Scar Tissue That I Wish You Saw

Scar Tissue – Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication

There’s a front page story in the NY Times today on Hillary Clinton. It talks about how she’s endured a lot of  difficulty over the years and how’s that’s made her come across as tough and lacking empathy. Here’s the part that got my attention.

After a political lifetime of public battles, suspicions and
humiliations, she must prove she is not too hardened to inspire, or too
wary to truly lead.

The scar tissue she has accumulated over the
years is central to Mrs. Clinton’s political identity. She catalogs her
wounds with an air of pride and defiance. Invoking a mantra attributed
to Eleanor Roosevelt, Mrs. Clinton likes to say that women in politics “need to develop skin as tough as a rhinoceros hide.”

“I joke that I have the scars to show from my experiences,” she said in an interview.

you know, our scars are part of us, and they are a reminder of the
experiences we’ve gone through, and our history. I am constantly making
sure that the rhinoceros skin still breathes. And that’s a challenge
that all of us face. But again, not all of us have to live it out in

I am inclined to vote for Hillary even though I don’t consider myself a fan of hers. Part of my reluctant support for her candidacy is that I’d like to see a woman in the white house. It’s time for this country to recognize that woman can lead as well as men. The UK and Israel have had strong women lead their countries and we should be open to that here in the US. But it has to be the right woman. Of course, it’s also time for a minority american to be president. More on that in a minute.

And so the other part of my reluctant support of Hillary is this scar tissue thing. I really respect people who’ve taken their lumps and risen beyond them. I look for that in people in business all the time. I’d much rather have a partner who has taken some losses and learned from them than a partner who hasn’t failed yet. Failure is an asset in my mind if you’ve learned from it.

The big challenge, as Hillary states in her comments above, is how to wear that scar tissue the right way. I took some big hits in the implosion of the first bubble and I wear those scars front and center in my brain. When I see something going on that reminds me of those experiences, the tendency is to run the other way. How do we remain open to things that have not worked for us in the past? It’s hard. And I won’t be doing any $10mm seed investments in a business plan any time soon. Nor should anyone.

But given the choice between a president who has fallen, gotten up, fallen again, gotten up again, and someone who has not fallen yet, it’s an easy call for me. I’ll take the one who has failed and come back from failure. Maybe it’s because I’ve been through that too. And I feel more secure with some scar tissue in the White House. Even if we wished we could see a bit more of it than she’s willing to show.

UPDATE: Joe Laz has another similar take on scar tissue on his tumblog this morning.

#Politics#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Guest

    The things with these emotional “scars” is that they only appear if you care… If you are happy collecting your 2% failure won’t teach you anything…

    1. fredwilson

      Not sure I follow this comment.

      1. Guest

        Well, G.W.Bush has seen his fair share of failure, do you see any scarring? Me neither. He seems like a callous, unimpressable individual, who does not care about the mess he created and the damage to his legacy, his country and the whole world.Same with VCs. Some of them, like yourself, invest their own emotions along with their LPs money. If they fail, it hurts, but as you argued, makes them stronger.Others only care about the 2% income stream from management fees. Those are the ones who are bound to do dumb things over and over…

        1. fredwilson

          thanks for that explanation. i totally agree, particularly about GWB. scar tissue that i wish we saw!!

  2. Michael Beckner

    Generally, Fred, I would agree. But having all those scars does more than just toughen a hide, it can also psychologically mold people. IMHO, the context of this election begs at least some of those questions … and I personally have personally felt that she’s just the wrong person at the wrong time. This article summed up exactly how I feel, and I would really suggest giving it a read:

  3. Jerry

    The whole notion of emotional scar tissue is extremely powerful. Much more so than the Times touches on. Yes. They’re right, of course, in Hillary’s case. And you’re obviously right about your scars because, hell, it’s your emotions you’re discussing and who knows them better than you?But the metaphor is incredibly useful for nearly all aspects of human growth and knowledge. Last Thursday, for example, while kickboxing, I seriously scarred my deltoids. I was in pain for days. This morning, I was stronger, more fluid, smarter and I hurt less. Scar tissue.The pain of my first bubble bursting, when I sat in the office next to you, has helped make me the man I am today–happy, healthy, and helping others as a coach. Scar tissue.Seth Godin references it in a way when he talks about The Dip. But, again, I think it’s endemic to the human experience but ONLY if you spend the right amount of time after the scarring, learning.”And I won’t be doing any $10mm seed investments in a business plan any time soon. Nor should anyone.” That’s a lesson you could have missed had you not taken the time to think about what had happened when the scarring occurred.

    1. fredwilson

      Great comment jerry from someone who witnessed the woundsFred

  4. Robi Ganguly

    Funny, this story inspired me to write a post as well, after a long period of silence. My take was a bit different, although I totally agree with yours (backing the ones who have experienced and recovered from failure).Reading the Times piece really bummed me out because as a citizen in the U.S., I feel like we’re making it exceptionally difficult to walk the path to public office. I’m not so sure that all of the “transparency” that comes with the media is particularly good, since it can be rather damaging to the politicians themselves. More here if you’re curious:

  5. Imran Ali

    ‘The UK and Israel have had strong women lead their countries and we should be open to that…’ – as have Pakistan, the Philippines, India and Sri Lanka :)(though, I’m sure Thatcher was a man…!)

    1. Charlie Crystle

      Fred,Admire the scars. But look at the person and the policies. What does she stand for? Alan Patricof has been raising money for years. What interest does Alan have in Senator Clinton as President? What deals has she cut, what good will she do for the country?It’s time we have a woman as president. But not this woman. Hillary Clinton is competent, intelligent, experienced, and compromised. The country needs optimistic leadership, someone not divisive, someone fresh, and someone who is relatively free of years of the special interest barnacles that have built up over such a long time (corporate special interests).I’m thinking Obama or Edwards, though neither has a healthcare plan we can live with. Thanks for the thoughts. As a scarred recovering founder I understand scars. Scars are great for informing how to do things better. I try not to let them hold me back.

    2. fredwilson

      i should have said “and many others” thanks for this comment. i appreciate itfred

  6. Nate Westheimer

    I feel you on this one Fred. But what a luxury we on this side of the aisle! That this is how we have to pick from a list of winners is a blessing. One of the reasons I’ve only donated to Edwards so far is because he’s also a guys who has failed and learned from his failures in really public-serving ways (the other reason is because he’s an underdog-front-runner). What I mean by that is that Edwards’ fall was caused by over-politicking. He came back and left politicking (as much as he could) on the curb. I guess this is my one hesitancy with HC. Sometimes she seems not to have *really* learned things. You can believe she’s been though tough sh*t — easily. But that she’s learned much from it is not easy to see.But again, what a luxury we have that these are the ways we’re separating the great candidates from the also-great.

  7. Kathy

    Hi Fred,Stumbled onto your site and really appreciate your post re: Ms. Clinton… I was just looking at her picture on a recent Time magazine cover, and thought to myself it is time we elect a woman president. She’s a brilliant woman and has plenty of experience in the world of politics. I really appreciated your comments and insight, and especially the fact that it came from someone of the male species! Thank you!

  8. Alex Gorbatchev

    I’d much rather see a person with brains in the White house, regardless of the sex… I think only two candidates qualify here – Paul and Kucinich.

    1. fredwilson

      my son josh likes kucinich toohe’s working on me, but hasn’t gotten me there yetfred

  9. Tom W.

    Fred, I’m more of a fan of hers but I agree with your take on scar tissue – great post. I did the blogger’s POV piece on Clinton a month ago – and she continues to take hits, plenty because she’s a woman.

  10. Stephen L. McKay

    Fred,GOOD Lord, are you soooo back on track ! I love it!I also agree with you, completely.

  11. S.t

    ‘…vote for Hillary even though I don’t consider myself a fan of hers. Part of my reluctan(ce to) support for her …’ is that she’s a poor excuse for a politician, and an even worse choice as a presidential candidate…having never run a state or city or local government or even a business before in her life…

  12. Gabe

    Like the current president, Hillary Clinton wouldn’t be where she is today – a senator and viable contender for the presidency – if it wasn’t for her status as a close relative of a former president.Scar tissue?Perhaps.But the prime thing that jumps out of her resume is her connections and not her achievements, which however noteworthy, are not what brought her to the seat she currently occupies or to the brink of the one she aspires to.Similarly, the scar tissue she has accumulated is largely a by-product of her connections and not because of the struggle that was a concomitant of any noble cause she has championed or goal she has pursued over the years.And not that I support either, but it’s a bit strange to be talking up the virtue of scar tissue when a current (McCain) and recent (Dole) presidential candidate have non-metaphorical injuries that befell them while serving goals that our nation deemed critical to the national interest.It’s important to distinguish between the scar tissue of let’s say, an MLK – acquired in the pursuit of noble goals – and the scar tissue of Senator Clinton – acquired during the course of Beltway infighting and as a result of petty infidelities, which only occurred and only mattered because of her marriage to someone else.

  13. jackson

    The thing is the takeaway learnings. Instead of learning how to be effective in putting forth policy, I feel that she’s instead learned how to avoid criticism and wave making.I think we need some waves, and I see nary a surfer running for office.

  14. vruz

    So that means Al Gore would make a better president than Hillary Clinton ?Who’s gotten the most political scars ?

    1. fredwilson

      al has a lot going for himhe’s the ariel sharon of US politics, in girth as well as many other ways

  15. Ada

    nice post.

  16. Hockeydino

    Scar tissue? What has she really done? She is a senator for a state she has never lived in. She was the first lady who never was in charge of policy (ok maybe you got me on this one). She has never run a business. You want her because she is a woman? Are you freaking kidding me? That’s like Oprah supporting the Tool because he is black. Or Huckabee supporters wanting him because he is a Christian. Embarrassing! Objectivity is thrown out the door, and for what? A popularity contest.How about voting for someone who stands for defending the constitution? How about voting for someone who will bring our troops home around the world and protect our freedom here? How about someone with a proven track record for never raising taxes? How about supporting someone who is not on the take by special interest groups? How about voting on principle rather than emotions that is fueled by media human drama stories?It’s not time for a woman to be president. It’s not time for a miniority to be president. It’s time for a person of honor and trust to be president. And it that person is a woman and a minority, then great! However the woman and minority with socialist tendencies on the take who are running are NOT those people.I love you man, but please don’t vote!

    1. fredwilson

      i will vote, you can count on that.most likely for hillary, but i am not sure yet.and the NY primary may not matter anywayfred

  17. johntunger

    Scott Meyer just posted a great cartoon on “How to show off a scar” on his Basic Instructions Blog:http://www.basicinstruction

  18. Steven Kane

    With due respect to Senator Clinton, this is classic NYTimes: endorsement, disguised as reporting.I mean, who in the world goes into *politics* if they don’t have massively thick skins?!?And who lasts more than 10 minutes in politics without acquiring “scar tissue” all over their bodies? (and all over the bodies of everyone close to them?)Senator Clinton is exactly no different than every other candidate for president, past present and future.

    1. fredwilson

      I think that’s wrong SteveMy sense of her is someone’s who has been around the critical issues, personalities, and institutions for a long timeUnfortunately the other democrats with a chance can’t say that crediblyfred

      1. Steven Kane

        Fred, be real. Joe Biden hasn’t “been around the critical issues, personalities and institutions”? And doesn’t have “scar tissue”? Chris Dodd? Bill Richardson? Arguably Senator Clinton has the least experience — less than two terms in the Senate and eight years as a spouse in the White House and a few years as a spouse of the governor of Arkansas.On the Republican side, John McCain hasn’t “been around the critical issues, personalities and institutions”?!?The NYTimes is every bit as flagrantly biased as Fox News — they just are more crafty and polished. I mean, heck, how many column inches did they devote — starting on the front page fercrysaykes — to drumming up sympathy for Senator Clinton, even “invoking a mantra attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt”! Puhlease.Equal time!

        1. fredwilson

          This is not about the NY Times Steve. I could care less about the NY Times.This is about who will end up in the white house.Biden, Dodd, Richardson are not going to get elected. Not a chance. So forget about themSame with McCain. He blew it by getting too close to GWB.It’s down to 5, maybe 6 candidatesClinton, Obama, Guiliani, Romney and maybe Huckabee and EdwardsThat’s what our political system/primary system/money system has done to our presidential election process. So that’s the universe I am considering. And within that universe, I feel better with Hillary in the White House than anyone else on that list.Fred

  19. redstapler

    I’m sorry, but I am an ABC voter (Anybody But Clinton). I live in the Chicago area. Hillary didn’t run in Illinois for Senator, where she is originally from. She went to New York instead. During one of the debates when the baseball playoffs commenced, Hillary was asked who she would support if the Cubs happened to play the Yankees in the World Series. Hillary wouldn’t commit to either team.If she can’t make a decision on supporting a baseball team, how is she going to make a decision in the White House?If I had to choose a Democrat, I would go for either Obama, or Biden. Obama doesn’t have the baggage like Clinton (Unless you go all the way back to the 3rd grade). The mere fact the Clinton went all the way to his 3rd grade, makes me even more leery of her. What is exactly so bad about Obama wanting to be President in the 3rd grade? Is he not allowed to have goals and aspirations?There is nothing wrong with having a woman or minority for President, but I don’t trust Hillary, and she is not strong enough to make a decision like

    1. techinvestor

      A Key Endorsement For Obama — and, No, It’s Not Oprah…