On quitting

If there is such a thing as hell, I am convinced it feels just like that night when a fire of ugly thoughts burns you up from the inside. I admit that I wanted to give up on my life, to end it then because I didn’t want to face the shame. I didn’t think my friends would want to know me. I didn’t think I had the strength to face the pain that would surely follow as the incident took its course through the justice system, interminable counseling sessions, and vivid night terrors. But I did fight. I fought for my dignity. I fought for strength, and I fought for the love-filled life that I experience today. If I had given up, I would not be here to experience any of today’s joys, probably the most precious of which is my relationship with my husband and son.

I could have shared a professional business story because I have those too, but it is the visceral nature of our darkest moments I want us to connect to. The desire to quit never comes on a sailboat, feeling the wind on your face, during long hikes in the mountains, or after joyous mountain bike summits. It’s not those puppies and sunshine moments that test us. It is when we feel lost, overwhelmed, and exhausted that we feel the desire to quit. Wanting to quit comes when you are tired of the fight and sick of being beaten down in the darkest times of suffering and loss. It’s when we can’t raise funds and we will be forced to shut our doors. It is when we find out we were betrayed by a fellow founder. It’s when a product that needs to work isn’t living up to its promise and the marketplace is beating the crap out of the company. It’s when we don’t know if we’ll have another client and we don’t know how we’ll feed our families. These relentless fears crowd in on us, taking up space. We need something to break our way our way, but instead just the opposite happens — we feel more trapped than ever. That’s when the desire to quit floods in.

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Again, on quitting, one of my favorite articles

. But it basically meant terminal brain cancer. She was 51 when she was diagnosed.

I flew down to Maryland first thing the next morning. And you know the first thing she told me?

“I’m sorry. Sorry because I know how much you’ve already been through.”

Keep calm, carry on.

During the next few years I spent a lot of time travelling between Boston (where reddit was based) and Maryland (where my parents lived). Every time I left her side, I was energized by her courage and unflagging spirit. She gave me all the inspiration I needed to wake up every morning and kick some ass, because that’s what you have to believe as a startup founder.

If you’ve worked with the spineless, you know how frustrating it can be to deal with their poisonous helplessness — something that’s only heightened in a startup where the most important thing you can do is not give up. And you’d better fucking believe that when you come home to a mother battling brain cancer and a father spending every waking hour taking care of her and running his own business, you don’t complain, you don’t cower, and you most certainly don’t quit.

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