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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Hiking Half Dome, Startup Companies, and Anxiety Attacks

Sometimes I have anxiety attacks. They come from excessive worrying about things I can't control, I'm told.

My friend Lisa taught me a nice little Zen breathing thing to help me stay in the "now." It's about breathing in and breathing out and smiling. When you smile with your eyes closed, you actually relax. It's like magic.

I don't think anxiety is all bad. Sometimes it warns you about dangerous things. Experiencing a little anxiety about walking down a dark alley alone, or while you're standing at the top of the Grand Canyon looking down at the Snake River and wondering what happens if you trip, or grabbing a sword to defend yourself from a snake, as The Bloggess had to do, is good, not bad. It's natural. It's important.

This week, I feel like I'm on the edge of a huge cliff with our start up company. It's a good cliff. It's a cliff I've been thinking about, and hoping for and working hard to get to. It's a cliff that begs to be jumped from. It's a cliff I need to jump from, but it comes with a built-in parachute, which is the best kind of cliff to stand on, since I won't actually die if the wind blows the wrong way and things don't work out.

But it's a cliff and it's time to jump. This cliff just looks bigger than I thought it would look, now that I'm standing on the edge. The view is nice, though. Very nice.

I know cliffs. I hiked up Half Dome in Yosemite when I was 23. I hung out with a group of smart adventure types when I lived down in Palo Alto. These are the kind of people who get themselves Masters degrees in Materials Science and Electrical Engineering and PhD's in Psychoacoustics from Standford. What is Psychoacoustics, you ask? I did too.

So whenever these smart people said "Hey! Let's hike up Half Dome!" I did. I guess I just trusted their intelligence about these things.

So off we went. And after about 8 hours, we were at the top of this amazing natural wonder, looking at the view, and then looking down. One.mile.straight.down.

And I stood on the ledge, just like this guy Dave, who's picture I found in Google Images (since who the heck knows what box my old-school prints from 20 years ago are in these days?) I actually stood on this little rock at the edge of a cliff and smiled for the camera.

I didn't seem too scary then. It terrifies me to look at it now, even though I'm just looking at Dave, some guy I don't actually know. What if a big wind had come up at the wrong time? What if someone came up behind me and yelled boo? I'm sort of worried about Dave, now. I hope everything turned out okay for him.

Of course I didn't think of that scary stuff then. I just handed my camera to one of those smart people, walked out to the edge and smiled for the picture.

But here's the thing: I was brave, and I have the picture (in a box) to prove it.

I once heard that true bravery is doing something you're scared to do. It doesn't mean you do it perfectly, or that your fear disappears. It just means you put aside your fear, and you do it.

Try not cry.

That's what I'm gonna do for our business for the next six months. I'm just going to go for it, and hand the camera to the smart guys I'm working with, and we'll see what happens.

p.s.: Rock-on Stranger Dave, Mr. Half Dome guy. Way to be brave, and thanks for letting me use your picture without prior permission!


Deby said...

You are brave to do what you are doing in this economic climate of ours. However, your product is just what a lot of people are wishing that they had right now.

I wish you the best of luck! And remember: You never know what you can do if you don't try.

Mike Wagner said...

Thanks for pulling the curtain back and allowing us to see what happening on the inside as you lead your startup.

One of my favorite book titles relates to this very subject: "Relax! It's Only Uncertainty."

Keep creating...a story worth repeating,