My 1st Panic Attack

On July 17th I built and launched the MVP of LearnFromAnyone.

On July 20th I quit my job to work on it full-time.

Nervous doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt that morning. Knowing that I was going to have to tell my team that I was leaving was tough. It was an emotional day for me.

I love Hivewire. I loved the work, I loved the product, and most importantly, I loved the people. Getting to work with that team for a year is something I wouldn’t trade for anything. Showing up to work every day felt like waking up and going to hang out with my friends. They gave me my 1st opportunity and invested a lot of time and energy in helping me grow. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel immense gratitude for that experience and for those people.

The night before I quit I didn’t sleep. At 8:30am, I drove across the street to our office. After about 10min of sitting in the building, I told our CTO who I reported to about my plans. I let him know that while I loved working at Hivewire, that this was something I had thought long and hard about and that it was my final decision. It was something I had to do. If I didn’t do it I’d regret it for the rest of my life.

He let the rest of the executive team know. Our CEO came back to where I was waiting, and I’ll never forget what he did. He came around the corner beaming, put his arm around me, and looked me in the eye and said “Man, I’m so pumped for you!” That’s leadership. That’s how you empower people.

He brought me in with our COO and CTO and we chatted. They even made sure I knew I was still invited to our work party that was in 2 days (Covid safe movie theater rental - it was awesome). We all got on the same page, and then they gave me the opportunity to say goodbye to the rest of the team. It was hard - the definition of bittersweet. But 90 minutes after entering the building I left with my belongings. I was officially in full startup mode.

Things were great.

I went home and immediately started working on product. I was hyped. There was no way I was going to let that energy go to waste. I was just waiting on the green light from OpenAI to re-launch LearnFromAnyone following my security review, and until then, I was going to keep improving it.

But at 3pm I hit a wall. I’d slept maybe 12 hours over the last 3-4 days. I was sleep-deprived, so I decided to take a nap.

I woke up to a message from OpenAI. I was not cleared to launch.

I was devastated. I’d been telling people - thousands of people - that we’d be back up in a few days. But OpenAI wanted to review a few more things and then meet later that week.

Perfect. Just perfect. I had become so caught up in my own excitement that I failed to consider that this was the likely outcome. Now I had to tell all of these people I’d been hyping up about the bad news. That’s when the negative thoughts started to pile on.

I had no job, no income, and no live product.

All I had was the runway I had in my personal savings and a rough, early product that I’d maybe be able to re-launch.

Imposter syndrome kicked in. Anybody that knows me will tell you that I’m about as cool and collected as they come. Imposter syndrome is something that’s never affected me. I’m a pretty relentless and generally unphased person, so suddenly having to deal with intense self-doubt was something I was not familiar with.

I started to sweat. I couldn’t think. I was feeling extreme fear. Then the shaking started. I was having a full-blown panic attack - something I had never experienced. My mind was rattling off about how I was an idiot for quitting my job and that I had absolutely no idea how to build and run a company. This intensity lasted for about 20 minutes - it was scary.

Eventually I decided to head outside and go for a walk. Walking always helped me clear my head, so I walked, and I was out for almost 2 hours. Over the course of those 2 hours I was able to gradually calm down and compose myself. I told myself that it was completely natural to feel such a rush of emotion on the day I made a massive life change - especially considering my severe lack of sleep.

By the time I got home, I was okay again. By bedtime, I was 100% hyped up again.

I tell this story because I think it’s important to talk about our challenges. It’s important that we normalize talking about pain and fear and uncertainty - those emotions are part of being human. There’s an unspoken expectation that people act tough and like they have no problems. This hurts everyone.

Starting a company is a big leap. So are a lot of things. Feeling unqualified to do something new is normal. There’s nothing wrong with you if you go through phases of feeling overwhelmed and unsure of yourself.

But you’ve got to address your problems head on if you want to overcome them. Push through the pain and face your fears.

3 weeks later I’m in a great spot.

We got cleared for launch. LearnFromAnyone is wrapping up our 50 user alpha that has been a resounding success. We’re doing everything we can to continue to build and iterate on product while managing our expectations as we work towards permission to onboard more users.

I’m more excited and optimistic than ever. I’ve found a routine that works well for me and a support system that I can lean on as I learn how to build and run a company. Startup life is good.

I anticipate that I’ll have more thoughts of self-doubt. Maybe not as severe as the 1st wave, but inevitably they’ll come back from time-to-time. And that’s okay.

Self-doubt is normal, and we all have the capacity to overcome it.

We’re far more talented and capable than we let ourselves believe.