The Road To Relevance

// Originally written sitting in the SFO airport with Jordan the week of 12/7/2011. My brain can’t take another document today and to be honest, I’d give just about anything to sit in a movie theater and turn my phone off //

This week wasn’t so different from any other week. I spent most of it communicating on Skype and through my cell phone. I’ve been in Dallas, New York, and San Francisco this week and being on the road is nothing new.

One of the bigger shifts in my life is in play right now. Every room I go into I don’t have to pitch. Don’t get me wrong, I still have to do it plenty. But it no longer happens in every room I get into.

I actually had to tell a few VC’s this week that I just didn’t feel like pitching anymore. For the first time in the last few years… I’m not sure I have to every 15 minutes. I’m finally at a point where I’m actually telling people

no, I need sleep.

Alternatively. I’m not writing cold e-mails to investors trying to get their attention anymore. In the last 24 hours I’ve had a dozen or more calls / emails / texts from investors once we touched down in SF. It’s been a strange transition.

Somewhere we transitioned from being totally irrelevant to being able to land in a city, find friends, partners, and great company… Just by throwing a tweet out.

We ended up meeting some amazing folks from Twilio last night, hanging out on a rooftop with one of the Stripe guys, and while I know I should have… I just stopped picking up my phone this morning because of the total overload of everything going on.

// This isn’t meant to be any kind of a display of misunderstood success or something but more of a chronicle of how things are transitioning for us / me . Life is really good right now //

I’m not sure relevance is the right word but it seems more fitting than any other I could think of this morning.

We ran into someone last night using our product to take rent payments in SF. 12 months ago I couldn’t pay someone in SF to listen to me. We’ve got investors trying to come to the gate at the airport and all I really want is 15 minutes to myself to listen to some music and stare at the wall.

To take a moment, and breath. In this case, maybe do some writing.

So as the project starts to come up more in conversation, where the vision of the companies future becomes more clear and every conversation doesn’t start with the tone “I think you’re full of it and I’m only on the phone to prove that fact”… I can’t help but feel like we are becoming relevant in the bigger conversation.

So I’m trying to ask myself. How did this all happen?

The flaw in my answer should be obvious. I don’t have a simple clear answer.

There isn’t really one single thing to duplicate what has happened again, or in the future. While there is an obvious perception that if you crack something once, you can do it again in a heartbeat… The truth is that you don’t always know how and you have to reduce yourself to accepting that when big things happen, a little dumb luck never hurts.

But here is what we do know that works:

  • Accept that the cost will be high. Not financially (which it may be), but mentally, emotionally, and on the people around you. 
  • Know that the idea may be relevant philosophically but the execution of it, is what makes it relevant in reality.
  • Never forget, nothing happens overnight. Just accept that the things that really matter are things like your team being happy, seeing growth, and making progress. One blog won’t make you a billion dollar company. It’s never happened and isn’t likely to soon.
  • Refuse the kool aid. Just don’t drink it. 
  • Stay focused on the long term play, not the short term payoff.
  • Work with A players, partners, and investors. 
  • Get lucky.

No matter what you do or how hard you work to be relevant in the conversation. There’s a element of luck in every little break through. The combination of where you are, the resources available to you, and getting a yes at the right time from the right person… Is more often than not… luck.

Surrounding yourself with people smarter than you is another darn good idea.

You can do a lot of things that increase your chances of getting that great deal, partner, investor, or team member. Very few of the things that increase the probability of those things happening are luck. The increased probability is a result of you working your ass off.

The more I work, travel, double down, and keep going I never forget that while there may be the privileged few gigantically intelligent and resourceful people who can crack a home run overnight… That’s not normal and by just realizing one simple thing it makes it easy to keep going.

There are no shortcuts on the road to relevance.