At the very center of my existential crisis is my (in)ability to create value.
My entire professional career has been spent making PowerPoint presentations, thinking about brands, and trying to see past the corporate bullshit and into the humanity of businesses. Whenever I reflect on the last several years, I question my impact and what value, if any, I measurably created.
I have been wrestling with this for the last couple of years, and especially in 2020. I teeter back and forth between shame and confusion. Shame for having had led a seemingly fruitless career, and confusion of how to get out and/or add the value that I so desperately want to add.
Today I had an unexpected and completely welcomed collision that jolted me alive. I hit up an old friend and coworker of mine, and she asked me about a previous venture of mine, Gük. Usually, when people ask me about Gük I’m hit with a mix of sadness, guilt, and nostalgia. It was a difficult decision to close Gük, and is a reminder of yet another thing that I did not succeed in. Today was different.
I explained to her why we had to close shop and tried to soften my own sadness and blow to my pride by saying, “but who knows… things resurrect”. But her response floored me.
She said, “I mean hell… the fact that y’all were able to garner that much attention in the time you did speaks volumes. True creators… Y’all did that from scratch and broke through hella culinary noise in the city...That’s the grassroots feel that so many wish to achieve.” And then it hit me. I have created value. Maybe not in the setting or to the scale that I imagined, but I have it in me. The question of “how do I create value” has been banging around in my head for weeks, and today I was reminded, you don’t create value, you create momentum.
Gük started with a text message to my co-founder at the time. It progressed to an in-person meeting. It snowballed into a trip to the grocery store and a cooking session in an apartment kitchen. The value of our little brand wasn’t conceived through our skills or strategy or even our food. The value was conceived by all those small moves.
I’m sure you’ve all been to Dave & Busters and played this coin pusher game.
download.jpeg This seems like the most accurate depiction of value creation. It’s part luck, part madness, and mostly repetitive small pushes. You don’t really know if that next coin will cause the gold rush, but you do know that if you keep pushing down coins, something will move.
In the case of business building and value creation, we’re not pushing coins down a chute, we’re pushing ourselves. Every email, every conversation, every failed attempt, and action has an effect. That’s what I need to trust in and walk with.
The value will come with the momentum. The one thing I do know how to do is move. Maybe that’s enough. For now.