— for investors and employees for sure, but most of all for founders. One moment you’re on a rocket ship ride to the moon; the next moment you’re wondering how to make payroll.
Of course, the ups and downs are not always so dramatic or existential. Often the highs are smaller things like closing a customer or getting a new product release out. The lows are also typically less dramatic than not being able to make payroll, e.g., like losing a customer or having your app crash at the worst possible time.
One thing is for sure: the ups and downs will come at you at high frequency and without warning. Often, the things that seem awesome at the time turn out to be less awesome than you thought. And sometimes the things that go poorly often open doors for even better things to happen. Staying centered and keeping your calm in the face of all this is hard.
I heard a parable recently that I think provides a helpful perspective. (Note that there are a bunch of versions of this story, each with various details changed. But the lessons stay the same.)
Once upon a time, there was an old and wise farmer. He didn’t have a lot of money and, instead of a tractor, he used an old horse to plow his field.
One day, the horse ran away into the hills. Everyone said, “We are so sorry for your bad luck.” The farmer replied, “Bad luck, good luck, who knows?”
A week later, the horse returned with a herd of wild horses, which now belonged to the old man. Everyone said, “We are so happy for your good luck!” The farmer replied, “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?”
While his only son was riding one of the wild horses, he fell off and broke his leg. Everyone said, “What bad luck!” The farmer replied, “Bad luck, good luck, who knows?”
The next day, the army came to the village, and took all the strong young men to be soldiers for the emperor. Only the old farmer’s son was spared, because he could not fight with a broken leg. Everyone said, “What good luck!” The old man replied, “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?”