Thursday, October 3, 2013

The martyr syndrome

According to Wikipedia, in psychology, a person who has a martyr complex, sometimes associated with the term victim complex, desires the feeling of being a martyr for his/her own sake, seeking out suffering or persecution because it feeds a psychological need. In some cases, this results from the belief that the martyr has been singled out for persecution because of exceptional ability or integrity. Does this sound familiar? If yes then you have been dealing with a startup or an entrepreuneur who runs a startup. Maybe it is because of our Indian mindset where failures and failings are considered to be taboo ( No, do not pay heed to that VC who claims that he is interested in failures, he probably has some reference check agency thats compiling a report about your life).

The problem starts when things begin to go wrong. When promises are not kept or when the business model that you so passionately put together does not make sense to most. The whining starts on a low note and grows and grows and drowns everything good that the startup and its team put together. I have been there and I have whined and am grateful to a lot of people who heard me out and did not throw their purse, shoe or a brick at me.

It took one kind investor who refused to part with his money since he firmly believed that the business plan would not work who called a swamp, a swamp and helped me out of the hell hole I was heading towards. He sat me down, made me buy him a doppio and a cookie and asked without mercy some 5 things that slapped me out of a day dream. First question was - did any of us ask you to start this business? Second question - why must we listen to your crap about how upfair the world is and how everyone is against you? Question number three - do you really think people have the time to plot against you with the sole intention of running you to the ground? Question number four - how do you know that what you have has not been tried before? Question number five - do you think you are incapable of getting a job to ride this tough time out or are you simple too lazy or scared or both?

Five questions that any of us startup veterans must answer. Must dwell upon and must lose sleep over.

Many a times, the demon we are trying to tame is only in our heads. We become martyrs inside our imaginations. We do not know when to stop and give the business we are trying to run / setup a hard look. We do not think beyond ourselves and run the people around us to the ground. We become toxic waste.

For every business that raises millions and goes public, there are a hundred that burns itself to the ground. It is important to see the signs and realign and survive. One of the cornerstones of being Steve Jobs or the latest flavor Elon Musk is to see what is coming and shed weight accordingly, being a martyr and wanting to be named such is not one of the strengths.

I see way too many startups, some with brilliant plans on paper getting bogged down, there is just one solution - cut the strings and start again, take up a job that pays the bills. Spend time with your kids, if you do not have kids, then get around to making them. Babies bring a new prespective to the way startups and people who run startups think.

No one will mourn you if you sink deep and never recover, and that is tragic.

( I was planning to call this post, The Nirupa Roy Syndrome, the bollywood fans will know why)

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