In the moment when our startup ship is sinking to the bottom of the ocean, everyone has jumped on the life rafts, and we're wondering what the world will think of us, what goes through our minds?
Whether we fail or not, we've all run through the same scenarios. The only difference is when we fail for real, we get to see what actually happens. We get to see what kind of support we really have and what people will really think about us.
But what's both sad and comforting is how few people will care at all.
In our minds, we're sitting around thinking that everyone is against us. Every investor, employee, partner, customer, even random people we don't know are sitting around taking turns bashing us. In every one of our social circles people are talking shit about us. We're the butt of jokes and a cautionary tale, right?
Wrong. People don't give a shit. Yes, the people that were told the bad news are going to be upset for a minute, and then they are going to go on doing whatever they were going to do all along. We may want to believe that our life situation will forever command the rest of the world's attention, but as it happens, it won't.
The world is so self-absorbed in their own world (I can write a book about this) that they aren't wasting their time thinking about what went wrong with our career. They are on to the next Facebook meme or whatever notification just popped up on their phone.
Unless we go out in an epic fashion a la WeWork or Theranos, the reality is 6 months or a year from now no one will even remember what we were working on. It's hard to believe, right?
In our Founder minds, we're thinking that our failure is going to go into the "Founder Failure Hall of Fame" and will be forever remembered in infinite detail. But people don't work that way. Do you remember the story of Zirtual.com, the company that went out of business overnight after raising millions from VCs? No? Well neither do I, and I bought the company from them (it's an amazing company BTW!).
However raw the emotion is right now, it's only raw for us. Everyone else, even the people that were connected, will write this off into a distant memory before we even find out what we're going to do next.
While we're so wrapped up in what happened, we lose sight of what matters — which is what we are doing next. This is a single chapter in our story, and it's a crazy chapter, but we've got many more to write.
If we want to worry about how we're remembered, we need to worry about what we're doing next. It doesn't have to be another startup (probably a good idea for now) it has to be somewhere else for us to point out attention.
What people will remember or think about is what we tell them is current. It's our job to make the past the past, and we do that by rewriting the future.
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Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes Bizplan, Clarity, 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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