When I published my first entry back in November 2017, I never imagined that my second would come a full 17-months later. Even more shocking was that the topic of this post would cover the unraveling of my company. For over three years, my name and that of The Incubator were one and the same (… perhaps more so to myself, than to anyone else).
Last year, I underwent a grueling process that ultimately parted me from the very thing I had built. As a result, I was angry. I was afraid. I was steeped in hurt so deep, that I didn’t dare tell a soul. I couldn't.
I have felt and ridden out every emotion you can think of –to the extremes you wouldn’t dare dream of.
Now, after giving myself the privilege of time, I feel I am ready to share. The fact that you're here means a great deal to me. From this, I hope that you'll leave… if nothing else, then just with the notion that in life, you are exactly where you ought to be.
2018 had begun as the greatest year of my life.
The Incubator had been growing like wildfire, with a 50% growth in annual top-line revenue and two giant contracts coming down the pipe. I would wake up every morning to a job that didn’t feel like a job, surrounded by a team I had come to view as family.
I was even in love; something that wasn’t supposed to happen until Year 4 of my insufferable 5-Year Plan. He was from Ottawa; me, Vancouver. Our careers made being apart more weatherable. The trips, all the more Instagrammable.
By spring, I was as high as a kite. The present had finally been perfect. I don’t know if you’ve known this feeling before… not just the feeling of joy from things going so right… but from the proposition that you – yes, you – had willed it all to fruition too.
And because you had willed it, you deserved it. I felt like I deserved it all.
– That was, until shit hit the fan.
April 2018 brought with it a giant sack of shit, to say the least. Within the same 10-day period, I would find out that:
My co-founder, Diane, was pregnant,
Our marketing lead, Tess, had been poached,
The contracts we’d been preparing for had both fallen through, and,
Oh yeah, the man of my dreams was breaking up with me.
Cue the wine and junk food. The Kardashians? You name it. Anything that could take my mind off the pain. That weekend, I wallowed in self-pity and cried until the cows came home. But by Monday, I was back to the grind.
Here’s the thing about entrepreneurship that they don’t often tell you. It takes a truly sick mind to succeed. Whereas most people would shudder at the prospect of a race against the clock, we entrepreneurs take delight. You see, every goal accomplished, problem solved, or crisis averted produces a high. When you win, you feel like you’re on top of the world. When you lose, you feel like the world is on top of you.
In this way, entrepreneurs are no different from cocaine addicts. The euphoria of success is fleeting, sure, but who cares? When you’re thick in the throes of scaling a peak, where else is there to go, but up?
So, up and up I clamored. Higher and higher I went. Remarkably, the adrenaline from the sheer will to survive would carry me through into August. By then, we had secured another big contract and an all-star recruit to the team.
At last, I could finally see the light; so close, I could almost smell it. I lifted my gaze to expand my horizon and prepared myself for the final stre–
My alarm went off. The sun had been piercing through the seams of my blinds –this time, to pry open my eyes. It was 8:01 on a Monday. By now, September.
I had been stewing on a sweat stain the size of my back, curled up to a bottle of wine. My eyes were fixed to the ceiling; my mind, on my morning routine. Like a poorly spliced silent motion picture, the projection of each item loomed over my head… perhaps, for a moment too long.
Get out of bed. Swallow caffeine. Reheat some leftovers and wash yourself clean.
I saw suits on their way to work –phone in one hand, cup in the other.
The panhandler on the corner who would always say “hello,” and the receptionist in our building, who would *never* say “hello” …
Finally, the third floor: The Incubator HQ.
I saw my team, seated ‘round; all smiles, as always. For them, it was just another day. This was the team I had handpicked and built – the team I had nurtured and grown. They put in the hours, I reaped the rewards; so why, then, did I feel so envious?
The motion picture of my mind stopped playing, and a pang of sadness took its place.
I was then taken to another sequence, where I saw Diane and her husband shopping for their new baby, and Tess knocking it out of the park. I even saw my ex in Ottawa, who was thick in the throes of a separation. Here was a man whose life had turned on its head quite literally overnight…
And yet, I was jealous of him too.
Here’s the thing about entrepreneurship that they do often tell you. It’s important that you love what you do. It’s important that you love it so much, you would do it even if it didn’t pay you anything. This “love” is attached to a higher meaning, and this meaning is yours to create.
Being from a working-class family in East Vancouver, I always thought this was some kind of feel-good proverb White people told their children to promote self-esteem. Or something.
My parents had always told me that it didn’t matter what you did, so long as you were the best at it. Because of this, I wound up developing a strong work ethic, which then paved the way to new heights. For this, I will always be grateful… but I am privileged now, too. I am privileged to choose my own way.
If you should be so fortunate to choose your own suffering, what suffering in life would you choose?
The right kind of suffering begets the most meaning … Without which, we’d be flecks in the sky. After all, if nothing in the world means anything, then everything in the world would mean nothing.
Your choice of suffering is a zero-sum game; a game that you’re already in. So, if you had to choose (which you do), what suffering in life would you choose?
The epiphany that morning sowed a seed in my mind, and that seed would grow into conviction. In October, Diane left for maternity leave and soon after, we began our transition. By December, my assistant was the only one left, and in January, we officially wrapped up.
“How does it feel?” asked a mover on the day we moved out. I had been scraping off the last of our signage. These walls, once host to a host of creation, now struck me as eerily bare. I’d come down to my final seconds in this office ... once the vinyl was off, we could leave.
I paused to take in the moment for all that it had to offer.
To my surprise, I said, "Good.”
“I feel good."