There are two kinds of startup teams. The ones that forgive each other, and the ones that don’t. If you are very lucky, everyone forgives each other in time. But for the ones that can’t forgive each other, the pain of the experience is a curse. Your failures and weaknesses live in each others’ heads rent free. And that sucks.
I understand how the curse of the unforgivable startup sins get cast. I understand the pain of having people in your life that you cannot imagine forgiving because their sins against you feel too big. Startups are exactly the kind of place where forgiving seems impossible. Why? Building something new is painful.
New life, new business, new art. It hurts to birth something from nothing. Those laws of thermodynamics seem to indicate that energy doesn’t get made or lost, so sure, getting an idea to come into reality has to have an energy cost that comes from somewhere. I’d argue with startups it comes from our will. Maybe our soul. If you aren’t into that then money and time. It has a cost is what I’m saying and we pay it. And when we feel we’ve paid those costs unfairly it’s hard to forgive those whom we blame.
When you’ve given so much of yourself to make a new reality, the pain of it not succeeding is real. It hurts to realize we’ve failed. To come headfirst at the possibility that your sacrifice was for nothing is existential. That the energy you took to build something was for nothing.
With existential problems you’ve got two choices. Face who you are and your part in it or blame it on someone else. It is a lot harder to own existential yourself. If we are feeling like a victim there are people who we can blame. We hired wrong. We had cofounder issues. We couldn’t collaborate well. We had cultural mismatches.
There are endless reasons our failures are shared. And it’s true. Failure never has a single point. It wasn’t just you. But it’s not your cofounder or your teammates fault either. You have to forgive them. They have to forgive you. If you don’t they will live in your head rent free forever. And no one wants that. Find a way to forgive. Find a way to own your own existential failures. It’s not worth losing people over.