What was one of the most important things you learned from failing at a start up?

Corey Mays ‏@coreyisamaysing: What was one of the most important things you learned from failing at a start up?


I called my parents to borrow a few hundred dollars. Two years earlier I had $15 milllion cash in the bank. Now I had $0 in the bank. ZERO. I had started and sold a company. I had been a venture capitalist. Now, in my mind, I was the worst loser possible. I didn’t have enough money to feed my kids. I was 34 years old and had to go back to mommy and daddy for some money.

For their own reasons, they said “no”. I was worried I wouldn’t have enough to buy diapers for my two daughters. They said “no”. I was worried I would run out and not be able to buy food for my family. They said “no”.

I didn’t want to argue. I hung up the phone. They tried to call back. I yelled out, “don’t pick up”. They tried sending me email messages over the next few months. During that time I moved into financial exile 70 miles north of the city. I barely left my house. I gained 20 pounds. I asked one store owner, randomly why the world always felt like it was going to end and she just stared at me.

I started a new career, having nothing to do with older careers I was in. I had to. I had to make some money or still my family would die. Not just me, but my whole family. After a few months of exile I started to leave my house a little. I would swing on a swingset at five in the morning. Or shoot baskets by the river while the sun rose. I never slept. I would say to myself, “this is what it feels like to disappear”. When I remember it now it felt like it was always snowing. That I couldn’t move because there was nothing but gray and snow.

My dad sent me emails. I never answered them. I went on TV once. He sent me an email, “you looked good on TV”. I didn’t answer him. I was trying to start a new career. I was in a permanent state of fear.

After eight months,I got a call from my sister, “Dad had a stroke”. “When?” “Two days ago”. I drove to see him. He had tubes and the usual sticking out of every place in him. Over two years later he died without ever speaking again. So when I hung up on him eight months before his stroke, it was the last time I spoke to him.

This isn’t a story about loving the people around you, even in your worst moment. Nor is it a story about talking to your parents or about regrets. It’s a story that even when things feel like they are at their worst, even when emotion hits bottoms you never even knew existed, you will come back if you persist through them.

If you stay healthy, if you love yourself, if you are grateful for the tiniest things that push you forward, if you keep the past in the past, if you close off the fears of the future, if right now you live live LIVE.

I am here now. I survived.