This is an email I posted on the newsletter for The CEO Library, as part of a Startup Founder Reading plan. Here’s the entire 16 books list
My name is Bobby Voicu, I’m the CEO and co-founder of The CEO Library. Before that, I was the CEO and co-founder of a gaming company called MavenHut, I did some investing, raised about $3,000,000 for startups I was involved with. And I read a lot.
I made a reading plan for any early entrepreneur and I’m gonna send you an email every month with something else to read.
The Hard Thing about Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz, is, without a doubt, the book that reflected the most the feelings I had and I still have while starting and running a business (or startup, if you prefer this term).
I think this should be the first book in the reading plan for an early entrepreneur because it’s the book that will let you know how hard it is.
Let’s do this small exercise. Think about how hard on you do you think starting a business is? Take a small break from reading the email and think about it right now.
Done thinking? Well, now multiply what you thought by 10 and it’s probably close to the happier times of your startup up adventure.
Let me tell you some of my own experience. When we raised the first €500,000 round of investment for MavenHut, my girlfriend asked me: “why aren’t you happy? You should be happy!”. But I couldn’t be happy. Because for me it was already over. It has been “signed” in my mind for the last several weeks, because I’ve put everything to work and, if anything happened, it wasn’t up to me anymore. I was already thinking of what to do next, who to hire, when to hire them and so on. A little bit of context you can read here: The Story of MavenHut’s first year.
So, what did I do after the signing? I sent an email to my co-founders: “Documents signed by all parties.” Then I went to sleep. It was 1 am in the morning and I just stopped working for the day. No parties, no champagne, nothing like that.
Going back to the book. There’s a bit, at some point, about The Struggle entrepreneurs and business owners go through and it really resonated with all the entrepreneurs I’ve talked to. Here’s a small excerpt:
“The Struggle is when you wonder why you started the company in the first place.
The Struggle is when people ask you why you don’t quit and you don’t know the answer.
The Struggle is when your employees think you are lying and you think they may be right.
The Struggle is when food loses its taste.
The Struggle is when you don’t believe you should be CEO of your company. The Struggle is when you know that you are in over your head and you know that you cannot be replaced. The Struggle is when everybody thinks you are an idiot, but nobody will fire you. The Struggle is where self-doubt becomes self-hatred.
The Struggle is when you are having a conversation with someone and you can’t hear a word that they are saying because all you can hear is The Struggle.
The Struggle is when you want the pain to stop. The Struggle is unhappiness.
The Struggle is when you go on vacation to feel better and you feel worse.
The Struggle is when you are surrounded by people and you are all alone. The Struggle has no mercy.
The Struggle is the land of broken promises and crushed dreams. The Struggle is a cold sweat. The Struggle is where your guts boil so much that you feel like you are going to spit blood.”
I’ve gone through all of these feelings. And it’s still painful when I think about it. But the truth is I wouldn’t do anything else.
Next month, I’ll recommend yet another book for you to read. Just finish this one until then 😃
P.S.: if you already read this book and want something to read anyway, read Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham. It’s a collection of essays from the founder of Y Combinator, the most successful accelerator in the world (Dropbox, Airbnb are amongst the companies that went through it). You can also read Paul Graham’s essays on his website. This book is not part of the 12 months reading plan, just some off-plan reading.