The thing about networking with go getters is you’re going to feel down once in a while. It’s human nature to compare and when you start to see people you know being written about in publications you highly respect, being awarded awards and being recognized for being awesome its hard to ignore the fact that well, you don’t have any of these things happening to you. I began to wonder if my ‘little company that could’ would get to a level that we would be acknowledged as a true asset to the industry, or even the state, heck even my tiny island community. I began questioning my self worth and even worse, I found myself becoming a little jealous of my colleagues who were receiving all this recognition. “I’m doing good things too! When will it be my turn?” I started justifying my situation, “We never took on any type of funding, no angel round, series A, or even a bank loan.” I tried to explain to myself, “Us winning a business award would make no one else look good, so thats why we’ll never win one.” Still that didn’t make me feel any better, in fact it made me feel worse, that if I really believed that I am a pretty crappy human being.
Then today I found a fantastic article in Forbes about what it feels like to be a startup CEO written by Paul DeJoe. As I was reading it I found it eerily similar to my own life. Spending 2 years building things only to have to throw it away and start building again from scratch, feeling guilty about doing anything not related to building the business, having fun was now not fun because I felt so guilty (I’ve since found some a very mutated version of “balance”), annoying my friends and family with the constant talk about turning hobbies into money making activities, even the part about not being able to enjoy things like vacations because of A/B tests (my last attempt at a vacation I couldn’t enjoy because i was literally running an A/B test on the newly designed site and couldn’t stop myself from constantly checking the results.) This was all me. I kept reading, nodding my head agreeing more and more until i reached a line that stopped me dead and tears began welling up in my eyes:
“You feel like a parent to your customers in that they will never realize how much you love them, and it is they who validate you are not crazy. You want to hug every one of them. They mean the world to you.”
At that moment I realized that these past few weeks I had it all wrong. I had been pining for validation, from the media, other entrepreneurs, the industry and it was all a waste of time. All these things never meant anything and never will. They don’t care if I succeed, all they care about is doing things that will help them succeed.
There were however many many people who do care if we succeed. I was being validated; constantly, repeatedly, every single day.
I was being validated by the hundreds of thousands of people who come to our website each month, by the tens of thousands of people who have chosen to become our customers, from the thousands upon thousands of emails thanking us for doing what we do, the hundreds of people who have traveled to specifically see us either here on Kauai or when we’re out on tour. This is real validation. This is what really matters. If I have this, who gives a shit about all the other stuff. This whole time, I had been waiting for this specific pat on the back because thats what I thought validation felt like, that I was oblivious to the fact that there were already so many people doing so.
To everyone who has ever visited our site, come out to see us on tour, bought something from us, joined UU+ or become a forum VIP, thank you does not even begin to communicate the intense gratitude I have for you. I’m sorry I was so busy peering into my telescope that I didn’t see you all right here with me. When you start something like UU, there’s no guarantee that it will work, most people will tell you that you are wrong, that it will never work and that you are crazy to try. In fact most people did tell us that. Thank you for proving them wrong.