On Surviving Cancer & Startups
As a cancer survivor and former startup guy, it occurred to me today there are a few similarities in surviving the two. They’re both emotional roller coaster rides with unparalleled highs and lows. Believe me, when you’re diagnosed and being treated for cancer those can be some of the hardest days of your life. But when you get positive news on your health, especially right after the tough days, those times are unbelievably good.
Startups are the same way. When you’re just starting out nothing can stop you. Until something does. And then that’s one of the worst days of your professional career. Everything seems meaningless and you wonder if you’ve been wasting your time.
And so goes the emotional roller coaster until ideally you can smooth out the oscillations and find some level of peace.
Surviving cancer and surviving life at a startup therefore require some of the very same emotional skills. They require the ability to simultaneously 1) Keep an honest and realistic perspective/assessment of the overall situation, yet 2) Believe you will win (even irrationally and against all odds) and compartmentalize all the possible downside scenarios and risks. If you were to dwell on the downside possibilities, you would be paralyzed from acting. Tricking your mind into maintaining these two conflicting points of view is difficult and takes some time. There will be days when only one point of view will win, but you must try your best to let them balance each other out into an even homeostasis.
Have you started a company or worked at a startup and/or survived cancer and been on this roller coast? Have you done both simultaneously?