Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Loneliness of Venture

I'm going to have a lonely Fall.  The loneliness of traveling away from my wife and two daughters, didn't propel me to reflect on some "woe is me" tragedy seeking pity from the "tough life" of being a hardworking LP.  No, rather it aroused an introspective look at what came from the past two weeks of loneliness: an opportunity for reflection and creative thinking. Loneliness is not sufficient for creativity, it is necessary.  When we allow ourselves to move away from the routine of everyday life, we are better able to think critically and reflect about our own thoughts.

Brave New World author Aldous Huxley once wrote "If one's different, one's bound to be lonely". There is a  narrow gap between loneliness and solitude. Solitude can lead to creative focus but loneliness can lead to depression. Through solitude one is happy to be alone and recognizes the opportunity for a clearness and singleness of thought that comes with that peace. This struggle between solitude and loneliness was best described by Thomas Mann who said "solitude gives birth to the original in us, to beauty unfamiliar and perilous" but also "it gives birth to the opposite: to the perverse the illicit, the absurd".   

Modern studies in psychology have tried to differentiate between solitude and loneliness. One school of thought is that loneliness is the product of rejection, either a rejection inflicted by society or inflicted on oneself and therefore lends itself most to creativity. This is a very interesting notion as it would suggest that solitude alone is not enough for the creative process. Rather, solitude driven at some point by social rejection. 

I can't suggest that entrepreneurs and their investors seek solitude because of some social rejection. However, I do think that there are likely many instances where folks pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors do so because someone said that it couldn't be done and that the simple notion of disruption suggests there is rejection of the status quo, and often rejection by the status quo. Bold and brazen, or contrarian thinking, thrives on rejection because it is unfamiliar.  

I think there is great power in making parallels to many great entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who have high emotional intelligence and seek solitude in their own thoughts. I think that venture is naturally a lonely profession because although most investors have partners, it is still an individual sport. We are often alone with our thoughts in determining if we want to make an investment and why, only to then to discuss it with our partner(s) to seek input. Rejection can be a powerful tool here because it may have the ability to power ambition and be a cause of loneliness. I think there is likely a key correlation between some of the most successful entrepreneurs and investors and their ability to find creativity from solitude. 

Some of the most creative investors, like the folks at Foundry Group, have an annual month-long sabbatical with little to no work responsibilities where the other partners pitch in to give the partner on sabbatical the opportunity to focus on creative thinking and recharge his batteries.

After further thought, I don't think it will be a lonely Fall, but an opportunity to harvest the solitude afforded from autumn's extensive travel.  

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