Part of the baptism of fire for entrepreneurs and CEOs is the “WFIO” moment, when the metaphoric trapdoor you’re standing on suddenly swings open to reveal the yawning black vacuum of space beneath your feet and you realize – it’s all gone wrong, everything I valued at ($X) is now worth -($X), next stop oblivion, We’re F<whatever>ed, It’s Over.
Actually, I’m having a bit of a WFIO moment right now, staring blankly at a PCB where a single BGA ball seems to have failed to be soldered OK, frustratingly causing its key camera functionality not to work. Glass half full: wowza, we got 99.99% of the board working first time. Glass half empty: hey, nice little green doorstop you got there, Nick.
Don’t worry, I’ll get over it. Probably.
Just so you know, I first heard about WFIOs from this hugely informative post by Ben Horowitz. He makes a whole load of great points about coping with (and indeed surviving) the pain of leadership: for example, I know I shouldn’t smile whenever I hear the old story about racing drivers (i.e. advising you to focus on the road rather than the wall) that Ben quotes, but it works for me.
Of course, running a startup is somewhat like building a boat from driftwood while in the middle of the sea. On the one hand, you’re perilously close to drowning every single day: but on the other hand, there’s an awful lot of driftwood out there, and lots of people want you to stay afloat. Sink, or swim!