Equity Land - The Roller Coaster Ride
Updated: Jul 27
Equity land is a place where your equity, aka money, is 100% on the line every day. Talking to founders, we say, "get in the pool" or get "wet" to indicate that you have to take risks and be fully committed to accelerating your endeavor to a point at which you are in Equity Land. You can't experience Equity Land if your chips are not on the table. This is not a "side gig" you think about when you have time. Then you slide an unhealthy portion of your life's saving onto the table, thinking of poker here, it has a way of focusing the mind. It also has a way of turning the volume up on the stress associated with work and life.
If you are new to running your own company, this can sneak up on you. At first, the excitement and freedom of doing your own thing gets you through the workload and pressure of working on something where failure is seen as not an option. Over time, the adrenaline wears off, and you are left facing the hardest job you will ever have. You start to talk about and physically feel "The Roller Coaster." The roller coaster is a powerful metaphor for how it feels running your own company. The good days are very good. You are finding the right people, customers are delighted and thank you for being there for them, and they are excited to use your products and services. They are telling everyone. It is like you started a new band, and people are telling their friends that they "saw them first." Your Ego loves it, and you are at the exhilarating top of the roller coaster, weightless, stress seems far off.
What goes up must come down. Once on the backside of the roller coaster loop, things get heavy and start to speed up. It is hard to have a life and focus on anything else besides keeping you and your team on the rails. You get tunnel vision (more on this later). Your friends and family are annoyed that you are working on the weekend. You do not feel good. You are not doing any of the things that would make you feel physically better. You do not have time. Then comes the bottom of the loop. Your stomach gets tight before you even reach the bottom. Somehow it knows before you do or before you are willing or able to acknowledge it. The bottom is where things start breaking off; you lose customers, and you are forced to fire some of your employees. Your partner stops asking you to do something on the weekend. Your stomach hurts all the time, and you find yourself taking deep breaths to get through the day. The pressure of everything you have built is on you like a lead blanket. You are in the grip of gravity. It is hard not to have tunnel vision with this much pressure on you. You know you are missing important opportunities and life experiences, but the sheer momentum of the ride is overpowering, and like it or not, you are along for the ride.
Soon, you are out of it; things are better and your back on the upward swing. You think, "that was rough." Roller coaster rides are fun at Disney Land because you know you get to get off after one trip around. Their novelty would quickly wear off if you learned that the ride was broken, and you were unable to get off.