I worry too much about what other people are doing. I've done this for as long as I can remember.
1st grade: I can't say the alphabet backwards like him.
8th grade: I can't sing or dance like her.
12th grade: I can't get straight A's like her.
College: I can't get that internship at the White House like him.
Post-college: I can't get that coveted strategy position like her.
Graduate school: Rinse and repeat all of the above. (except there's a lot less singing and dancing)
As you might imagine, this isn't a super productive use of my time. It's not that in my nearly 30 years on this earth I haven't realized this, but I have yet to figure out how to quit it. I marvel at the folks who seem blissfully unaware of those around them, just doing their thing and living their life. I aspire to that level of "I-do-what-I-want"-ness.
I was hoping this summer would be a nice reprieve from the non-stop, in-your-face comparison porn that is an MBA program but then I came to Silicon Valley and (shocker) it's the same here. Sometimes this is crippling. There's a lot of "I can't do THAT!" and negative self-talk that can be pretty gendered but is also a burden that many Perfectionists live with. On those days I mostly just feel like moving to the San Juan Islands and becoming a bunny farmer. Doesn't that sound relaxing?
But sometimes I'm able to hold back the "I can't" and just marvel at the cool shit other people are doing. Last night was one of those occasions. Women Who Tech and craigconnects hosted their third ever Women Startup Challenge at LinkedIn in San Francisco. Ten startups gave 4 minute pitches + 4 minute Q&A from the judges and these women were on fire. Some pitches were more compelling than others but they were all super passionate about their work and incredibly supportive of the other founders in the room which was awesome to see. There were some real stand-outs that really impressed me which I'll write about another day but more than anything I just felt super energized when I left the event.
As is often the case at these things, the people you meet are often just as interesting as the people on stage. I met a woman who helps people tell their stories (!) who started her company after a layoff from a job she didn't love and now she's growing her business like crazy. It reminded me of another woman I know who turned her deep love for endurance sport into a full-time gig that enables her to build the life she wants on her own terms (!).
One of the judges, BlogHer founder and entrepreneur Lisa Stone, said something last night that I almost felt silly writing down because it's so simple. But for many people (women in particular) it's not at all simple in practice. She said that starting your own company is onerous and a struggle and that even if you're terrified, "do it for you." Because there is no greater joy.
Now, entrepreneurship may not be everyone's greatest joy, but the sentiment reminded me of my favorite quote by Anne Sweeney (a former Disney executive turned movie director) and so, I'll leave you with that today.