“Those times when you get up early and you work hard, those times when you stay up late and you work hard, those times when you don’t feel like working, you’re too tired, you don’t want to push yourself, but you do it anyway. That is actually the dream.” – Kobe Bryant
It’s been a rough month for basketball fans. I’d argue, even if you’re not a basketball fan, it’s been a rough month for anyone who aspires to and appreciates greatness. Kobe Bryant was a master of the game, to be sure, but in just the few years since he retired he was already showing everyone that basketball wouldn’t be his last act. He was using the exact same principles that made him The Black Mamba to launch a $100 million venture capital fund, write a best-selling book and win a fucking Oscar. Many (ok, practically all) of us would have taken our five NBA Championship rings, 18 All-Star titles, and two Olympic Gold Medals, bought a house on the beach and never let our butts leave the sand again. But not Kobe. Because Kobe knew that success, wealth, fame, and titles weren’t the dream.
When I’m working with founders, one thing I always counsel them on is what start-up life is actually going to be like. Too many founders are only excited about what life is going to be like once they’re successful — they’ll be rich, famous and everyone will respect them.
They forget that 90% of start-ups fail. More than that, they don’t recognize that the road to success, even if it does happen, is incredibly hard and rarely filled with wealth, fame or high self-esteem. And if all you do on that road is ask “are we there yet,” spoiler alert: you’re probably never going to get there.
For me, the most excited I’ve ever been about any company was when I dropped out of college to join Imagine Media as their web guy. For the first six months, I worked on a 30-hour clock. I’d go into the office on Monday at 9am, spend the next 20 hours in the office, then walk across the highway to sleep in my apartment for 10 hours. It’d be 3 p.m. on Tuesday, and I’d go back to the office, work for 20 hours, leave at 11 a.m. on Wednesday. 9 p.m. that night, I’d be back in the office, and so on and so on. Building IGN was all I cared about. If you were a web guy in 1995, that meant you did it all. You designed it, coded it, wrote the copy for it. And there was nothing about that job that I wasn’t excited to do for 20 hours straight every damn day.
Then IGN spun out of Imagine Media and went public. Because I knew shit about business when I was hired, I didn’t know about these important things called stock options for which I should have negotiated. Similarly, Chris Anderson (the guy that bought TED with the proceeds of IGN) didn’t think that a college dropout was the guy to take IGN public (totally the right decision, btw) so I made $30k off that IPO. It put me on a bitter path where all I did was chase startups for success. All I cared about was how much money I would make when I sold it and how much better my life would be when everyone respected me.
And I was often miserable. I rarely loved the products, and I wasn’t willing to do what it would take to be successful. So, shock of all shocks, I didn’t have any truly huge wins.
Fast forward to now, and what I do as a coach. Each week, I spend approximately 10 hours coaching clients. I easily spend another 30 hours a week on sales, marketing, emails, follow-ups, this blog and meeting lots and lots of leads. None of that is actually coaching, but it’s all a part of the business of coaching. And I haven’t been this happy since I was at IGN. Because I like being a coach.
Sure, I have visions of being a super successful coach, making buckets of money and earning lots of respect. But I really just like helping other people build their businesses. And I recognize that all the cold emails and fruitless coffees are just as core to the job as discussing product strategy with a paying client. I can’t do one without the other.
Did Kobe have natural talent? Bucketloads. He was also 6’6”. But Kobe was great because he wasn’t in the business of being a basketball star. He was in the business of basketball. That meant he spent a lot of time not actually playing basketball. Google “Kobe Bryant practice routine” and the first thing that pops up is his off-season workout regimen, which involved two hours of running, two hours of basketball practice and two hours of weightlifting, SIX DAYS A WEEK FOR SIX MONTHS. And he never ate junk food. I don’t care how famous you are or how much money you’re making, there’s no one on the planet who can motivate themselves to do that if all they care about is signing autographs and hitting buzzer beaters.
Even if you do all the work, you might not be successful. In fact, the overwhelming odds are that you will do all the work and still not be successful. So you better like the work. You better want to do the work more than anything else in the world.
— Eric Marcoullier
When I called Megan last Thursday for our weekly “Eric vomits up a lot of thoughts about an aphorism” session, I said some of those words up there. I may have even said (barely) half of them. But they weren’t in that order. Not even close. The second paragraph, the one about Kobe’s post-retirement success? All her. I know fuck-all about Kobe’s stats. And the second-to-last paragraph about his training routine? We never spoke about that. All Megan. Even the last paragraph only came about when Megan, for third time, said “I still don’t really get what you’re trying to say.”
And Monday, this blog post arrived in my inbox. Almost completely in the form you read above.
So, yeah, this blog is a joint effort. It would not exist, certainly not in this magnificent form, if not for Megan’s talent as both a writer and a translator. I’d say that she is the Cyrano to my Christian, but she’s far better looking than me and has a completely reasonably sized nose. Megan is a writer, a social media manager and runs her own PR firm. She also desperately needs to launch a web site of her own, if only so I can link to it. In the meantime, if you ever need a writer, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. I can’t recommend her enough.
(Photo by Fred Kearney on Unsplash)