Time to Heal, Learn, Unify

Like many of you, I was surprised by election results.

As we each individually decide what is next, what we do next, we need to see this in the context of 250 years of peaceful transitions across all imperfect leaders. We are so fortunate to be upset or ecstatic at the functioning of democracy rather than suffering war, coup or famine as in so many other places.

Now we – in our fortunate state – need to heal, learn and unify.

Heal: When I suffer loss, I find an immediate passing of time to be the strongest salve. Last night a low, then sleep, this morning fellowship in absorbing the discontinuity – whether you think it good or bad. By noon, back to business and the needs of our companies/customers, investors and team. Then sleep and more normalization tonight. The half-life of despair and joy in an otherwise good life (and we are all very lucky in the tech world) is short. By natural selection, our discount rates are too high to get stuck in any one experience in time. This is also known as hope, and hope is our greatest mechanism for survival and putting one foot in front of another.

Learn: We recently suffered a setback in our portfolio. That goes with the territory, but it got me thinking about the failure modes of startups. CB Insights has aggregated 166 post-mortem blogs posts and exposés from CEOs of failed startups. I read most of them. Yes, there are the obvious primary modes of failure: execution problems, PMF failure, no market, bad business model. But there is also an observable meta trend – high functioning people internalize blame amidst a search for truth. This is a powerful combination.

Today, if you don’t like the election result, what could you have done differently. Donate? Phone bank? Did you do those things? If not, do you have a right to complain?

More importantly, while some on either side may be “deplorables”: racists, misogynists… or crazy liberals, I am loath to cast stones. History will judge all of us as it inevitably does. In vast majority, millions of good people voted for both sides, including Trump. Outside of our ivory tower of high education, high class tech – where talent of a failed company is reabsorbed by the job market in mere weeks – millions of our fellow citizens feel left behind with limited education, diminished prospects and stagnant real wages.

What are we doing to help them? It’s our right and common mode not to do anything for others, but then do we have a right to complain about how others vote? “Of the people, for the people and by the people” means everyone, so this is on us too, on all of us.

Unify: The greatest signal of the strength of our democracy is an outpouring of calls for unity among leaders and citizens. As many continue to mourn or celebrate internally, we need an intentional period of unity to give a new government the chance to embrace all constituents. Partisan rancor early in a term, or before one starts, only sets precedent for an ineffective future and gives both sides excuse for irresponsible and non-inclusive governing.

If you are a democrat hug a republican; if a republican, hug a democrat. We all get the chance to fight again in four years. And remember, there was at least some good news for all of us last night. More states voted to legalize pot, and we get another 4 to 8 years of Alec Baldwin on SNL. Some levity, especially in combination.

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