I like Ben Casnocha’s blog and I read all the stuff he writes but at the risk of sounding like I hate all the tech bloggers, I have to voice my objections. I feel like he’s not being entirely truthful. If Ben is the rarity that we’re rightfully to believe he is (one of the Philalawyer Ten Percenters) then he has not met his ethical burden. What I am talking about it the sunshine and rainbows tone of everything he writes about his time as a 14 year old entrepreneur, and now successful author while still in high school. The implication that the path to success at an early age, the ballsy choice to screw convention and bet it all on yourself is an easy road.
What we never see him write about is the isolation it entails. Anyone, more so the adults who have already arrived than the youths on their journey, can tell you about the burden you’re forced to shoulder. He doesn’t mention the awkwardness of being in a room where the majority doesn’t think you deserve to be there. He doesn’t tell you that you have to learn to thrive on it or it’ll crush you. Nor is their a mention of what it feels like to understand that most of the people your own age have a vested interest in seeing you fail–hell, many of them wish for it. It’s very easy to sit there with your Jr. brass ring and talk like anyone else can have one too. The difficult part is understanding why you have one and most people don’t. It’s not fair to everyone else who comes to you for advice to tell them that there’s nothing to it. The perils of such a pursuit are great and there are some very, very real trade-offs. Some of us might get lucky, but as Machiavelli said, virtu is the only way to ensure it. That means cunning, and dedication. It’s ditching your friends to handle an emergency, it’s working every weekend, it’s forgoing day dreams for mental strategy sessions, and it’s accepting the strain it puts on relationships.
But more than the work load and the responsibilities, it is something more intangible. In order to be the kind of person that it takes to run the marathon, the way you look at the world must be different. Those who are there or a struggling with it can speak to you of the hardship in cutting whole segments of society out of your life. The pain period is nothing you have dealt with before. Watch as you shed the deadweight, the haters, the distractions and see how much is left. If it’s 5 people then you’re lucky. And even then, count on most of them letting you down. Bet on asking yourself over and over “Why does it always have to go this way, why do they always have to do that?” Consider it part of the job to predict meltdowns and let downs and betrayals. Consider it your “philosopher’s burden” to talk yourself hoarse trying to convince people that they deserve and are better. Accept that you must acknowledge objective disparity between you and some others, and that you’ll feel coldhearted and shitty having to do so. And most importantly, understand that you are constrained by things that do not concern others and that you’ll miss the Hobbesian freedom that they partake in.
Some of this may seem condescending or whining, but those too are labels you must endure. It is simply the truth. Clearly they do not outweigh the positives, the accomplishments and the meaning, but they do exist. In order to truly overcome them, they must be put out in the open–to both discourage tourists and prepare the idealistic next generation. I would never complain about the gifts I have received–and like Frederick Douglass said, it is often in the darkest of places that we are reassured of humanity and kindness–and I have never been as happy as I am today. But again, it is not an idyllic walk through the countryside and it never will be. Only when you know and accept these as forces you’re willing to take on, are you mature enough to deserve the potential success–and you can actually appreciate it.