I am a Failure

Mar 22, 2016 business
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Fair warning - I normally don’t write too personally in this blog - but this one is something different. Something I think people need to read.

So, when did I get heartburn? I remember hearing about it - having good friends who had it - but I never had it. I mean, here and there - but that was usually after doing something that deserved it. But, suddenly I have heartburn now?

Maybe it happened when I crossed that 350lb marker. To the rest of the world, that’s 158 kilograms - or to my dream to do a pull up someday, that’s 1.5 metric dicktons of weight.

You might remember back in early 2015, I decided to go out and start my own company. I had a very noble reason for leaving my job - I didn’t care anymore, and I didn’t feel like I should draw a salary if I was just going through the motions. I was constantly tired - and as a trusted friend and coworker said “man - it seems like you’re in a fight every day.” I was just very tired of that corporate world - so I went off on my own.

I became an entrepreneur - the spectacle of the American Dream. I owned my own business and was very soon going to be rich.

Not really.

But, that certainly wasn’t the fault of my incredible well-wishers - people who might have been just a tad overzealous with their support - or their blind desire to build me up. Too much, too soon - based on what? You’d be surprised how many people told me that I’d do amazing, I’m going to kill it, and its about time - we always knew you’d be successful. (One friend told me I was foolish - and a year later, I can say that my bitterness towards him was misplaced - he was right. But more on that later.)

Everyone seemed to think I’d be successful, so I thought I would be too. Now, mind you, I didn’t know I’d be successful - you know - that blind hubris and insane drive that most entrepreneurs have… You could say that I almost believed success to deserved or predictable due to the simple math of it. I’m a good programmer, there are people who need work done: 1 + 2 = success.

It didn’t work out that way.

For the first few months, things seemed good. I mean, not great - I was already on the ramen diet - but that’s only because I left my job without having a savings account. problem numero uno - do not quit work without a savings account

I decided to do some passion projects. I realized a number of fun little website projects I wanted to do… all to the tune of negative income. problem number 2 - focusing on passion and ignoring the bank account.

I did everything right from a pure business side of things. I had goals, I set up my accounts properly, I billed responsibly and accurately.

But here’s the problem - I really do not like making WordPress sites - that is to say: problem #3 - if you have a specific niche, make sure it exists outside of your day-to-day job I work on a lot of large-scale website projects - but these projects which I’m experienced with require more than just a single programmer to hit the deadlines. I lost contracts because I was a one-man shop.

Halfway through the business, I had made all the cuts I could imagine. I sold stuff, I ate only the cheapest (see: most unhealthy food), cut out Netflix, going out, talking to people, playing guitar, being happy. None of that seemed to help me be successful. Oh and exercise? Fuck that - I don’t have time for exercise, sleeping properly, or taking care of myself. I need to make that money.

Please see the sarcasm and irony in those last few statements.

There are some long boring details I’ll leave out, but let’s fast-forward here. I ended up joining a company and becoming a partner with another entrepreneur on a project that he had been working on for over 4 years. I was the tech “co-founder” and he was the sales guy. I worked hard, I did all the things that I thought we needed, and we barely got funding to keep us going for a few more months.

problem #4 401k is the last resort - and I hit my last resort

I took out the remaining part of my 401k and lived off that. (Yes, I have the worst tax-bill this year - hello payment plans!) I pretty much got down to nothing - no extra items, no savings, and I even missed my mortgage one month.

Something had to change.

I had the tough talk with my business partner - said I had to move on. He mentioned something about sacrifices; I believe that I had done them. However, I wasn’t willing to sell my house, to live in a studio apartment, etc… so maybe I wasn’t willing to sacrifice enough. I did my part, I was proud of it, and we parted ways.

So I’m broke. I pushed away a lot of my friends (I’m alone). I feel the health problems creeping up (man, steps are way hard these days). I closed my business, I sold the shares of my partnership, I’m done.

I’m a failure

But you know, that’s ok. I wrote one time that sometimes it’s ok to just be great - which was more of an essay about not always becoming the boss. But I guess that means you don’t always have to be the owner either. You don’t always have to be the entrepreneur.

I used to have a retirement goal of owning a company that supports 50 families through high quality, competitive paid jobs. But, I’ve learned a lot this last year - and I’m not sure if that’s what I want anymore.

I’m not sure I’m an entrepreneur.

Maybe I’m just made to create great things. And maybe that’s ok. I can’t run a company if I can’t walk up steps. I can’t make decisions for years to come if I die of a heart attack. I can’t say I’m a great dog owner if I get tired walking the dog after 1 block. I can’t stay sane without a friend or two around.

So I’m a failure. And I knew I might fail - and that’s ok. We all learn through failure.

I thought I’d fail and learn more about how to run my next business. But perhaps, I’ve learned something different. Perhaps I should be working on building great things and leading teams - and not necessarily being the entrepreneur and business owner.

So, I decided to put my tail between my legs, admit I had a problem and go and work for “the man.”

I gotta say, this was the best experience of my life that I can remember, though. I’m now part of a team where we’re creating something great. I can now start putting my life back together, and I feel pretty happy and confident having moved on from this last year. I kept thinking I’d miss it - and there are parts I do (complete autonomy of work hours, creating a product you alone are responsible for, etc) - but I think the benefits now - just being happy - far outweigh any of those.

I’m looking forward to continuing to create awesome things and blog about them. I’m looking forward to making a bit of money and getting off the ramen and Cheetos diet - looking forward to paying off some credit card bills and starting a retirement account again - and looking forward to making my life healthier. Healthier choices, healthier outlook on life, and connecting again with people.

Do I regret it? I mean, it was a pretty big failure, right?

I regret certain things - or how I handled certain stresses. I regret some of the decisions I made - but overall, no I do not regret this. Not many people can say they decided to just go for it - which I did. I can’t regret that at all.

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