Challenge is the spice of life
Teach for America was incredibly hard personally, professionally, and spiritually. At no point has venture capital been as hard as Teach for America usually was. As a VC at times I have worked very long hours and fought plenty of fires, but I have never experienced soul crushing pain and difficulty in this profession. Being a founder, however, is very hard. This past work I experienced the most acute professional challenge I’ve faced in a decade, and I feel better than I’ve felt in a long time.
Without going into the details I can’t share publicly, this past week included events that let me doubt myself, others, and the universe itself. People cried. There has been immense uncertainty. The weight of all of this felt almost overwhelming, but as it nearly overwhelmed, something incredible happened.
As I got close to being overwhelmed, my capacity for feeling responsible and being able to hand difficulty increased suddenly and sharply. For a moment, it seemed we may be doomed, but within a day, we were on the strongest footing we’ve ever been on. One night, I was so traumatized that I watched an episode of TV, which I haven’t done in months, and puffed on a nicotine vape to go to bed.
As a teenager I had nights I couldn’t sleep due to stressors related to me various businesses. During Teach for America I could often only sleep because I was too exhausted to be worried. Many personal issues have disrupted my sleep, but for ten years, work issues have never disrupted my slumber. Yet, just days ago, I was once again absolutely stressed about work. I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed that.
Some make a distinction between positive and negative stress. Without needing to make that distinction, it’s clear that having some stress is good. Without a doubt, an excess of certain types of stress, if not stress generally, can be bad. But a lack of any stress can be equally bad.
The unexpected and acute work stressors of this past week didn’t break me, but instead brought back an aliveness that I didn’t know I was craving. The hardship and once brought meaning, purpose, tears, and drive. Shit hit the fan on Tuesday and we figured it out by Wednesday, but days later I’m still feeling happier and more human than before. It is nice to live feeling fully alive and challenges are a part of that.
As I was sitting on a plane Wednesday afternoon, sipping on my pre-flight prosecco while for once appreciating it, I said out loud, “challenge is the spice of life.” My neighbor turned to me quickly, and glanced away slowly, approvingly. I gather he got it. If you’re bored, maybe try doing something hard.