On The Value of a Short Emotional Memory
There is an interesting combination of skills that you must have if you are going to be successful as a startup entrepreneur. First and foremost, you must be able to commit yourself fully to an idea. You must be able to make it a part of yourself and sacrifice everything necessary in order to give it the best chance of survival.
Then, from one day to the next, you need to be able to emotionally divest from it completely and immediately.
Being a successful serial entrepreneur requires that you nurture a short emotional memory so that you can focus on what lies ahead rather than what is in the past. When I was a young technology consultant in Los Angeles I did a lot of work in the entertainment industry. I’ve done more movie websites than I care to admit. This work turned out to be solid training ground for being an entrepreneur. You see, when a movie was in production and I was hired to build the online presence for it I’d have to commit completely to making it the best possible site for the film. This meant working with the studios to help identify what they needed done and often working very closely with creative teams in house to build the most compelling site possible. It takes a lot out of you to do that. One day, after the movie has run its course, all of the work that you did is basically worthless. The site fades into obscurity until the studio decides they don’t want to pay for the upkeep anymore and it goes away completely.
I remember doing my first feature film site and how hard I worked on it to make it as good as I possibly could. I also remember how much it hurt when one day the site just went away. I had become very invested in the work and it was difficult to see it deemed worthless in the end. I’ve seen many parallels in the startup world. You learn to develop a goldfish memory so that you can continue to move onwards and upwards. The mourning I did for projects in my youth turned out to be pretty useless in retrospect. The lesson was that in order to do your best work you need to become emotionally invested but you have to be able to turn on a dime and stop caring once you’ve gotten all the value out of a project that you ever will. The hard part is figuring out the precise moment to stop caring and move on, but even that gets easier with experience.