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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Can Anyone Be A Major League Pitcher?

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Alan Shimel has a fantastic post up titled Do they have to grow up?  As I read it, I thought of some of the great lessons my dad taught me when I was a little kid and how hard they must have been for him to carry out.

Amy and I have a regular discussion about whether or not it is helpful to tell a child "you can do or be anything you want."  Amy’s reply is that she could never be an NBA center and neither could I.  While the metaphor is a good one (e.g. "don’t let anyone limit your aspirations or dreams"), accomplishing things – especially amazing ones – requires a huge amount of hard work, perseverance, drive, skill, genetics, timing, and luck.  Alan nails it:

"At some level I guess it is part of growing up and realizing that you are not the next Nolan Ryan or Josh Beckett.  It is similar to a truth I come to grips with every day.  That is as I get older with each day, there are going to be some dreams and hopes that are going to go unfulfilled in my own life.  There are going to be mountains I am not going to climb. As I have gotten older I have come to grips with this reality and even accepted it. "

I must be brutal to be a father and have to teach this lesson to your child.  My first reaction to Alan’s approach was probably similar to some of the parents in attendance – namely – "make the madness stop."  But there’s a big part of it that is brilliant.  It’s one thing to be told something, it’s an entirely different thing to experience it.

I’ve just read Alan’s post for the third time and it gets better with each read.

"But I felt I had to do this. I think they had to learn this lesson, I just wish it were not the hard way.  After the game I gathered the team and told them baseball is a team sport.  Each member of the team contributes in their own special way.  They each possess a unique set of talents and skills that allows them to help the team, but not everyone is cut out to be a pitcher or a catcher. I think they all realize it now. Some of the kids accepted this and told me they did not want to pitch anymore.  Other kids said they would practice and try to get better. "

I’ve had my share of lessons I’ve learned the hard way – say Interliant, my biggest failure and the source of some of my greatest lessons, or my first 8.01 (MIT freshman physics) test which I got 20 (out of 100) on.  Failure is when you really learn things.  I just keep practicing and trying to get better.


Comments (2)

My long time friend Ben Neumann has a detailed post up titled Network Outage.  Ben is CEO / owner of Globat, a successful web hosting company.  I met Ben through an acquisition in the late1990′s when Interliant bought his previous company Icom (also a web hosting company.)

Ben’s company had a tough day yesterday.  Multi-hour critical failure is a way of life in any rapidly growing SaaS / hosting / web business.  It’s nice to fantasize that it will never happen, but virtually every high growth company has "its moment of fun."  It’s all in how you deal with it, how you treat and communicate with your customers, and what you learn from it. 

Part of dealing with it is being open about what happened and what you are doing about it going forward.  Ben does a nice job of setting an example here of how to do it.

On top of the outage, it was Ben’s wife Andrea’s birthday. Andrea – I hope you gave Ben a raincheck and decided to celebrate your birthday this weekend!  Ben – hint – flowers, chocolate, jewelry, and a trip to Hawaii.

It’s Better to Fail Quickly

Comments (5)

Mitchell Ashley has an excellent post up titled Fail Early, Fail OftenI’m seeing a little more chatter about failure, introspection about how it feels, and suggestions about how to turn it into a positive (or at least effective) experience making the rounds.

As someone who has experienced a lot of success and failure, I’m glad to see more people talking about failure in the blogosphere.  It’s a key part of the entrepreneurial experience.  It’s also an integral part of life that cannot be denied.  While it’s a lot more fun to succeed, it’s important to understand how to deal with failure.

Failure Is Part of A VC’s Life

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My partner Seth Levine has a cathartic post up titled Failure where he describes failure from a VC’s point of view.

Failure Is An Option

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My friend Dave sent me a hysterical Onion article titled Failure Now An OptionI hate the phrase "failure is not an option" – of course it is.  Some choice quotes:

  • "As failure continues to dominate the American landscape, this mantra must be overruled"
  • "We have no choice but to revoke failure’s non-optional status, effective immediately,"
  • "Now all citizens … will [be able to say] Fuck that – this isn’t worth it."
  • "The only difference is that now Americans can choose, without fear of being ostracized by society, to quit long before getting ahead."

And some data.

"Other data seem to confirm the Interior Department’s findings. A recent CBS News/New York Times poll revealed that 64 percent of Americans are "perfectly comfortable" with coming up just short, 43 percent are content to try only once rather than try, try again, and an overwhelming 95 percent admitted that after falling down, they now prefer to stay down.  Only 4 percent indicated having "some interest" in applying their balls to the wall."

While this is typical Onion satire, the brilliance of it is its underlying relevance.

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