Un-Slumping Yourself is Not Easily Done: Dr Seuss For Your Children… And For Founders.


The following article, about the challenges building a company, is by Nathan Pahucki with team from DataParenting (SUP 10.1) and was published on their blog. All opinions below reflect the authors’ opinions, and not those of Start-Up Chile.

Some entrepreneurs read Steve Blank for guidance. Others, Peter Drucker. Still others, Clay Christensen. And the list goes on.

I, however, read Dr Seuss. In particular, Oh, the Places you’ll go.

The best children’s literature isn’t the happy-go-lucky, everyone’s smiling and being perfect stories. The best children’s literature, in my experience, speaks to the dark depths of the human experience. It’s not a coincidence that, when you read the classic children’s tales that are still with us since ancient and medieval times, that the messages are actually quite dark. The Big Bad Wolf eating children? The princess trying to kill the frog prince by throwing him against the wall? The timeless children’s books, in other words, present the world as it is: ugly, scary, and dangerous. Nasty, brutish, and short.

I was surprised, and moved, to discover this as a truth even of the great modern children’s literature. Take Oh, the Places you’ll go. I remembered it as a high school graduation gift, inspiring me to soar to great heights — the world is open and I can do anything. (Oh, funny how time limits options: every day I have fewer options than the day before. In Greek mythology, Chronos, after all, was a monster who ate his own children… and also “time.”)

But re-reading the book now, to my son, the other side stood out, the dark side:

Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don’t. Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true, that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.

You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch. And your gang will fly on. You’ll be left in a Lurch.

And it goes on to explore the depths of not achieving your goals, of the pain that will happen merely trying for goals — as small and as big as they may be.

But he then goes into exquisite detail, on how painful the dark places are: “You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.” And later on, on how you’ll be all alone, with the world conspiring against you. Or so it seems. And then another section emphasizes how you’ll have to spend a lot of time alone, to fight the demons.

But he makes it a few levels more subtle. What is this dark place like? He characterizes it as, “The Waiting Place.” This is the dark place where everyone is “waiting for the fish to bite, or waiting for the wind to fly a kite, or waiting around for Friday night, or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake, or a pot to boil, or a Better Break, or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants, or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.”

And he explores how difficult, even painful, it is to get out of the dark place: “And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”

All this sounds like advice that each new entrepreneur needs to hear.

Too often, the new entrepreneur doesn’t realize how dark and lonely the journey will be. He then gives up, too early.

Too often, the new entrepreneur doesn’t realize that he’s sitting around waiting for something to happen — when really, that’s part of the hell he needs to escape, and he needs to make things happen himself. (If only it were as easily said as done!).

I say we start a new tradition. Forget giving this book to people upon their graduation. No, it should be given upon their start. Next time a friend tells you he’s going to start his own company, you should get him this book as a gift.

Special thanks to Team DataParenting. This article was first published on the DataParenting blog.