(I wrote this piece in October of 2017. In the middle of a really tough and defining time in my journey so far. And here we are again, having to tough and redefine "one more again". Made sense then. Makes sense now. Enjoy.)
On Friday night, I finally received a delayed payment for a product team training session I had conducted in July. To celebrate, I took my family to a Nigerian restaurant in suburban Atlanta. As we drove on 85 North, I put on NPR’s incredible podcast “How I Built This”, which my daughters had become obsessed with due to the potent and powerful stories of the movement leaders responsible for iconic names like Airbnb, Radio One, Spanx, Instagram, Carol’s Daughter and more. It is a show imbued with remarkable tales from entrepreneurs about how they came up with their ideas, the luck, foresight, hard work, and most importantly, the setbacks and difficulties that informed their inevitable success.
So as we were rolling on 85, getting our palettes amped up for some red hot suya and egusi soup, the HIBT host Guy Raz tee’ed up Troy Carter, the man behind the rise of Lady Gaga and Atom Factory. He also is a prolific angel investor, with Warby Parker, Spotify, Uber, Dropbox and many others in his portfolio. Bottomline, the man is a beast. As we listened to the podcast, Troy got into the time during his journey after the rapper Eve dropped him as a manager, and the financial devastation that came right after. He quietly but firmly detailed how his home was foreclosed, he had to sell his cars, and his wife and mom-in-law pawned their wedding rings to save the house. And then he shared the following quote as you could hear the emotion his voice as he retold that part of his evolution as an entrepreneur.
You know, and with me, you know, I never, you know, considered suicide but I know why people do ~ Troy Carter (How I Built This)
That hit me with the force of a typhoon on steroids. My kids were silent. The Chief aka Oga Madam on Top—being such an emotionally connected person—was saying “wow” softly under her breath over and over. I was vigorously nod-shaking my head with fierce understanding. It was a poignant moment in that car. Troy Carter was not the first one on the podcast to speak of the difficult periods in the development of their mythologies. But. This was the first time we heard an icon on HIBT almost verbatim outline what we had first hand experience in. The house. The cars. Draining out the 401k. Being dropped by people you thought were on your side. Friends and former colleagues ghosting you. Turning off the social faucet as a defensive maneuver, covering your flank...with every single family decision made based on current financial circumstances.
And yes. I have wondered about suicide, like Troy Carter. It was fleeting, and more so on why some entrepreneurs and seemingly high-achieving folks do it, as opposed to me doing it. Ok, maybe here and there I wondered how my family would do without me. But I don't have life insurance...so.
Let me please ask our spiritual ministers for today, Faith Evans and A Tribe Called Quest, to please take us to a commercial break:
And we are back.
Troy Carter broke down in tears at least twice as he recalled his trajectory and also spoke to "financial PTSD", a phenomenon that me and my family can clearly relate to. It was a sobering listen, one that was elevated as he clearly pulled through to become one of the most successful artist management and angel investment gurus ever.
And of course, after a full course of meat pies, peppered stockfish, ogbono soup and jollof rice, we felt much better too. Nothing like some palm oil soaked, Defcon 1 spicy, nostril flaring Nigerian food drowned with semi-authentic palm-wine plus P-Square commiserating with "E No Easy" on the ones and twos to scatter your brain and get you back on track.
Listen, there is nothing glamorous about going the entrepreneurial path. As I have said b4, it ain’t for everybody. Your ass will be handed to you, with extra fillings. God knows there are scars that will last for life. Financial PTSD? I had no idea you could last a week on just $100 at this level of my life until I went this route. That’s gangster, and fundamentally life changing. It is hard to get funding for capital intense businesses like content and media, especially if you are in markets with stingy customers and investors (sub Saharan Africa), or risk averse startup cliques like in Atlanta (wait, you’re not doing fintech, health tech, cybersecurity, real estate or marketing automation? You’re B2C? GTFOH). Revenue is here and there, barely covering operational costs. And you’re not taking a salary.
It takes a toll, and what starts to happen is you find yourself withdrawing from the scene. You hunker down. It’s like a siege mentality. There is a tendency to not want to bother your friends and family. Your finances that has been violently uppended and severely impacted by those nasty corporate net-30s and net-60s compel you to postpone lunches and breakfasts, you drink the free water at the coffee shop meeting. Just as you are thinking “ok, nothing crazy is happening now”, your garage door decides to take a knee, and your ten year old Passat tears its ACL and requires surgery. The kids school sends another reminder. You hunker down more. Not sending as many emails. Not posting as many social media posts. Not calling as many people. Not taking as many calls.
“You can’t fall off the floor. ~ Troy Carter (How I Built This)”
We keep pushing. You hit the floor, my friend, where else you dey go? You can't fall off the freaking floor. And this is where that check-in from a friend or family ends up being so invaluable and timely. So cool. Lightens up the day. Provides emotional and mental sustenance. Infuses some jet fuel. Keeps the spirit up, and the feet moving. I know I speak for many people, entrepreneurs and folks working at all size companies, who appreciate that short but sustaining acknowledgement.
So, thank you for checking in. You have no idea how grateful I am that you checked in. Really.
Take us home, Faith.
🎧 Don't worry we gon make it (gonna make it). We gon make it.
Don't worry we gon make it. I know we gonna make it (we're gonna make it) 🎤
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