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One of my favorite lines to (mis)quote is from This is Spinal Tap: “there’s a fine line between clever and stupid.”
We had a dismal Q1 around here and when I say “dismal” I mean something like the “Oh wow. There’s a good chance we won’t survive this” kind of dismal. Between scuttlebutt and news stories I know we weren’t nearly alone on that, plenty of folks saw the same kind of sudden contraction we did, but really that’s beside the point.
When you find yourself in a place that makes you wonder if the thing you’ve dedicated your heart and soul to for several years is about to die it makes you look at things in a rather stark light. You start asking yourself troubling questions like:
Did I make a huge mistake?
What did I do wrong?
Was all my effort a waste of time?
Of course this is common to every entrepreneur. It’s what we mean when we say “risk.” JB shared a quote with me a short time ago, comes from Chris Brogan if memory serves. Something like being an entrepreneur is about confidently driving directly at a brick wall. So, yeah, in that sense a crisis like this is simply what I signed up for when I started a business.
But for anybody who dives in with something deeper in their heart, a sense of calling or purpose, then the questions cut much deeper. Things like:
Was all of this “calling” stuff in my head?
Is God holding out on me?
Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?
If being an entrepreneur means confidently driving at a brick wall it at least shows a certain kind of control. I choose to run at that wall. Walking by faith is different. it’s like sitting still while somebody else drives you into a brick wall. You can choose to jump out of the car but it’s not the same.
…actually, let me rephrase that. In most cases we have the opportunity to yank the wheel away from the driver but in all cases that only delays the inevitable. When we assert control we will either keep it, in which case we are no longer on a faith journey but back to “mere” entrepreneurialism, or we eventually settle down, hand the wheel back over and sooner or later we’re back to racing at the brick wall again. The driver is persistent like that.
As we’ve been going through this trial, whatever it’s nature I recognize that there is a part of me, that may not be 100% healthy, that is simply stubborn. That part of me would rather die and give up and it justifies itself with sayings like “it’s better to burn out than to fade away” and from the outside it might even be mistaken for a kind of faith. You might think “he’s set his face like flint” but deeper down I’m just belligerent like that. Still, how can I tell the difference, even in myself?
I think it has to come to listening. The Word says that “faith comes from hearing.” So I need to ask myself what I heard as opposed to what I’d like to happen. From those first crazy days in 2005 that I talk about in the Soma Story, I don’t have any doubt about what I heard. (If only all of God’s directions were that easy to apprehend.) And not only me, but since then other people I implicitly trust have heard the same things. So my level of confidence in the hearing thing is pretty high.
With that – faith is perhaps then exactly like stubbornness. It’s a willingness (an ability?) to clinch your teeth at the rapidly approaching brick wall and grumble out “so be it.” the difference being that now I’m clinging to what He said and not what I want.
This last quarter will go down in our story as either a test or training and we will either pass or fail but one thing we’ve all been aware of – we haven’t been alone. I’ve seen a powerful brand of cool determination on the team that I’m fascinated by…and humbled by. Of course everybody deals with stress in their own way but everybody here has grappled with the business “facts” in the context of their own reasons for joining Soma Games – and it’s been powerful to watch. If we survive I can’t help but feel as though this team is going through a kind of tempering that will forge some legendary steel…and it would seem we’ll need that for some reason.
For those of you watching – I don’t want to be coy here – even as I wrote this it would appear that we finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and it may just be that we emerge at a much higher elevation from where we entered – stairs climbed in the dark like Frodo and Sam. But whatever happens I know my own personal clarity about what I heard has only been strengthened and for all the stress, anxiety, and wringing hands – I only know more that He is good.