Nathan Tanner

How You Show Up in Challenging Times Reveals Your Character

I’m a regular listener to the All In podcast hosted by Chamath Palihapitiya, Jason Calacanis, David Sacks and David Friedberg. Episode 130 dug into the slowdown of the tech/startup ecosystem and the impact it’s having on founders and investors.

This segment from Friedberg, transcripted below, captures the meatiest portion and is a necessary reminder that how we show up in challenging times reveals our true character.


David Friedberg: In the last 15 years we’ve been in a structurally inflated environment because of the zero interest rate policy since the 2008 financial crisis. And everything’s been up and to the right so much, it’s been easy to inflate things, And unfortunately, most folks who are working in the investor community that are sitting on boards weren’t around for the dot com crash the last time this happened. And I think, just to kind of echo your point, why it’s so challenging, I think right now to figure out a way out. There’s a lot of failure going on in Silicon Valley right now… 

Friedberg: There’s a lot of markets that a lot of types of businesses that feel like there isn’t a great way out. And it’s having a deep psychological toll on entrepreneurs, on founders, on CEOs, and everyone is experiencing some degree of failure in this environment. There are very few folks who aren’t feeling this acute pressure and this acute pain. You know, I heard some pretty horrific stories this week from a friend of mine and someone who ended up in the hospital because of the pressure he was under. And it’s really trying.

Friedberg: And you know, even within our broader community of investor friends, there are very few people who aren’t feeling this extraordinary pressure that they’ve got a book that is declining in value, and they don’t know how to get out of the hole. And you know, that pressure generates deep questions about one’s ability and generates deep existential thought for entrepreneurs and investors about, what the hell am I good at? And no one’s really talking about this out loud. But it is happening across the valley. We all have these thoughts. We all have these dialogues. As the failure begins to set in, the slow motion train wreck of a market that we’ve all been talking about for weeks and months. 

Jason Calacanis: How do you deal with it? 

Friedberg: Look, I mean, I just think that number one, it’s worth acknowledging and it’s worth having the conversation that no one is alone going through this pain. It is not a one off that these companies are failing. It is that we are all dealing with failure right now. And we are all trying to figure out, what is the best path forward? And it is a kind of thing that you just have to work your way through and you have to persist through this pain. But this existential question of, am I good enough? Do I have the skill set I thought I had? Am I just an idiot Did I blow it up? The emperor has no clothes. All the kind of interfere and turmoil that everyone’s dealing with, you’re not alone going through it. A lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of investors are in the exact same place. 

Friedberg: Now, with respect to going forward, I think having integrity with respect to how you handle these situations and having thoughtfulness about your reputation, because this is not a one and done environment here in Silicon Valley. Failure is part of the process. And how you deal with people, deal with investors, deal with entrepreneurs, deal with each other, deal with your employees during these difficult times says a lot about your character and your ability. That when you do this the next time, it will set you up for success. As any great athlete will tell you, you build muscle during the times that you’re failing.