Building a company is really, really hard

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
–  Theodore Roosevelt

It’s 11:12pm and I just got an email from one of my startup CEO clients:

“It’s been a shitty week. The candidate said no. Not much positive news for our upcoming board meeting.”

I’m reminded of just how hard it is to build a company. In Silicon Valley and throughout the world, we’re bombarded by startup success stories – this company went IPO at this many billion dollar valuation, this company raised $50 million, this other one grew to $5mm/day in transactions seemingly overnight.  The reality is that, for most people, building a company is not just a constant stream of success and excitement.More commonly, it’s a series of failures, setbacks and disappointments sprinkled with occasional wins.  It’s an emotional roller coaster. It’s filled with sacrifice, tension, and tireless effort. It’s really, really hard.

So I just want to take a moment to honor all the entrepreneurs out there who, in the face of disappointment, setbacks and repeated failure, press on.  Who choose to take that leap, away from the shores of safe, stable, predictable jobs, into the realm of uncertainty, doubt and fear. Because they believe they’re meant for something bigger. They see a vision for a different world and feel called toward it. They’re simply unwilling or unable to settle for anything less than a life fully lived.

In the end, what matters is not the level of outward success you achieve, but who you know yourself to be.  So, when times get tough, I invite you to keep your head held high and press on. Ask yourself: “What story will I tell when all is said and done?”  May your tale be one of perseverance, courage and heart.

11 Comments on “Building a company is really, really hard”

  1. Very nice, very true. Keep on pushing through!

  2. James says:

    I disagree. I think fighting in the trenches in WWI was really really hard. Lice, rats, disease, knee-deep mud, poor rations, freezing cold, snipers, mines, suicide missions. The chores, the boredom and the ever-present stench of death.

    Running a start-up is just challenging, in a stimulating, character-building way.

  3. Great weekend motivational read. Thanks!!

  4. allan says:

    Nice read. Trying to do a tech startup in Africa with all the challedges of funding, electricity, connectivity and my girlfriends giving me ##t. Its hard but u keep on when u know your going to change the world. Nice article,needed it

  5. Josh liu says:


    Thanks for the article.

    It really reflects the reality of startups. I think, entrepreneurs sometimes are just naive and stubborn. We just know we will make it happen when other things tell us otherwise. There are many lows, but we just can’t see us giving up and go back to stable jobs. 🙂


  6. Very well said from someone who seems to have “lived it.” Thanks for your virtual pat on the back.

  7. Kieran says:

    Very true, the survival rate for startups is at best 1 out of 10. That shouldnt diminsh the amount of thought, effort and sheer hard work that went into the startups that dont make it

  8. Kevin says:

    A friend sent me this blog this morning and it brought tears to my eyes. I have been cranking hard for 5 years, and I know this journey well. We got turned down by several major retailers this year, yet Friday we made it into TheOprahMagazine. It is hard…really, really hard. But I wouldn’t do anything else and it’s blogs like this that remind me that I am not alone…I am among a group of people that this world needs in order to progress forward. It is people like us that lay our bodies down for something we may not quite understand, but we just MUST do it. Chin up, Dig in…Monday here we come!!!

  9. “Chin up, dig in… Monday here we come!!!” Love it!
    And the post, too. Now, back to work.

  10. Ray Vellest says:

    I agree with James. Starting a business and facing the challenges of running it successfully is one of the most stimulating things one can do with one’s life!

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