It Must Be Nice

"It must be nice" – The most popular refrain us Founders get when the outside world sees what we have  – without seeing what it took to get there.

   |    By: Wil Schroter

A few years back I was having lunch with a fellow Founder who had started a company that was #1 on the Inc 500 list.  He had launched the startup from the basement of his girlfriend's house with zero capital and had built into a massive company.

We were eating lunch at an exclusive country club he had just joined and were walking out to the parking lot where his shiny new Ferrari was parked.  Clearly things were going well for him.

I asked him a simple question "What do people say now when they see you in that new Ferrari?"

He said "They say: 'It must be nice.'"

Ahhh! "It must be nice" – The most popular refrain us Founders get when the outside world sees what we have  – without seeing what it tookto get there.

This isn't for the people who have made it — this is for those of us who haven't.

This is for those of us who are still in the trenches, battling every day, making insane sacrifices.

I'd like to take a moment and ask all of us to take a picture of this very moment, when we're sacrificing everything and killing ourselves just to turn our dream into a reality.  And remember this when it's your moment to answer "It must be nice".

When we're looking down at our phones at 9 p.m. — still at the office, of course — and it's a non-stop stream of "When are you coming home??" and "Are you going to make our son's soccer game?!" and "It looks like you'll be late..." and finally "Are you really going to keep missing all of our kid's events?"

And, we realize that this stream of texts isn't going to stop with just tonight. In fact, we're not sure if it ever will. The reminder will come when we see our kids again.

"It must be nice."

When we try taking a client out to dinner, but we're terrified that we don't know which credit card we can use to pay for the meal because they are all maxed.  We hand the card to the server and sweat bullets about whether or not this poor kid will be the person who officially announces "You are bankrupt"with the words "Sir, I'm afraid this card isn't going through."

"It must be nice."

When we're sitting in a company meeting trying to get the troops pumped up about our future — all the while knowing that the likelihood that we will make payroll next month is almost zero.  When those same employees tell us about future plans like buying a house or sending their kids to college while the entire time we're riddled with guilt thinking "I'm probably going to have to explain you don't have a job soon."

"It must be nice."

When we're on our 50th investor pitch and we already know before we get to our third pitch deck slide that there's no waywe're getting any more funding.  That everyone has given up on us — even our existing investors. That we'll have to go back to our team (again) and tell them what a huge disappointment we are.  That everyone else knows we're "done" and no one is saying anything to us.

"It must be nice."

When our spouse is telling us that we really need to fold the tents and start looking for a day job — yet every ounce of our being says we should be sticking with what we're doing.  When we are the last people on the planet who actually believe in anything that we can do and every possible voice is telling us to pack it in.

"It must be nice."

When all of our relationships deteriorate because we've been so hell bent on making this startup work.  When we lose our loved ones to divorce. When we lose touch with our families. When we look at our kids and ask what happened to the last 3 years.  When we look up and realize we haven't met a friend out for a drink in so long we don't even know what friends we'd invite out to have a drink to begin with.

"It must be nice."

When at every social gathering we hear the most painful four words"How's that startup going?"When we are forced to put on a smile and pretend it's going great when in fact we're up every night staring at the ceiling asking ourselves "How the helldid I get myself into this mess?" We actually hope no one will talk to us because we want to avoid the constant torture of replaying our own reality to others.

"It must be nice."

When we look at our bodies and wonder what the hell happened to us.  How did we gain so much weight? When was the last time we didn't have dark circles tattooed to our sallow faces?  Did we have a full head of hair at one point? Why is it the only active reminder we have to go to the gym is the charge on our credit card statement each month?  When was the last time we slept?

"It must be nice."

Fellow Founders, I want you to remember these moments.  I'd ask you to emblazon them into your brains, not just to share with your therapist (and by all means, please do!) Remember them as tapestry of your journey and the only true mark of how the startup journey actually works.

Remember these moments as what it took to get you here.  Remember these moments as the price you paid for all that you will have earned in the future, if you're so lucky to earn anything at all.

And in that moment when you've gotten your trophy - be it the car, the house, the lifestyle - whatever it is to you that marks your success, please cherish every bit of this struggle as the foundation for a future where you don't have to make excuses for anything.

As my Founder friend slung into his new Ferrari, I asked him one last question - "How do you respond when people say 'It must be nice'?"

Without hesitation he replied: "I tell them to go f*ck themselves!"

It must be nice.

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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