a distance — the true players suit up and get in the game. We shouldn't think twice about anyone who's never even taken a swing.

The True Players Don't Judge

When I see a fellow Founder take a swing and miss, I don't pass judgment — and neither do other Founders. We don't pass judgment because we know exactly what it's like to take that swing. We've missed so many times ourselves that it would not only be brutally hypocritical to cast judgment, it'd simply remind us of all the painful stuff we've gone through ourselves.

All of us had to separate ourselves from the people around us, the doubters, the haters, to even take a shot at this thing. We have so much collective respect for anyone that would join this insane journey that when one of us misses, we don't think about the miss, we think about the Founder.

We don't care about their miss — we think about how to get them back in the game. We think about how to strengthen and embolden that lesson to use it as ammunition for the next go around. We look for ways to speed up their path to recovery, and more so, to get them re-focused on doing it again.

Respect Comes From Playing, Not Just Winning

When we look around, there are so few of us who are willing to step up and single-handedly shape the world, to bend it to our will. Everything that exists in this world started with a Founder who was willing to break from the pack. Often those attempts fall short more of than they work until eventually, we get it right. But we don't stop — we reload.

You may be in this place as a startup yourself, and if you are, let me end with this:

This isn't your last startup. This is your last lesson for your next startup. You've already proven you have what it takes to be in this game — now step up again, and again, until you can also show you have what it takes to win. And as you do, know that you have the most powerful teammates in the world by your side — your fellow Founders — starting with me. Now let's get back out there.

In Case You Missed It

Why Can't I Be Happy Where I Am? (podcast) Why is it that as Founders, we feel like we must constantly be chasing something - otherwise we don't feel satisfied? Listen in to find peace within Startup chaos!

How I Harness My Insane Startup Anxiety. There are two types of Founders: those that admit they are wracked with anxiety, and those that are lying about it. We’re all going to deal with it for the rest of our lives — so why not use it as a superpower, instead of reacting like it’s kryptonite?

Who's Qualified To Be A Founder? It turns out; anyone can become a Founder. Having the idea and vision for your Startup is easy, but building a business out of nothing, dealing with potential issues and challenges, and getting started aren’t as easy.

About the Author

Wil Schroter

Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes BizplanClarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.

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