Getting Knocked Down

I recently had breakfast with a friend who is an entrepreneur. He had a really rough start to 2015. His business had a tough year in 2014 and he realized at the start of 2015 that if he didn’t make some big changes to the team and operating structure and costs he was going to hit the wall. He sort of did hit the wall to be honest.

He cut out a layer of management, he cut costs across his entire operation, he got back involved in his product and operations, he worked harder and longer than he has ever worked, including when he started the company.

And the result of all of those changes and work is that his business is now on much better footing and he has learned a lot about what the business needs to go forward and grow from here.

After he told me all of this, I told him that I’ve never met a successful entrepreneur who didn’t get knocked down in the ring at least once or twice. I told him that you can read all you want and get all the advice and coaching that is available and you still will not learn the hard lessons that one has to learn to become best in class at what you do. I’ve come to the conclusion that you have to learn some things the hard way to really learn them well.

At the end of the breakfast, I congratulated him. Not so much on getting through a rough spot in his business, but for getting knocked down and getting back up and winning the round. Because that is what you have to do to get better in life and in business.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Dave Pinsen

    In the spirit of this post, we should congratulate Donald Trump. He’s been knocked down on a number of occasions, and he keeps getting back up.

    1. Christopher Herbert

      Hahahaha that is hilarious!

      1. Dave Pinsen

        What’s that Gandhi line, “First they laugh at you… and then you win.”? Something like that?

    2. steve nson

      I think Donald Trump knocks himself out. He is all about the self-inflicted wounds.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        In what field of endeavor has he “knocked himself out”? He’s bounced back from bankruptcies of various properties, and come back bigger than ever. Who else who was famous in the ’80s is even more famous now?And re his recent comments that have caused pearl-clutching, the wounds he’s inflicting are on Jeb and the GOP establishment. Inflict away!

        1. fredwilson

          He is the Ross Perot of 2016

          1. pointsnfigures

            He will flame out like an Elon Musk rocket.

          2. andyswan

            Never know. I thought the same thing about a Jr Senator from Illinois that had seemingly never accomplished anything other than great speeches and writing books about himself

          3. steve nson

            The Jr Senator from Illinois had a few things going for him:1) He understand the mood of the Country, and tapped into our belief in accomplishing the impossible.2) He understood how to run a campaign.3) He was calm when everything around us seemed to be imploding(the economy, wars, all the other candidates seem out of touch and uncertain).4) He was an inspirational speaker.5) He was vague on policy details and instead focused on an overarching theme. Change and Hope(feel free to fill in blanks and apply it to what you want).His recipe for success might not work for all candidates but it worked for him.

          4. JLM

            .He ran against a very unpopular incumbent (George W Bush) and was blessed with an incredibly flawed opponent who had picked a controversial running mate.His campaign was the first modern Internet campaign and he had a couple of geniuses running it. He kept out of their way. Kept saying “hope and change” without explaining WTF it meant.The TV camera loves him.I think he was black. Maybe only half black. Bit historic, if so.He did not win as much as McCain, Palin and Bush lost. Deservedly so.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          5. steve nson

            But he won twice, and the second time he ran circles against a business guy. He had geniuses running his campaigns because he was smart enough to hire them, and brilliant enough to inspire them.

          6. JLM

            .The Republicans gifted Obama with two sets of flawed candidates because they were still locked in their traditional mode of “rich white guys” and “long toothed politicians who had waited their turn”.They then ran antiquated social issue based campaigns. Romney just wasn’t tough enough and said some incredibly stupid things — the infamous 47% comment. Romney couldn’t have been more rich, traditional, elitist, white, old school and soft.David Axelrod is the one who sought out and made Barack Obama initially as he did with Deval Patrick in Boston. Ironically, Patrick now works for Romney’s old outfit, Bain Capital.The Axe was the genius who made Obama — not to take anything away from Obama who allowed himself to be made into a winning specimen. The Axe was the guy who assembled the team and kept it together.I think that if Barack Obama were on the ballot this time around, he’d win again. This is purely political calculus not an expression of support. It is also a commentary on the electorate.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          7. steve nson

            Nobody made Barack Obama into anything or gave him anything. He earned it. He went out and took it period. When the dust settles and the history books are written he will go down as one of our best Presidents(haters notwithstanding).

          8. JLM

            .Hmmm, I thought the guy got educated at Occidental, Columbia and Harvard on the public tit — might be wrong on that as I am quoting the man himself but he is known to prevaricate from time to time, no? Small but important example.As to your utterance as to his greatness, you may rest assured I will not be purloining your opinion or otherwise appropriating it.I would not suggest measuring Mt Rushmore for his head any time soon.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          9. steve nson

            JLM you cracked me up man. So now attending the best universities in America is a sign of ?????I went to Mt. Rushmore last week to check out the specs, make sure he can fit up there with his ears 🙂

          10. JLM

            .Affirmative action?Obama being given an opportunity not given to everyone — in contradiction to your utterance? Yes, I guess so.Just for the record, I have no opposition to his having received that benefit. I am a huge fan of such assistance. I, myself, received gov’t assistance to go to undergrad and grad schools (GI Bill).The ears are likely not going to be the only thing preventing him from being carved on Mt Rushmore.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          11. steve nson

            So everything he ever accomplished is because his is black and America gave him freebies? You win JLM, I can’t really respond to that thinking.

          12. JLM

            .Steve, you struggle with basic reading comprehension. Not what I said at all. Re-read for accuracy, please. Your zealotry is clouding your reading comp.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          13. Matt Zagaja

            It was interesting to cut my political teeth in Massachusetts as Deval Patrick was campaigning for office, then watch Obama’s campaign happen. It was very much the “beta” version of what would go national (same thing with healthcare reform/Romneycare). Lots of what occurred in the campaign world involved A players refusing to hire or work with anything but A players. Thus a lot of talent in a large team that deserves the credit. And credit that Obama wasn’t afraid to dole out at his victory speech in 2008.The most difficult part of politics is getting all the Type A personalities to work together. I’ve seen many campaigns that succeed in spite of themselves. Obama’s campaign definitely succeeded because of itself.

          14. sigmaalgebra

            Politics, especially the subtle parts, are not my expertise, but IMHO, Obama won mostly because in the media it was seen as politically incorrect, i.e., racist, ever to vet or even be objective about Obama.Net, the media just really, really, really, really wanted the US to have its first Black President.Now the media, still with political correctness, is eager for our first female President.For various reasons, the mainstream media is just determined to honor some really simplistic ideas of political correctness.

          15. Matt Zagaja

            Modern campaigns view the impact of media on the electorate somewhere between minimal and non-existent. See, e.g.,…. Generally people choose the media that fits their viewpoint, thus blunting the persuasive impact that any bias may have.

          16. sigmaalgebra

            Interesting. Good point.Yup, politics is not my expertise!Yup, once a girl told me that I should be careful, that I was way too easy to manipulate!So, my tacit assumption that the media is after the truth is total BS. Instead, they are after just eyeballs and for that target not just their ads but their content — smelly bait for any taste.Makes perfect sense, until people catch on, which apparently they are quite slow to do.Good.

          17. Dave Pinsen

            Romney actually wasn’t a bad candidate. What sunk him was Obama’s uncontested negative ad carpet bombing over the summer of 2012.Romney used the Rocky strategy, of letting the other guy beat the sh*t out of you for a few rounds. In real life, it doesn’t always work out so well. No way Trump would let anyone beat on him for months like that without firing back.

          18. JLM

            .Romney would have made a great President but there is a very important technicality at work here — YOU HAVE TO WIN THE FREAKIN’ ELECTION.In that context, Mitt was a bad candidate as he was not tough enough and let his opponent define him.Instead of being able to introduce himself and define himself, he was playing defense from the beginning never able to seize the initiative.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          19. pointsnfigures

            I invested in some of the tech geniuses. A lot of them stayed in Chicago. (

          20. LE

            Well in all fairness any time a team wins it’s always because the other team isn’t as good, right? Obviously had there been better contenders then Oprah’s endorsement might not have mattered as much. But then again McCain wouldn’t be McCain if he hadn’t married into a Beer fortune, and John Kerry wouldn’t be John Kerry if he hadn’t married into a ketchup fortune. What’s more important do you think? Marrying into a beer fortune or being kept a POW? What would you prefer if you wanted to win in politics?

          21. JamesHRH

            You should read The Candidate by Samuel Popkin, if you have not already done so.Lays out the path to the White House pretty cleanly.Both Clinton and Obama went around the mainstream media of their times to get the exposure they needed.The Donald is running right down the throats of the mainstream media. It is rarely wise to walk into a bar, pick out the biggest dude with the baddest reputation and punch him in the face (don’t take my word for it, run it by von Clausewitz or Sun Tzu).Hell hath no fury like the mainstream media getting their back up against a public figure they find offensive to their view.

          22. JLM

            .Read it. Good read. New path.I think that The Donald is plenty media savvy. In some ways, he is the beneficiary of all the logical and expected opposition. They were never going to be his folks.He more than holds his own with even the most hostile media and I think there is a void in the offerings for someone who is brash, accomplished and a knife fighter.I don’t see The Donald ever being our President but he will season the debate and maybe he gets some folks to lean a bit forward in their saddles.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          23. sigmaalgebra

            “Change”There’s a movie about that:Power, (1986), directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Richard Gere.As I recall, one of the main ideas there is for a candidate to talk about just one word, change, and then leave out all details. Or maybe the word was hope. Whatever.Apparently the lesson of the movie was not learned very well by the US voters.IMHO, the main reason he got elected was white guilt, that is, the desire in the US to get redemption from the old transgressions. He is our retribution — right, the old trilogy of transgression, retribution, redemption.So, the newsies went along with that trilogy big time so refused to vet him; that is, vetting him would have been wildly politically incorrect. E.g., just the video clip…should have been strong evidence of contempt for the US, lack of devotion to the US, and instant disqualification. It wasn’t.

          24. Dave Pinsen

            Here’s what Obama had going for him:1) He had spoken out against the war in Iraq. In this, he probably benefited from something Steve Sailer noted years ago: Hawaii was sort of 10 years behind the rest of the country politically, so growing up there, he was still in the post-Vietnam anti-war mentality, while Hillary, who voted for the war in Iraq, was running on the post-Gulf War zeitgeist.2) He made a virtue of his short tenure in Washington.3) Yes, he was calm when Lehman imploded, while McCain acted erratically. That was when Obama pulled ahead in the polls for good.4) He was black, which drove turnout among nonwhites, but he was also, to borrow Joe Biden’s phrase, “clean, articulate, and bright”, which appealed to liberal and centrist whites.5) Hillary ran a lousy campaign, and John McCain was a lousy candidate. McCain had had his ass kissed by the press for so many years that he didn’t know how to respond when they turned against him in the general election.

          25. steve nson

            I concur.

          26. LE

            Obama was in Chicago. Oprah was in Chicago. Oprah liked him. That is what put him in the ring.

          27. Dave Pinsen

            Jeff’s a Walker guy. Walker has some admirable qualities, but he’s tried to play it both ways on immigration. Trump may force him to take a side.

          28. JLM

            .We shall disagree on this.He has tapped into a phenomenon that is virulent in the Republican party. The elitist aspect of another Bush candidacy is very unsettling.I cannot support another Bush. I am tired of the Bush’s and I voted for both of them. [I am also tired of the Clinton’s but in a different way.]The 2014 election was the working man in the voting booth voting his pocketbook and Trump has tapped into that sentiment.He will not get the nomination but he will drive a lot of the debate. Frankly, the electorate is tired — bone tired — of political correctness and is looking for someone to lean forward in their saddle.We are tired of being told “we are the problem.” We are a proud nation and right now we don’t feel proud.This is going to be an interesting election and I suspect that much of the 2014 energy will be there for the Republicans to tap into if they are smart enough to limit the discussion to the economy and foreign policy.If the election is sold as the “third” Obama term, the Republicans will win.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          29. pointsnfigures

            Trump has tapped into the illegal immigration problem. Agree on the elitist part of the Republican party-and that will be the battle in the primary. America wasn’t supposed to be set up for dynastic politics, but that is what we are getting with Clinton, Bush, Kennedy, Daley, and so on.

          30. JLM

            .He has tapped into the low hanging fruit of illegal alien crime which is a travesty dumped upon us by our government. In my neck of the woods, I can see murderers being turned loose on the street corners in Corpus Christi, San Antonio and El Paso. This is no joke.The border is a sieve. You can literally walk across it in some places. The notion of securing the border with a fence is a no brainer and woe to the candidate who comes out against that idea.What he is also tapping into is the angst of the working man — the man who swings a hammer and works with his muscles — and the impact of 5-20MM illegal aliens with low skills and low wage expectations.This is a pocketbook issue and doesn’t have to be articulated. I had a guy named “Angel” working on my AC yesterday. He was telling me how bad the pressure was on wages — he’s a computer AC type guy with real skills — because of this problem.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          31. sigmaalgebra

            > This is a pocketbook issue and doesn’t have to be articulated.There are also related issues: We are destroying any concept of US citizenship. I will try to think of something for our country dumber than that … Nope, I give up.With…we believed that Obama was devoted to the US? I can’t.He bowed to the leaders of China, Japan, France, and Saudi Arabia. He likes Cuba. He really likes immigrants — any and all — from south of the US. He seems to really like Iran. US citizenship? He wants to trash that.Since it’s wildly politically incorrect to suggest that Obama wants to stick it to Whitey, that’s what he gets to do, does, and gets away with it.Okay, so I understand Obama.Then, for the Iran deal, no thanks. If Obama likes it, then, no thanks.One of my views on Obama is that he likes to propose projects that he is fairly sure will fail but has someone to blame the failure on, e.g., Congress, SCOTUS.Examples of such projects? Okay: I suspect that he never really believed that ObamaCare would last this long, never dreamed that he would get away this long with his open southern border policy and trashing the concept of US citizenship, and doesn’t expect that the Iran deal will pass.We’ve been lucky: For the past eight years, the best thing for the President to do has been next to nothing. E.g., for Iraq and Syria, when the desert is sufficiently red, there will be peace. E.g., if Akrapistan and Pukistan like the Taliban, not a really big biggie by me. E.g., let the Fed play Goldilocks and have the economy grow not too hot, not too cold, but just right.Sure, if the Taliban start to get out of line again, then we will send cruise missiles again but this time not tell Secretary Halfbright so she can call her buddies in Pukistan so that they can warn their buddies in the Taliban in Akrapistan.If we needed a real president, then we’d be in real trouble.

          32. JLM

            .The short term impact of the Iran deal is NOT the nuclear implications, it is the access to enormous capital, the ability to sell oil into the world markets and the lifting of the UN arms embargo.The Iranians slipped in the lifting of the UN arms embargo into the negotiations at the last minute. It was a brilliant bit of negotiating and it shows how good they are and how weak the other side (our side) is.The Iranians are the world’s largest sponsors of terrorism and they bankroll both Hamas and Hezbollah who both exist solely to eradicate Israel from the face of the planet.The Iranians — flush with cash — will put their money in the same places.The arms embargo has prevented the Iranians from arming terrorists but now they can buy whatever they want (from Russia and China) and provide it to whomever they want.The magnitude of conventional arms in the Middle East is a two way street with people like ISIS able to sell or trade captured weapons with the Iranians.The picture in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq and Turkey has just gotten much worse. Bad enough that the Israelis and the Saudis are going to be bedfellows.An untouched consideration is that the Turks have wanted to kick Israel’s ass for a long time but they are not willing to go it alone. They have a “fair” army with a population of 80MM. They provide Hamas $300MM annually.If they think they can team up with Iran — 80MM people also — they may just decide to roll the dice particularly if they think the US will sit this one out.Israel has 8MM people while her enemies are far, far, far larger.We do not have to worry about a war starting in the Middle East any time soon — there is one underway right now.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          33. sigmaalgebra

            I wasn’t so sure about Turkey, but I did suspect and did worry about GG walking around in Istanbul. Since then I read that Turkey is one of the main routes for ISIS fighters to get to the ISIS areas.Sounds dangerous, like some wacko playing with matches in a gun powder factory.Sounds like passing the Iran treaty is asking for WWIII with nukes.So, sounds like the US Congress should reject the current Iran treaty. Then Obama will veto the rejection. Then Congress should override the veto.People should be concerned.

          34. andyswan

            I don’t think he was as dedicated as Perot…I say “was” because now that he’s become a target of the PC media machine, I think he is starting to enjoy the fight way more than anticipated.

          35. JLM

            .In the military when you learn hand-to-hand combat, you always stumble on guys who enjoy the Hell out of fighting. They thrive on it. They draw energy from it.It is one of the reasons why I always carried a pistol and a KayBar.Trump thrives on the bullshit. And, he’s good at it.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          36. JLM

            .People fail to remember that Perot took the election from George HW Bush by garnering 18% of the 1992 vote and 8% in 1996.That little shit delivered the country into the hands of Bill Clinton — twice.The Donald will not do that. He is mindful of the big picture.I am interested to see if Bernie Sanders — already an independent — will run as an independent.Trump is not going to get the nomination but he is going to make everyone in that field more than a little uncomfortable. If the Republicans are smart, an iffy proposition, their ticket gets them Florida and maybe Ohio.This is not going to be a close election. Either side will make a big sweep.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          37. Dan Moore

            I don’t believe Bernie will run as an independent because he wants to continue to caucus with and rank in the Democratic party if his bid fails.

          38. LE

            Trump is light years ahead of Perot. Trump understands human nature, people, and how they tick. Similar to, but not the same as, Steve Jobs. [1] Perot is a guy who built and ran a successful corporation not in the same class really as Trump.[1] However Jobs was wacky and immature and not fully formed “go to India take drugs” whereas Trump was mature and didn’t fail until he bet to large (kind of part of the point about your post). Trump learned a great deal from his father as well and was intelligent and mature enough to learn lessons from him. Same as Jobs in a way (with his step father) however there was much more Donald could learn from his father than Steve from Paul Jobs.

          39. Dave Pinsen

            Remember what Ross Perot’s signature issue was? Deficit reduction. And, thanks to him, both of the major party candidates committed to it. It would be great if Donald Trump has a similar impact on immigration.

        2. steve nson

          Two points:1) He decided to run for President to bolster his image and increase his brand appeal, to increase his business/endorsement/tv earnings.or2) He decided to run for President as a serious candidate and was more interested in being viewed as a credible contender and didn’t really care about the business ramifications of his candidacy.Either way, with his comments, he has failed on both counts. His brand is worse off and he is losing business deals and he is definitely not viewed as a serious candidate(current polls notwithstanding).Thus the self-infliction.

          1. pointsnfigures

            There are a lot of people that run to bolster credentials etc-that have absolutely zero chance of winning. But, at least on the Republican side this year we will have a debate-more of a free market. Bush, Cruz, Paul, Rubio and Walker are really worth watching. I think the rest are not.

          2. Dave Pinsen

            I can see the appeal off Cruz, Paul, and Walker, but Rubio and Jeb? No way. There is little daylight between Jeb and Hillary on big issues, such as immigration, and Rubio is just a younger, emptier version of Jeb.

          3. Dave Pinsen

            Your first point is false, because running for President required him to give up his appearances on his hit TV show (or give the same amount of TV time to each of his opponents).Regarding your second point, he is a serious enough candidate that he has gotten other candidates to take up his signature issue, immigration. He has changed the terms of the debate. And his brand is fine. Yeah, NBC and Univision, which pander to Hispanics, have distanced himself from him. But how many of the luxury properties around the world that license his name have decided to remove it? Any?

          4. steve nson

            My first point is correct. The point is to get more tv deals after your run for office not during. Politicians on both sides of the aisle do it all the time.In terms of him being taken seriously, he is the most famous person in the race(besides Hillary). At this point in his career, he is more reality tv star than anything, which means no matter what he says or does it will draw attention. The biggest reason other candidates pay attention to him is because he is a billionaire who enjoys to rumble.His lost deals include Nascar, ESPN, the PGA, Serta etc, here is a link from July 4th,…. I’m sure it is probably higher by now.Any Republican supporter should be concerned that Trump is leading the debate on the right, Hillary will wrap the whole party around him. The Republican nominee will have to spend their whole campaign explaining Trumps comments instead advancing their own agenda.

          5. Dave Pinsen

            Still disagree on your first point. Trump isn’t Sarah Palin, who turned her VP run into a successful basic cable media career. He was a network TV star before, and gave that up to run. As for the deals he’s lost, Trump has addressed those. A lot of them were minor things. For example, the Nascar deal, he noted, was Nascar renting a banquet room in one of his hotels for some event. When they canceled, he said he kept their deposit and rented it out to another organization for more money.The best thing that could happen to the GOP is to take up Trump’s challenge on immigration and trade and address those issues credibly, something Hillary won’t be able to do without risking offending her billionaire globalist donors or her La Raza voters.

          6. steve nson

            But the GOP will still run into the issue of getting votes. They can’t win with 70% of minorities voting against them. The demographics don’t work. Most people don’t realize that President Obama won 70% of all non-white voters. I bet the biggest issue was that most voters didn’t think Romney cared about people like them. Trump falls in that category. I am not Mexican but when I hear him say the stuff he says it makes me wonder what he thinks about blacks. So all things being equal I would vote for anyone over him.

          7. Dave Pinsen

            The GOP had no trouble getting votes last November. The biggest issue in 2012 was that Romney got subpar turnout among Midwestern whites, thanks to Obama’s negative ad campaign that portrayed him has a heartless, factory-closing capitalist who made some guy’s wife die of cancer.The best way for Republicans to win in the near term is to increase white turnout. If they do that, by offering positions their base supports on immigration, etc., they’ll also pick up some minority votes as a byproduct.As for you wondering what Trump thinks about blacks, look up the video of his Phoenix speech, where one of his guests was a black man whose son was murdered by an illegal immigrant.In the long term, I think blacks will come back to the GOP — not because of any “outreach” on the part of Republicans (which never accomplishes much), but because the current Democratic coalition is inherently fragile.

        3. LE

          It is amazing to me how “normals” fail to see that part of the reason for Trump’s success is that he is both a business person and an entertainer who invented a genre. They don’t know enough to see the value in why he is the way that he is and how it has greatly catapulted him and added value to his organization. Many ways to skin a cat and he has practically invented, honed, and mastered an entire category. And not a one trick pony either.

    3. andyswan

      At least he knows enough not to apologize. The world demands weakness but never respects it.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        So true.

      2. Mac

        Well said.

      3. Jess Bachman

        Its easy not to apologize when you are not a true contender and don’t have to appeal to a broad spectrum of voters.

        1. LE

          You could have said the same thing about Obama pre Oprah endorsement (as I like to point out the thing that put him in the ring). And what about Jimmy Carter?

      4. LE

        Exactly. See my comment which includes “but he’s a nice guy and a good father”.

    4. Salt Shaker

      Every circus has a clown. Amazing he is polling at 17%. Speaks to both the idiocy of the American public and the weakness of the GOP candidates. The Dems love him, though. Can’t wait for the debates. Will be better than any reality TV show.

      1. Girish Mehta

        Re: “Can’t wait for the debates. Will be better than any reality TV Show”.Reminds me of this..(although the debate in the show is also good) – “Ginger, get the popcorn !”…

      2. LE

        People love to throw around that “clown” thing with respect to Trump. Trump may say many things unfiltered but the truth is he is much more accomplished than most likely anybody else running for office in terms of what he has achieved and has done. [1] He runs his organization (or at least he did at one point) very lean and has an intuitive handle on many parts of business and human nature that your typical CEO or Billionaire has to pay other people to do or is clueless about. He is the opposite of Henry “Royalty” Kravis. He can deal with questions on the fly that his peers would have to use others for and actually come out standing. He is a brilliant strategist who understands and appeals and manages to get money out of rich people (as opposed to Sam Walton who got money out of poor people). Not that rich people are smarter than poor people who buy at Walmart since many rich people inherited their money. Cheap shot on my part based on the BMI of a typical Walmart customer.Nobody, for example, would even be talking about Hillary if there was never a Bill Clinton. Nobody would be talking about Jeb Bush if not for his father (nor Bush 2 for that matter). Nobody would be talking about Obama if not for affirmative action and Oprah and that he went to Harvard. Obama was a clown because he had no experience “community organizer, state senator”.He may or may not be the best person to run the country but he is not a clown.[1] Or reporters and/or people in the media. Not even close.

        1. JLM

          .Clowns don’t make it to the pay window in the consistent manner that Trump has through the years. He’s failed publicly and still keeps coming back. There is some not inconsiderable substance there.Not to get too earthy but he’s had three very attractive wives who, even if they are gold diggers par excellence, could have married anyone they wanted. By that crude measure, he has done alright for himself.His kids have followed in his footsteps and they have never been spoiled brats.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. LE

            His kids have followed in his footsteps and they have never been spoiled brats.Exactly. By far, one of the most impressive things about Trump is how his kids have turned out and how they have been raised (even if by Ivana partly). Good genes and strict values.Look at Rick Hilton’s kids. They are clowns although I give them credit for seizing opportunity.The saddest thing about the Trump situation is the lemmings who will end up hurting all of the good people who work in Trump properties by their stupid boycott because of things that Trump has said. In a country where free speech apparently has gone out the window and social media’s reach has become a considerable problem.

          2. LE

            Not to get too earthy but he’s had three very attractive wives who, even if they are gold diggers par excellence, could have married anyone they wanted.They are not my type but I recognized them as being beautiful in the same way that I can admire a car but buy a different brand. That said “my type” is probably the type of woman that Joanne Wilson would invest in. I would name names but that wouldn’t be appropriate in this forum and I am very happily married obviously to an extremely attractive woman (who is accomplished as well).Deblasio of course is from a different school. His wife has an interesting past (not talking about skin color btw..)

      3. Dave Pinsen

        Mark Steyn had an interesting take on it (“Last Stand of the Old White Males”). Excerpt:… But here’s the funny and consequential thing. Trump is supposed to be the narcissist blowhard celebrity candidate: He’s a guy famous for erecting aesthetically revolting buildings with his “brand” plastered all over them, for arm-candy brides, for beauty contests and reality shows. The other fellows are sober, serious senators and governors.And yet Trump is the only one who’s introduced an issue into this otherwise torpid campaign – and the most important issue of all, I would argue, in that ultimately it’s one of national survival. And so the same media that dismiss Trump as an empty reality-show vanity candidate are now denouncing him for bringing up the only real policy question in the race so far.What he said may or may not be offensive, but it happens to be true: America has more Mexicans than anybody needs, and then some. It certainly has more unskilled Mexicans than any country needs, including countries whose names begin with “Mex-” and end in “-ico”. …This would be quite an interesting topic to air in a US election campaign, don’t you think? Certainly, a segment of voters seems to be interested in it. But bigshot media like NBC and Univision and craphole emporia like Macy’s are telling Trump and everybody else: you can’t even bring this up; this is beyond discussion. The “acceptable” Republican candidates are now obliged to denounce the guy who mentioned the unmentionable: “Will you distance yourself from Trump’s controversial remarks? Do you agree such views have no place in your party?” Needless to say, Reince Preibus and the other jelly-spined squishes of the GOP establishment are eagerly stampeding to do the Macy’s-Univision-industrial complex’s work for them.The Donald is not really a conservative, nor much of a Republican. He’s given more or less evenhandedly to both parties over the decades, because, at Trump’s level, that’s just the price of doing business in a sclerotic and corrupt republic. …Yet Trump, like other philosophically erratic politicians from Denmark to Greece, has tapped into a very basic strain of cultural conservatism: the question of how far First World peoples are willing to go in order to extinguish their futures on the altar of “diversity.”

        1. Salt Shaker

          Here’s the rub, Trump has no real desire to be President. This is totally an ego play, nothing more, nothing less. Not to suggest his positions on issues aren’t genuine, they are, but he doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude, patience, diplomatic skills, filter, temperament, and frankly desire, to be President. He’s a classic narcissist. He’ll play the public to elevate his national profile, particularly w/ the debates, and walk away. Everything about him is oversized and garish. The publics interest is more about their disdain for today’s political landscape than support for Trump and his ideals. The public admires his candor and brashness, even though it potentially could be quite dangerous in many circumstances. That said, Trump’s position on immigration is not entirely misguided, although his presentation most definitely is.

          1. Dave Pinsen

            I wondered about his desire at first as well, but I think he may be driven partly by spite now at those who have attacked him.Then again, it may suffice for him if another candidate runs on his platform. I think he met with Ted Cruz in New York today. I don’t see him ever endorsing Jeb.

          2. sigmaalgebra

            Trump has no real desire to be President. Sure, for a lot of people, if they acted like Trump does, that would be a reasonable conclusion.But, for Trump, maybe the conclusion is true, and maybe not: There’s no law saying that he can’t act the way he does and still actually want to be President. Instead, he’s free to be his own original man.Maybe he does want to be President — he’s free to act the way he does and still want the job.For his being able to do the job, sure, he seems to have some disqualifications in style, temperament, etc. But, for that job, we’ve got lots of examples and, IMHO, no shortage of people who looked a lot worse than Trump but did hold the job. I doubt he’d be our worst President ever.Besides, what about the “style, temperament” of the other candidates, really all of them, who are too timid even to mention the immigration issue? I have a kitty cat that has better style and temperament than Trump, but she doesn’t know anything about the immigration issue; of course she may know as much about the issue as the other candidates.Being calm does not imply lack of outrageous indignation from deep understanding. Instead, there are other ways to be calm in the face of outrage: Be weak, oblivious, asleep, uninformed, unconcerned, on special meds, or brain-dead.For the worst President? How ’bout one who insults our long time, strong ally England, insults our strong ally Israel, bows to the leaders of China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and France, refuses to enforce our laws on immigration, trashes our concept of US citizenship, kept fighting that stupid, costly, hopeless war in Akrapistan, and wants to sign a nuclear arms treaty with a wacko dictatorship that organizes throngs of people shouting “Death to America, Death to Israel”?

    5. William Mougayar

      Well, he perfected the art of the sound bite. His TV show experience is paying off.

      1. LE

        All dates pre-tv show. I have been following Trump since 1978 or 1979. He was world class back then.

        1. William Mougayar

          He’s very much about “show” and “showing-off”. He revels in it. It works in business, but I’m not sure it will work in government. just saying.

  2. awaldstein

    This begs a Rocky video for certain.(So annoyed that I can’t find the clip without an ad so not posting it. Really dislike old style interrupt ads on YouTube.)

    1. Dave Pinsen

      The best is when he wins over the crowd in Moscow in Rocky IV, and then gives a speech about how that could lead to a thaw in the Cold War.

      1. Girish Mehta

        Rocky IV also had amazing workout music. And the best training montage. CrossFit back then !

  3. Anne Libby

    “Fall down seven times, get up eight.”

  4. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Learning to get up is painful (getting knocked down easy).For me the biggest difference an investor can see is the “being prepared to do it yet again”.It’s a bit like going out onto the sports field against a bigger team – you ask youself why you do it, but the answer is to hand – simply – It must be done.If “It must be done” is your reasoning for playing, you will be able to get up again.

    1. awaldstein

      Yup–makes me think of my time wrestling days in high school. I was good but smaller. I won mostly but always got beat up badly. Great training for life.

      1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        Judo and Rugby for me. Learning – pretty much the same. I never learnt to enjoy getting hurt, but I learned to love winning. (also got pretty beaten too)

        1. awaldstein

          Funny–on pure will I was able to get the state regionals. At that level, those with more talent–and spunk–won as they should.

  5. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Watch a child learn to walk.When an parent says proudly “Our .. took his/her first step”, they don’t expect perfection but progress.The child does it falling on its ass time and time again – not because they can, but because they can’t – And that is a great motivator.Its also the ONLY way to learn some things.

    1. steve nson

      Unfortunately a lot of adults are afraid of failure and thus stop learning.

  6. William Mougayar

    And it’s hard to talk about it accurately because you really don’t know what you learned until you either recover like in this example, or you’re doing it again while avoiding the mistakes you’ve done before.Getting better happens by re-doing and re-trying, not by failing and staying down, or avoiding to get back up.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Yeah, there is such thing as talking about it too soon — at least from the vantage point of having gotten through it. It takes a while for those lessons to soak in.

  7. awaldstein

    (Note to whomever from Disqus is monitoring this thread. I now get faster notifications from comments to a thread on Facebook than Disqus. Pains me to say this.)

  8. kirklove

    Rocky. Still holds up.

    1. JimHirshfield


      1. LE


    2. falicon

      There is another film in the series coming soon ( Creed ) – the trailer references that awesome line ->

  9. John Pepper

    I got knocked “out” nearly 2 years ago (after 17 years of starting and building a business). I was fully out, from 100 to zero, and could only watch from the sidelines. But last month somehow and so unexpectedly I essentially got up just before the count of 10 (and the “chapter of 11″…) and got the whole thing back. Now head is down again, cutting wasteful expense, hiring great team, building back to what was and beyond. Short article here if interested… And in the meantime, in addition to fully engaging as a Dad and husband for over 20 months, built a technology product which is slowly but surely finding its way in an important market… so maybe we find out getting knocked out was the best thing? Even if not… it certainly makes for a far more interesting and memorable journey 🙂

    1. William Mougayar

      That’s amazing. Congratulations.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Good for you. Really.

    3. JLM

      .I am reading your comment with a mouth flavored by the Burnet Road Burrito from Taco Shack, an Austin, Texas institution. Anyone from the ATX knows what that means.Bringing burritos to the world (Hell, even from Boston) is a sacred trust. It is more important than business. It is right up there with Longhorn football.Next time I am in Beantown, I will eat a Boloco burrito and if it is not good, friend, I will know who to come looking for.Good luck, burrito man.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. LE

        I find burritos, for lack of a better way to put it, gross. Your digestive track must be much more evolved than the one that I have.

        1. JLM

          .A burrito is just a very big taco. A very big taco.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        2. sachmo

          Dude, if you really don’t like burritos, you’ve got problems in life : )

    4. dgay07

      Congrats! My kids love Boloco. We eat there quite regularly- at the Wellesley location. I do agree with the article w/r to the menu. I look forward to seeing how the business progresses. Best of luck in this new phase!

    5. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Cheers! This is my favorite part of that story, “As Boloco expanded it also become known as a rare champion for low-wage workers in a fast-food industry notorious for paying the bare minimum and relying on part-time employees.” 🙂

    6. LE

      Given your background, I am particularly interested in why you decided to do this:During his time away from Boloco, Pepper was briefly an Uber driver

      1. John Pepper

        LE, as luck would have it, I wrote about my Uber journey in a 4-part blog. You are welcome to peruse… here’s part 1

    7. Phil Chacko

      Thanks for sharing. I loved Boloco when I briefly lived in Boston!

    8. Rob K

      You go Pep!

      1. John Pepper

        thx buddy. hope summer is a good one so far.

    9. Matt Zagaja

      Will drop by a location for lunch next time I’m up in Cambridge.

  10. kenberger

    Resumes and LinkedIn profiles almost never mention these knockdowns. They should.Like the “wall of shame” and “anti-portfolio” on a couple VC sites, makes you seem more accessible, and wiser. Or at least, cooler.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      One of my competitors does this on his LinkedIn profile. And it does make him look really cool that he had a “failed venture-backed startup” many years ago before he became one of the most successful startup recruiters in our market. It’s actually a humble brag that he pulls off well. Not all of us could do that.

      1. LE

        “failed venture-backed startup”That’s like “dropped out of Harvard” a way of marking your territory by saying that you made it past some filter. It does create a halo, no doubt about it. That is probably what is causing your “make him look really cool” reaction.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          Yeah, “started my first business while flat broke and pregnant with my third child” doesn’t garner quite the same cred, but I might try it just the same.

          1. Anne Libby

            Are you kidding? That’s amazing cred.

          2. LE

            Agree. There is a story in that for sure.

          3. Kirsten Lambertsen

            That is BADASS.

        2. Dave Pinsen

          It’s a humble brag.

          1. Anne Libby

            I’d call it a straight up brag.

    2. Dave Pinsen

      Being able to talk about your failures is essentially a humble brag, because usually the only people who do it are already rich and successful.James Altucher’s shtick, for example, is his honesty about his past failures, now that he’s rich and successful, but if you read his older stuff, he’s admitted to using dishonest means when he was hustling.

  11. Christopher Herbert

    I think this holds true in the corporate world, in marriages, and in life in general as well. Good reminder and good to read when you’re on your ass…trying to get back up.

  12. LissIsMore

    Life is all about getting back up.Back in the day, I played a lot of sports. I always liked playing against people who were better than me. I got my ass kicked daily – but I got better in a way that I never could have just practicing by myself. When I played in games where I was the best player I got bored. This is not a perfect analogy to the point of the post – but it is related. Life (and business) will give you a good butt whipping’ from time-to-time. Learning from that and dusting yourself off to go at it again is the way it works.

  13. PJ Kershaw

    Absolutely. Mike Tyson said it best “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      I knew someone had to share this quote.

    2. Dave Pinsen

      It’s a great quote, but it doesn’t mean the same thing as what Andy said. Andy’s quote is about liking the fight; Tyson’s is his intuitive version of Von Clausewitz’s old line: “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy”.

    3. PJ Kershaw

      I’ve been to hell and back in business. Cried. Slept in the office. Fired staff. Been there. Apart from the above the person that captures this the best is Ben Horowitz when he talks about ‘the stuggle’. Although years after the period, it all came flooding back and I had tears in my eyes when I read that chapter in “the hard thing about hard things”… It’s a true entrepreneurs book…

  14. andyswan

    Yes! Competition is such an essential element of life.Learn to love a good fight!

    1. andyswan

      BTW recently I have had a front row seat to the one of the best “get back up” stories I’ve been a part of.5 days later, 2/3 of a lung lighter, cancer-free and HOME.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Them Swans are fighters.

      2. Anne Libby

        Andy, that’s so wonderful. May the rest of her recovery be swift.

      3. fredwilson

        As I said yesterday, yesssssssssss

      4. William Mougayar

        That is one winner smile.

      5. Kyle Van Pelt

        That one deserves a hell yeah!

      6. JLM

        .You better have some strawberries on those knees, Swan. Pray and pray harder. Godspeed!JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      7. awaldstein

        Huge congrats on this.Been close to this in immediate family and it is edgy situation that deserves celebration.

      8. Mac

        Her image should be on the shirt.

      9. Kirsten Lambertsen

        That is awesome. Go, girl! (And as you know, I love the shirt!)

      10. pointsnfigures


      11. Richard

        As a fellow cancer survivor….love it.

        1. andyswan

          That’s awesome!  Love it

  15. Tom Labus

    I hope they’re reading this in Athens.

    1. Mac


  16. Donna Brewington White

    I wonder what that guy did for support? Running a business is a lonely undertaking in some ways. Lonelier when things aren’t going well. Did he go it alone, or did he have people on the sidelines cheering him on? Shoulders to lean on. Sure, there is only so much others can do in a situation like that, but it helps not to feel completely alone.I think a lot about the depression that often plagues founders, as well as the high degree of mental and emotional stress that comes with the territory in startup life or running a business in general.I really appreciate the work being done by people like Jerry Colonna and Brad Feld in helping to bring more awareness about the need for entrepreneurs to take care of their mental health and to not feel like they have to go it alone. I hope to one day participate in this cause.

    1. fredwilson

      His wife is amazing and she really stepped up

      1. pointsnfigures

        Man, that really helps.

    2. LE

      Did he go it alone, or did he have people on the sidelines cheering him on? Shoulders to lean on.In Fred’s reply he says “his wife is amazing and she really stepped up”.What I have found is that women are not interested in hearing your business problems. The reason for this is simple. And dates to prehistoric times most likely is my theory. The woman doesn’t want to hear that some other woman’s husband beat her husband to the animal and that they won’t eat dinner that night. She wants a meal on the table. So on that level a woman is not interested in being your mommy (what the man wants, that is “comfort”) it is not a “turn on” to her in any way. She doesn’t want to hear about your problems although she might be willing to listen to your problems. The man on the other hand reverts to being a kid who wants mommy to comfort him when he skins his knee. He wants somebody to cry to. See what is going on here?Women also, and this isn’t so much a woman problem but human nature, don’t know what is going on behind the scenes at her friend’s husbands company. All she sees is the big gift her friend gets and the nice car that she has. Doesn’t know if the husband cheats, how he treats his employees and so on. Just sees the bottom line. Not interested in details of why it isn’t happening, same as the public stock market.For sure you end up hearing the ubiquitous “but he’s a nice guy and a good father” as a rationalization for why the meal is not on the table like it should be.And yes not every woman is like this. Obviously.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        This comment really pulls the room together.

      2. SDB

        WOW! And, what if one were a woman entrepreneur and going through the same ups and downs of the business?

    3. Twain Twain

      Thanks and I wasn’t aware of Brad Feld’s condition until I read this Business Insider article:* http://uk.businessinsider.c…The article says that in a USCF study: “Of the 242 entrepreneurs surveyed, 49% reported having a mental-health condition. Depression was the No. 1 reported condition among them and was present in 30% of all entrepreneurs, followed by ADHD (29%) and anxiety problems (27%). That’s a much higher percentage than the US population at large, where only about 7% identify as depressed.”Bipolar behavior and multiple personality disorder can manifest in entrepreneurs because we do go through cycles of manic activity and adrenalin when things are shipping followed by troughs of disillusionment and frustration.On top of this, we have to wear so many hats and be so many people to other people (customers, our team, investors, wider society etc.) that some of us can lose our own self-identity.That’s why it’s VITAL for founders to have strong families and friends as a support network. People who love us unconditionally whether our startup succeeds or otherwise, and who can put our self-worth into perspective separate from the startup’s.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Thanks for this article, Twain. I’m glad that awareness is being raised. With a growing startup ecosystem, this is one of the things we have to find ways to address.

  17. Nigel Sharp

    Fred, thanks for sharing this fresh reminder. The back against the wall is a horrid feeling and remembering that bouncing back is everything….. everytime.

  18. Jordan Thaeler

    Eh some entrepreneurs have had a pretty easy ride to the top. Facebook comes to mind.

  19. Twain Twain

    Other people’s blood, sweat, tears, knowhow and scars are not ours. We can certainly learn from and appreciate that learning but it’s a bit like back-seat car driving compared with trying to fly a rocket ship.Here are two contrasting examples of being knocked down in tech:*…*

    1. Twain Twain

      The other example is:

    2. LE

      That Chesky thing (airbnb rejections) got a lot of play on Hacker News. It’s part of the “startup industrial machine” that eggs people on to follow their dreams by giving examples of others who told them that they had no chance but ended up in a good place in the end and are glad that they did. [1] [2][1] Despite what I write here I had the same thing happen to me. When I started my first business right out of college (with ZERO experience in the business at all) I was told by an experienced person and somewhat family friend (with 30 years) that my location would fail because “there are no tall buildings”. That’s beside the fact that I didn’t know what I was doing. And my own dad thought I would fail and that I should just come and work for him. Of course I did end up succeeding but “mr experience” was not wrong. He was right. And I was right. It worked because I was forced to figure out a way around the problem. Which I did. But that was as a result of a combination of many factors and it would have been much easier if I had located “where there were tall buildings”. I also gambled and sold my biggest account wearing a down vest against professional corporate salesmen in suits or jacket/tie which I am sure old timers would have disagreed with greatly. But they would have been right, I took a gamble and it worked. (I hate to wear suits. This was the early 80’s by the way, JLM can verify this I am sure as he was always equipped finely dressed with a pocket square from what he has said).[2] Reminds me a bit about some live concert with Bruce Springsteen who spoke about how his father wanted him to be a lawyer and “get something for himself” but Bruce just kept playing guitar and following his dreams because “they just don’t understand”. And turned out to be a mega star. The rest of the guy might have done better being bank branch managers.

      1. Twain Twain

        For every AirBnB…

      2. Twain Twain

        Also this autopsy of startups…My mother wanted me to be a doctor on the grounds of, “You’re smart, really good at sciences, responsible and caring so patients would really get the best attention!”Now, SHE reminds me that when I was 3(!!!) she came home from work to find me selling rides on my brother’s bike for money and sweets, and that she should have known I’d become an entrepreneur like my grandmother, her Great Aunt, her sister, her brother, pretty much all of her father’s side of the family.LOL.Yeah, now my mother understands it’s my “calling”.

  20. lynnerae

    This was *exactly* what I needed to read today. I’m just up again, off the ropes, finding my footing, and heading back in the ring–today is a big day. …and, my main motivation these past few weeks is that “it must be done” (per comments, below) This community helps.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      I hope it is a great day.

      1. lynnerae

        Thank you, Donna!

        1. Donna Brewington White

          Was it?

          1. lynnerae

            well…it appears I’ll be back in the ring today. this one is going the distance 🙂 Thank you so much for checking back in, Donna — hoping you have a great day ahead!

      1. Twain Twain

        Thanks for sharing!

      2. lynnerae


  21. pointsnfigures

    I have learned this over and over again. I don’t like it. But, it’s a part of life and business. There is less of it in the corporate world, but it still exists. Sometimes it costs you opportunity. Often times it costs you money.

    1. Anne Libby


      1. pointsnfigures

        Cost me more than Harvard.

        1. Anne Libby

          And probably worth more.

          1. pointsnfigures

            but i didn’t get the ivy league network and can’t drop it into the first five minutes of a conversation!

          2. Anne Libby

            You *are* joking, right?

          3. pointsnfigures

            of course. Satire always has a bit of truth to it. Could have substituted Notre Dame for Ivy League

  22. Twain Twain

    It’s worth reminding ourselves of Mark Suster’s adage.The dot is the knockout. The line is all the walking and doing that happens between the dots.Here, “knockout” can mean being beaten up by the process of doing a startup OR it can mean exceptional success.That’s the fine line of dual potential outcomes every founder walks.

  23. Daniel Clough

    ‘I’ve never met a successful entrepreneur who didn’t get knocked down in the ring at least once or twice’You’re SO right. The reality is you learn the most when you’re caught in a situation like this. When you come out the other end – what you learned about yourself, business, other people and the field you’re in is so much greater.To be honest, this is why it’s hard for people fresh out of an MBA (without much experience) to touch someone who’s been in the trenches. You can’t create an experience like it.I think I might be slightly odd because personally I like working on situations like this as much as when stuff is going seemingly well!

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Do you like pain?I like what it produces. I don’t like the way it feels. I hate that pain is so necessary. But I appreciate its value.

      1. Anne Libby

        Turnaround lessons: there’s nothing as satisfying as taking meaningful action to lessen/end the pain.(Even when you’re not sure if your actions will work. Often people freeze in bad situations. Inaction never ends the pain, and sometimes makes things worse.)

        1. Donna Brewington White

          I hear you. And I understand the exhilaration that comes from pushing through. Even as you are fighting fears and worried about payroll.

          1. Daniel Clough

            Not physical pain. But as Anne said, there is something very satisfying in a turnaround situation.I love the stages- from everything is crap through to momentum in the right direction / results.In many ways, turnaround situations are EASIER than starting from scratch. There’s normally so much low hanging fruit and obvious stuff to do (fix people, strategy, improve execution etc.) and if you’re an operator, it’s a fun situation to get stuck into.You gotta be able to push through the early period though. It’s normally a grind and you have to have faith you’re doing the right things, but the moment you start to see early signs of success – aaaah, there’s nothing better!

      2. Dan Moore

        If you like sci-fi, this book is a great one that addresses how much humans need stress and challenge to live worthwhile lives:…We need it and yet often spend our lives avoiding it. (I know I do!)

  24. LIAD

    Until recently I’d always looked at the stratospheric highs and crushing lows of being an entrepreneur as nothing more than the cost of doing business in our chosen profession.Lately I’ve begun to think it could be more than that. It could be a prime reason we are actually drawn to being entrepreneurs.Maybe entrepreneurship is our chosen adrenaline junky/masochist poison

    1. andyswan

      If I don’t have a wager going at any given moment it’s like I’m not alive

    2. Sandy

      Liad, your comments are brilliant, but this one isn’t accurate.If one has an inborn adrenaline junkie/masochist personality, then startups or investing is not a good career match, because that’s too normal and common of a personality.Startups and investing really do work like a power law distribution, not a Gaussian. So it’s a good career match for abnormal and uncommon personality types. That’s why successful entrepreneurs tend to have an inborn rational, tough, calm personality, and they have also learned discipline over their own thoughts and emotions, as well as self-psychology. That’s quite bizarre and abnormal.

  25. JimHirshfield

    So many of these stories are hidden, unknown, spun. There are so many more of them then there are straight shots success stories told.

  26. Mac

    When I hear stories like this I’m always reminded of Harland Sanders. (Colonel Sanders of KFC fame, for some of our international friends).He is one of the ubiquitous examples of an entrepreneur who was repeatedly knocked down, but never defeated – long before KFC. And, his KFC concept was rejected hundreds of times before it was franchised. He was in his 60’s by then.A good Wiki read for anyone interested in perseverance. You’ll know the rest of the story.And, mighty fine chicken to boot. (@JLM – especially when you don’t have access to Burnet Road Burritos) I think I’ll head over there now and get a tub of the grilled.Thanks, Harland

  27. JLM

    .We become strongest when we test ourselves. It is hard to do and it requires a bit of humility to say — “maybe I can’t do this.” You will never really know who you are until you do it.I remember the first really tall building I ever developed. I was looking at the hole — about a hundred feet deep — and thinking “This shit is real. You’re in charge. If you fuck up it’s going to cost almost $100MM.”I poured my heart and soul into that project. Every night I went to bed having learned something so profound that I couldn’t imagine how much stuff I didn’t know.When I built my fifth such building, I was as calm as a cucumber.When I drive by that first building, I sometimes look at it and talk to it. It talks back to me and reminds me of when I didn’t know shit. It laughs at me. It mocks me. And I laugh right back with it knowing it is all true.But sometimes, late at night when nobody else is downtown, it will wink at me and say, “For a 29 year old kid who didn’t know shit, you did alright, kid. Keep it up.”Life and business is a great game and if you want to have a blast, step outside yourself and risk failure. Don’t be reckless. Just be a little brave.Double down on the planning. Have a clear Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values and Culture. Have a good business engine canvas. A dollar weighted org chart.Reduce the risk by planning the Hell out of everything.Talk to people who have been there before and listen. Listen.And, then, go bite the ass off a bear and dare life to beat you. Smote the Hell out of it.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. Girish Mehta

      Brilliantly articulated ! Read it twice.

    2. Matt Kruza

      Wow, a) very cool b) now I partially get both you domain expertise in real estate, but also why you have a harder time buying my real estate mega-deflationary long-term trend! But $100M 20+ years ago.. wow!

      1. JLM

        .Came out of the ground in 1982. A big building hadn’t been built in the ATX in a long, long, long time. Built it with three shifts beating three or four competitors to the finish line and got it leased up before many of them were finished.Check out the prime rate in those days. Money was so tight you couldn’t pound a ten penny nail up its ass with a sledgehammer.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Matt Kruza

          Yep if my history is right without looking prime rate was probably 14-17%… that massive decline in rates has led to valuation bubble partially. I assume tight regulation keeping more buildings from being feasible combined with a non-water bound city making outward development cheaper?

          1. Girish Mehta

            More than that. Prime rates hit 21% in 1981-82 before Volcker finally broke the back of inflation.

          2. JLM

            .Close on rates but there is no connection between those punitive rates and the valuation bubble. They were intended to kill inflation and they, essentially, did — along with much else.ATX CBD is bounded by a river on the south, the Capitol on the north, an Interstate on the east and residential on the west.There was plenty of room to grow. There was no real demonstrable office demand. The city has always been a pain in the butt to deal with.That building used the airway rights over an alleyway at mid-block and was originally permitted for 72 stories which were traded to each of the regulatory entities like marbles, string and chalk to get to its final height.Note the “wedding cake” profile in which a foot of setback from the street was traded for an additional three feet of height. That’s why the building sits so far back from its frontage.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          3. Matt Kruza

            Low interest rates definitely affects valuation of commercial buildings. I know you know this as you have more (way more) real estate experience. Cap rates is one of the major metrics used in especially commercial real estate and is somewhere between 4-7% on prime real estate (right?). And cap rates aren’t going to be lower than prime rates… so with prime at 20%, the cap rate would have to be way the hell higher than 5%, which at 20% reduces the property value by 75%..

    3. sigmaalgebra

      Mod: Delete

    4. sigmaalgebra

      Mod: Delete

    5. Donna Brewington White

      Okay, let’s get to work. 🙂

    6. sigmaalgebra

      Good! Kept that one, indexed it. Maybe I’ll need it.For now, my exercise program has me getting up earlier but, today, with sore muscles! “This shit is real. You’re in charge. If you fuck up it’s going to cost …” some cash and a lot of time and effort now and a lot more in lost earnings later.Yup, good to hear that others also believe that planning is important.Yup, this just in! Plenty of Fish, a solo founder, sole proprietor, bootstrapped, consumer Internet, ad supported, Web site startup, just sold for $575 million. Existence proof!My project doesn’t work with anything as real and solid as concrete and steel. Instead, the project is for the Internet; the main more tangible work is just software; the input is just bits; and the results are just images on screens and, hopefully, deposits in my business checking account.So, how to plan? My guess:(1) As is standard advice for projects, pick a good problem to solve.How to apply this advice to the Internet? Pick a problem where the first good or a much better solution will be a must have for enough people and revenue per person to yield a successful business. Given the current potential of Internet ads, just have a project that is a must have for a large fraction of everyone on the Internet.(2) Get that desired first good or much better solution defensible, with a barrier to entry.For a special way to do this, realize that are putting results on the screen by having the software tell the computer how to manipulate the input data. Well, any such manipulations are necessarily mathematically something, understood or not, powerful or not. So, for more powerful manipulations, proceed mathematically.Why, how for the math? That should be an important question, e.g., in the planning.For an answer, when I was an MBA program prof, I wanted to have an answer that the students could understand. So, I developed the attached cartoon. Poor cartoon drawing — so, any value has to be in what it says about the role of the math.So, the cartoon is a metaphor about a trip from the little town Real Question to the destination, the little town Real Answer across a big, muddy swamp. Since the swamp has lots of bad insects and dangerous reptiles, it is not a pleasant or reliable route for travel.Good drama? Nope! Simple? Yes!So, another way to get to the destination is to use Mathematics Airline that offers reliable transportation from selected locations, e.g., Mathematical Question and Mathematical Answer, and over oceans, mountains, deserts, and big, muddy, dangerous swamps. Heck, there is even occasional passage to the moon, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and, now, Pluto.So, to take advantage of Math Airline, we need two ground trips, one from Real Question to Mathematical Question and one from Mathematical Answer to Real Answer. The first ground trip uses Formulation Limo Service, and the second, Interpretation Limo service.Ah, metaphors!Mathematics Airline is reliable because it’s just math and computing: The computing just does what it’s told to do by the math, and the math is from theorems and proofs staring with a Mathematical Question and ending with a Mathematical Answer. For the two ground limo trips, we can argue about those.So, we reduce many of the chances of bad planning for the desired solution to just the two ground limo trips.Ah, and the MBA students had to pay tuition, show up for class, and copy the cartoon from the blackboard!Larger view of the cartoon: From exercising, I have some sore muscles. So, I know that I can take some aspirin and feel better, even without knowing the details about how the aspirin works.So, for an ordinary sore muscle, I can just throw two aspirin at the problem.For most real problems, can I just throw some math at it? Nope — good work is not that easy.Instead, Mathematics Airline has three biggie points that make its contribution reliable:First, it starts only with a mathematical question, not a real question. E.g., in math we may work with a perfect right triangle, but that’s just math and not real.Second, the math results only in a mathematical answer, say, the length of the longest side of the right triangle — that’s not real either.Third, the reliability of math airline is from the theorems that start with the math question and yield the math answer, e.g., the Pythagorean theorem. Such theorem proving is by a wide margin the most reliable information we have in civilization. Then, for the computing, it just does what the math says to do or what is otherwise routine and obvious.That’s how the math works and why it’s contribution is reliable.Net, we can’t just throw math at a real problem like we can just throw two aspirin at some ordinary sore muscles.And, sure, if we are unable to prove the theorems, then the math part fails.Can the math make the solution more powerful? Sure: Commonly math can show things that are true and valuable that are essentially just impossible to believe or even guess otherwise, e.g., how to navigate to Pluto and then transmit a clear signal back.And that’s how some math can help make the step (2) of the solution more powerful and reliable and, thus, help the planning.Don’t tell anyone else! Naw, wouldn’t hurt: They wouldn’t believe it anyway!Besides: The basic methodology of math, that is, theorems and proofs, has been so effective that math is now a very deep subject with rock solid results. So, in college, math is regarded as a challenging major and, thus, is not popular.Besides, now that, in college, computing is so popular, college computer science, needing many of the results from math, is trying to take over math and is doing a really bad job with the math, making big messes.So, e.g., as in…we get the program Bootstrap trying to teach high school algebra via software coding as if algebra were a special case of software instead of some of software being an application of algebra.And we have some such teaching trying to replace set theory as the foundation of math with computer science type theory, which is a mess. Bummer.Then for the coding, we see efforts to go way back to the 1950s with Lisp andHarold Abelson and Gerald Jay Sussman with Julie Sussman, Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, foreword by Alan J. PerlisNutshell View of the Book: In your software project, have some organization and/or structure so that, say, six months later you can still understand it.That with significantly large projects we need some effective organization is not nearly a new idea. We’re talking the Romans? Naw, we’re talking at least the Pyramids.Better View Than in the Book: There is a fundamental fact — humans have only one way to communicate any very complicated understanding, natural language. Then, sure, for the code, much of the understanding must come from just good technical writing, documentation, and usually most of that can be just good work with comments in the code.E.g., in the code for my Web pages, I have a lot of documentation of the math, the software and server farm architecture, etc., but still I was getting lost. Solution: Just put in some comments with titles much as would for chapters, sections, and subsections in a book or long paper. In addition, have some special syntax for the comments so that a simple editor command can show, say, a table of contents. Dirt simple stuff.That book, does it teach how to use TCP/IP, design and write SQL queries, understand and write HTTP, HTML, CSS, how to have a Web page make asynchronous queries via asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX), write code using the .NET Framework? Nope.That book and Bootstrap: Not very good ways to make progress with software, and good ways to kill off good work in math!Ah, most really good successes are exceptional which means that at the end, and likely also at the beginning, they look quite different from nearly everything else, and apparently this point is especially strong for projects based heavily on software, stronger than for projects based on wood, stone, concrete, and steel.Before now, no one had ever been to Pluto. So, nine years ago, how did the NASA team have high confidence that their project would work?Or, how to have confidence in the planning of a project that looks quite different from nearly everything else? Sure: Steps (1) and (2), especially with the math in step (2).

    7. Twain Twain

      Our websites and apps may not talk back in 5 years much less 25+ years…And I’ll bet that building in ATX will now become a place some AVC readers journey to — on the off-chance it’ll talk and share some of its wisdoms with us!

  28. Kirsten Lambertsen

    After 15 years of entrepreneuring, hanging out with lots of other entrepreneurs and getting knocked down and watching them get knocked down, I’ve come to the conclusion that failing is badass.The people I’ve met who never had to overcome anything tend to be shallow and disconnected. Maybe they’re perfectly happy, but I’m grateful for the way I believe my scars have connected me to my fellow human beings.

    1. andyswan

      embracing failing is awful. It’s what leads to losers. Connecting with the masses is easy and shallowGetting up and fighting is the value. The failure was just the opportunity

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        You’re going to love this: I don’t know what a “loser” is. Your comment reminds me of a Gore Vidal quote (which I believe was meant to be ironic), “It is not enough merely to win; others must lose.”These so-called losers exist merely to make us feel like winners.I have no idea what that third sentence means. Did you just call me lazy and shallow? You steppin’ to me, dawg?We’re splitting hairs here, no? Failure is badass because it means you tried something just beyond your reach. I’m not saying, “Go forth and fail!” I’m saying “Failure happens,” but only to those who actually try to DO something.

        1. andyswan

          Then we agree see how easy that is!Losers don’t try.  That’s the deal.

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Mostly 😉 I just don’t buy into the term ‘loser.’ I do know people who seem lost.

        2. LE

          Failure is badass because it meansWhat happens if you have failure and it impacts not only you but other loved ones close to you or employees? How is it badass to not consider the impact of the gamble that someone personally decides to take on others?This is similar to the way “heroes” are always presented in popular culture and the media as being doubly worth of everyone’s great respect. I am glad my Dad or my wife didn’t jump in front of a train and save someone at the risk of their own life. To me the aura and short term bump of being called a hero (unless it is your job and employment to be a hero) is stupid, not smart. And I would never encourage it in my children. I’d rather have them be around and alive for a long long time.

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Well, I haven’t killed anybody yet :PI should avoid failure at all costs? That sounds like a horrible example to set for my kids, and a losing approach for any business.You guys taking offense to “failing is badass” crack me up. Babe Ruth struck out more than he hit home runs. Edison had countless failures before his big success. Not fearing failure is badass and yields its own rewards.

          2. LE

            I should avoid failure at all costs?No of course it depends on the specifics of the situation and whether you can afford to fail or not and whether you have a backstop and an entire host of other factors. What is stupid for one person might be smart or an ok risk for another person.Edison had countless failures before his big success.Sure but you are not able to name a single person who tried as many times as Edison did and never succeeded, are you? How large is the data set of those people that you do not know about. And, most importantly, was there any impact from them trying and failing so many times (maybe they ended up having to medicate themselves as a result of depression, right?) [1] Plus as I have said this all depends. Is it better to tinker around in a lab with your spare time vs. watch stupid TV shows? Sure that could be the case. [2]Point being none of this has to do with fearing failure. It has to do with rationally evaluating your chances of success and considering the downside of what you decide to do. There is no question in my mind that Fred would not bet the ranch with his life and money on starting his own company where he would stand to lose whatever assets he has accumulated so far. That would be foolish, right? Otoh his son Josh can afford to take practically any gamble he has a family to fall back on. What you stand to lose (the downside) needs to be factored into the chances that you might take wouldn’t you agree with that?[1] “Founder depression” is a theme that frequently comes up on Hacker News as only one example. All these people going after the brass ring whereas only a small number of them will end up succeeding in the end. Some will also end up kicking the dog when them come home or fighting with loved ones because of the stress.[2] Dating example. If you sit at home and watch TV no woman is going to knock on your door or fall through the roof. Going to a bar might not prove worthwhile generally, but more of a chance of finding a date doing that than by staying at home.

          3. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Did I miss the part where we were talking about being a reckless fool and not just daring to risk failing at something? The blog post isn’t titled, “Evaluating Your Chances Of Success And Considering The Downside Of What You Decide To Do.”I stand by my statement that failing is badass, within the context of Fred’s OP. Failing to stop at a red light? Not badass. Failing at your first startup? Badass.

          4. LE

            I think the difference in how we see calling it “badass” most likely stems from how we were raised. I was not raised thinking there was anything good about failing (“failure”) hence this is a glass half empty to me whereas to you it’s a glass half full. (That’s my theory anyway..)

        3. Anne Libby

          If @andyswan steps to you, he must know that he steps to your crew…

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Love it!!!!

      2. LE

        Everybody gets a trophy. You know that, right?

    2. panterosa,

      Kirsten, so long as you have good company to lick your wounds, then going back to the ring isn’t so bad. #dangerladies

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen


      2. Anne Libby


    3. PhilipSugar

      I don’t think you are embracing losing. I think you are pointing out that if you haven’t lost you haven’t stretched enough.And I totally agree with your comments. Shallow and disconnected. Could not agree more. Meet some of the high end consultants, bankers, lawyers.Hey I am not saying that they did not work their butt off in high school, college, and then at their first jobs.Then watch what happens when you throw them into the real world. I had a boss at a company that bought mine out. Former guess from where consultant. When he got kicked int the teeth he didn’t know what to do, it had never happened. I once had to take his car (with a driver to the airport) I got in and the driver and I had a chat. He was trying to figure out why I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and was high ranking enough to be in his car (I got in the front).Turns out he also drove another CEO we were trying to make a connection with. I said boy I am shocked that our CEO didn’t make that connection. He said he had never actually spoken to him. In TWO years almost every day for an hour a day. Never had spoken to him.

  29. Aaron Klein

    Gosh, I have to admit that I can’t recall this breakfast at all, but it sounds familiar.

    1. fredwilson

      we’ve all had this breakfast at one time or another

  30. Robbie Zettler

    Getting knocked down sucks… no one likes it. We are all told to “fail fast” so we can iterate, but to be honest, I don’t know of anyone that wouldn’t rather just get it right the first time. That being said… we do get knocked down, so learning how to pick ourselves up and get back in the ring is all we can do!Loved the post today

  31. Kelly Smith

    Interesting thoughts. Do you think that VCs tend to undervalue the repeat entrepreneur that has learned these hard lessons vs the first time entrepreneur? How different is the experience working with the two?

  32. pointsnfigures

    Was thinking more about this: Failure is a double edged sword. I got a good piece of advice once about raising kids. “Draw a line in the sand so that when they step over, they don’t fall off a cliff. Because they will step over.” Entrepreneurship and risk taking seem to be the same. Make sure that when you are taking the risk, it’s possible for you to get back up after getting knocked down. In my career, I have been knocked down more times than I care to admit. The past five years have been absolutely murderous for me. But, I am still punching. Younger people these days seem to be reticent to assume risk. I think assuming risk is like investing in startups at the bottom-you assume risk when no one else wants to. Easier to make your way then.

    1. Tom Labus

      We need to teach risk to kids in school and why they need to take it

      1. pointsnfigures

        Agree. How would you do that?

        1. Tom Labus

          Taught early enough that failure is part of the equation could make a difference but not sure how you get it into schools. Lots of politics.

          1. JoeK

            This is a terrible idea. The whole point of going to school is to de-risk life. Yes you need some risk takers, but they ought to be the exception,and not the norm. And no, you do not need to be teaching failure in schools. Teach children that they can succeed at whatever they put their minds too, and they will learn their personal limits in their own time.

  33. Matt A. Myers

    It’s how you learn – the shitty part is you lose track of that when you’re in the mess; 20/20.

  34. Hari Jeevakumar

    Thanks for sharing, Fred. Appreciate it a lot.

  35. harris497

    Thanks for writing this Fred. I sometimes forget that there is life after initial failure…

  36. David Fleck

    Could not agree more.Anyone else still love this (very apropos) song? C’mon!

  37. William Mougayar

    And this, coming from the King of failures, Michael Jordan :)It’s a good reminder.

    1. Vasudev Ram

      Yes, good one. I had quoted that same statement by him, although indirectly (i.e. not the main topic), at the end of this post:

  38. Richard

    Elon Musk and Space X will go down as one of the classics

  39. Ali Nawab

    Brilliant, posts like this are why I read your blog everyday.

  40. abn

    Thanks for this one. I am in the process of totally getting my a** kicked right now and this some good motivation for me this morning.

  41. Matt Zagaja

    I really enjoyed Casey Neistat’s video blog about his biggest failure:“Comfort is decline.”

  42. Lee Blaylock

    RE: getting Knocked Down….I wish we had more leaders like Teddy Roosevelt….“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”― Theodore Roosevelt

  43. Bipper Media

    Abraham Lincoln always stands as a great example of this life experience as well… and after reading your post, I went back to look up something I read before associated with Lincoln. After spelling out his long history of failures, defeat, and loss, the document goes on to say the following: In 1860, the man who signed his name A. Lincoln, was elected the 16th President of the United States. The difference between history’s boldest accomplishments and its most staggering failures is often, simply, the diligent will to persevere.

    1. JLM

      .The history of Geo Washington and the Continental Army and the state militias is another example of perseverance in the face of withering failure.The guy never had an adequately equipped army and beat the British Square, arguably the best army for a century before and after the American Revolution.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  44. John McGrath

    Interestingly, I’ve found it’s possible to be getting knocked down and getting up concurrently 🙂

  45. ThatOtherOtherGuy

    You know what is better than success after recovering from a failure? Not failing in the first place. I interact with many start-up CEOs. The one universal is that they all think they know everything, that they are the only one who understands their business, and are almost universally immune to any attempt to give them guidance or advice UNTIL THEY FAIL.The only CEOs that will read your post and agree with it are other CEOs that have failed and picked themselves up. Every other CEO that reads will dismiss it and say to him or herself that it doesn’t apply to them.If you think that this doesn’t apply to you, you are guaranteed to fail. You just don’t know it yet.

  46. John Risner

    As my father said to me on one of the countless times I failed to follow his advice (to my detriment) “Bought sense is better than told sense”.You can read, watch video and learn from others leadership experience in many ways, but no substitute for living it.

  47. Rob K

    “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

  48. markslater

    Founding a company is like a relationship. the honeymoon is over quickly and you have to find ways to fall in love with your company every day.i had one of those days today.

  49. Donna Brewington White


  50. Twain Twain

    Haha, that’s brilliant wit!Oh and we can borrow from Susan WoWojcicki on combining career with children: “I love kids, I love work and I think at some level I just love creating things and building. And like kids are very rewarding projects. Building companies is rewarding too and I enjoy doing both.”

  51. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Well played!

  52. BillMcNeely

    I am in the middle of this 3.5 yr know down period. after going 0-2 in job offers this week I literally could not get out of bed yesterday. Needed to read this but the comments once again is what did it.

  53. Justin Tripodi

    I could not agree more with your insights. With several years of experience working with startups as a marketing strategist within a digital agency, I thought I was well-prepared to start my own venture. I didn’t realize how much I still had to learn and how difficult things would get, even with the advice from others. But every battle scar has come with a lesson and I am much better for it. As the great Rocky Balboa said, “it is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward…that’s how winning is done.” You can watch the speech here:

  54. ShanaC

    I think I just need to listen. It’s been an interesting few months

  55. LE

    The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on.That pretty much sums up the value of the Pope (or John Lennon) asking for world peace.

  56. Donna Brewington White

    Love this.Your opening line reminds me of a saying my husband and I had during a particularly hard season of life, “Feels like we’ve been to hell and halfway back.” I think we finally made it all the way back. What a journey.