This Isn’t Easy
Written by Patrick Riley | March 21, 2018
Managing it All
This past week has been really rough.
First of all, my family struggled last week. We all got a stomach bug…at the same time (and if you’re a parent, this kind of group plague will be familiar to you). Because of it, I had to take Monday and Wednesday off of work to get better and help take care of our two girls, which naturally meant I was going to get behind.
On top of family illness, our team is hiring for a new role and it received way more interest than we anticipated. Because of it, I’m even more behind in getting back to people. I also realized recently that I forgot to announce something related to a virtual demo day we’re hosting next week. Plus, another person on our team is also struggling with a super tough family issue. So, with all these things combined, Dani (our COO) and I are both picking up even more responsibilities than usual.
Oh…and have I mentioned that GAN Ventures is about to invest in a few more companies, hosting an LP meeting soon (our first), and we have a to-do list that only continues to balloon?
So by the end of last week, I found myself repeating, “I just wish things were easier.”
I know I’m not alone.
Most of you reading this are doing something meaningful with your lives. You’re the CEO of a company. You help run a business unit. You’re communicating a company’s messages to the world. You are parenting two kids. You oversee the finances of a business. You do business development for a company.
Yet our culture is telling us to go and do the thing we love with our lives. To go and find the thing that will make us happy. There’s even this poster at my daughter’s ballet school:
You’ve probably seen one like it before. It reads, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
But what if that’s not helpful or true?
Being the CEO of a company is hard. Every day, I’m waking up and have to be in the past, present, and future. I manage a team of people. I have to keep money in the bank. I have to hire. I have to sell. I have to build culture. And then I go home and try to be a great parent and partner.
I’m not looking for sympathy. I chose this for myself. I chose, and continue to choose, to be CEO. And it’s not altogether very different from what many of you are balancing.
And it’s still really, really hard.
The problem is that — especially lately — my thinking stops there. There’s a talk track in my mind that says, “If I was actually doing what I love, it wouldn’t feel like this. I just wish things were easier.” You probably empathize.
I bet Arlan at Backstage Capital doesn’t have that poster hanging on her wall.
I bet Cory at ShedWool doesn’t have that poster at his desk.
I bet Tony at SendGrid doesn’t keep it framed by his bedside.
All three have gone through extreme difficulty to get where they are. If asked, all three would probably tell you that getting to where they are has felt an awful lot like hard work. And, mind you, “where they are” today is devoting their lives to making the world a more equitable, more functional, (and in Tony’s case especially) more fun and connected place in various ways.
Read: Ease is not the sole indicator of what you should be doing in the world. And struggle often produces empathy, drive, and a deep sense of purpose. In case you haven’t heard, all three of those happen to be core competencies for running a business.
Gratitude and Community Are Real
And this is where I’ve been challenging myself to change my thinking.
Instead of getting frustrated when my family gets sick, I’m consistently working to remember that this is part of what it means to be a parent. Instead of me getting frustrated when I have to pick up a heavier load at work, I’m feeling grateful that I built a company big enough to have employees and that those employees will sometimes leave or face struggles that require extra attention. And instead of me getting frustrated when there’s a whole new set of demands for a new business line, I’m reflecting on what a privilege it is to have new business at all and recognizing that there will inevitably be growing pains. In short: There will always be huge headwinds to the meaningful work we decide to pursue.
And, when I go through times that feel harder to remember this kind of gratitude, it’s exactly when I count on my partners and my friends and my colleagues to remind me:
This is really, really difficult — and it should be.
We Need You to Keep Going
Solving difficult problems is a service to the world. We simply can’t afford to lose you and your potential impact. We need you to go and build that technology that helps solve some big problem. We need you to go and sell that solution. We need you to watch your company’s cash so that it stays in business. We need you to build a good company culture so that people thrive in their jobs. We need you to fight for it, to (sometimes) lose sleep over the problem that haunts you at night, in your shower, and on your commute.
And, like I’ve been trying to do, recognize that difficulty may even be a sign that you’re actually doing what you’re meant to be doing. Always lean on the people around you in the process. Because we need you.