While Christmas revelers were busy activating devices and downloading apps in record shattering volume, duty called me elsewhere. I found myself in the midst of a Yuletide celebration with someone who’d never seen the movie It’s A Wonderful Life before. That’s not to say I abandoned my tech friends. No, as I watched the Frank Capra classic for the umpteenth time, on the lookout for something new, I was struck by how much the business dealings of Bedford Falls apply to finding joy in the startup life.
Selflessness Is The Way
Easy? Not a chance. Running your company will mean putting aside vacations and other aspirations. You may lose your hearing saving your kid brother from drowning, get whacked in the head as repayment for trying to keep someone from making a terrible mistake (Mr. Gower nearly poisoning a customer in his grief), work yourself to the bone, sacrifice a comfortable home and more. Well, maybe not all that, but you get the idea. And somehow beneath everything, persistence pays in strange and beautiful ways.
Don’t Take the Money
Nearly every entrepreneur I’ve spoken with this last year has championed bootstrapping as much as possible and self-funding as long as possible. For a split second, Mr. Potter’s offer of a tenfold raise sounds like a can’t miss, easy-to-accept opportunity. What’s at stake? Control over one’s own destiny. Isn’t answering to no one (as long as it’s sensible) key to the allure of startup entrepreneurship? Hold your ground, and tell the plotting spiders trying to catch you in their web, “Hands off my company!”
Keep Your Head When Times Are Tough
When there’s a run on the banks in Bedford Falls, George Bailey calmly reasons with his frightened customers. He doesn’t cave to the pressure of the moment, dash away on his much-deserved honeymoon and say, “Forget this, I’m outta here.” He holds his ground, takes his licks, and stays in business another day.
Our Small Deeds Have Consequences
It’s hard to gauge the effects of daily actions. In his despair, George Bailey believes life would be better for everyone if he had never lived. He thinks because his enormous efforts appear bound for ruin that his struggles have been in vain. Then he’s handed the chance to see what the world would look like without him and given a taste of the numerous ways he’s impacted the lives of others. We’re not always shown such clear milestones to mark our progress, or remain in contact with those that we inspire or empower in unknown ways, but our presence always makes a difference.
What is real? What has real value to us? A few flower petals, friendship? Most of us will not witness an entire town come to our aid, or watch the table pile up with immense fortune. Most of us don’t really need such things. What gives our efforts value and meaning is found in the little things we can be grateful for each day. That said, Happy New Year to all. May 2013 usher in unprecedented startup success. May your room fill with good company and a soulful rendition of Auld Lang Syne.