Startup founders are well known for being obsessive with their work. It takes a lot of passion and emotional energy to work towards something everyday when you are told that 80-90% of your peer group will inevitably fail. This presents a unique challenge and tends to attract those that are comfortable with adversity and risk. As I’ve discussed in a previous blog post, the disabled definitely fall into that category of “comfortable with adversity.” This comfort doesn’t come by choice necessarily, but rather through years of conditioning of working hard under often bleak circumstances. Working your ass off despite ill health is easily transferrable to working your ass off despite the overwhelming odds against you as a fledgling startup.
“Working your ass off despite ill health is easily transferrable to working your ass off despite the overwhelming odds against you as a fledgling startup.”
Aside from my burning passion, there’s another, more practical, reason that I only work on projects I’m obsessed with. I simply don’t have the energy or expendable bodily health to work on something that I don’t feel strongly about. It turns out this is a pretty good filter for picking ideas that I’ll be able to stick with for the long haul. A startup takes perseverance, and perseverance requires passion. It’s just simply not worth the pain if the project doesn’t resonate with me deeply.
More than the practical limitations, obsession actually expands what I am capable of in a way that is perhaps counterintuitive to the abled. As a disabled person, when I’m obsessed with a project, I am able to do more than when I am not. It literally pushes me to achieve beyond what my body would otherwise let me get away with. It makes me more able. Obsession gives me energy and enthusiasm and a spark to keep going despite literal, physical, unrelenting pain. If someone is willing to push forward despite these circumstances, all I can say is that you better get on the bandwagon or get out of their way. The disabled on a mission are a force to be reckoned with. We didn’t drag our pained sorry bodies out of bed to come home defeated. If we were going to be defeated, we could have, and would have, just stayed in bed to begin with.
“If someone is willing to push forward despite these circumstances, all I can say is that you better get on the bandwagon or get out of their way.”
I shouldn’t have to explain that this quality is quite the physical embodiment of the “come hell or high water” mentality absolutely required of a startup and of its leader. This is why I believe strongly that the disabled are an unrecognized source of talent and passion among various sources of startup funding, as discussed here. Want someone that will succeed no matter what odds stand against them? Invest in someone who has demonstrated their willingness to push forward everyday despite circumstances you probably can’t even imagine as an abled investor. Invest in the chronically ill and chronically impassioned.