Taking My Medicine

Talking to the fabulously intriguing Mr. Nathan Rohm this evening, I found myself referring to my previous venture, Spek, as “a vaccination against quitting.” The more I think about it, the more I believe that is the most simple and accurate description I could give of the experience.

For those not in the know, Spek was the Xbox Live Arcade video game company that some friends and I started to start a little more than a year ago. It began in a flash. Within a week of having the idea to start the company, I had teamed up with two hard-working and dedicated friends to fill the roles of designer and artist. Within another week we had our programmer, and away we went.

By the time the ride came to an end, we had worked on it about six months and had the trappings of a working prototype, complete with an engine and a decent amount of the art assets. We had the game fully designed, and had entered serious talks with Microsoft about publishing the game on XBLA. I believe that, had we not been derailed, we stood at least a 50% chance of getting the game published, and from there, taking the company in whatever direction we wanted.

But we didn’t. Ostensibly, this was due to NCA provisions in my current employment contract (i.e., my lawyer said we could justifiably be sued and our company taken), but at the same time, I was tired by the time the party came to an end. Here’s what I learned:

1. One person can not be the business planner, project manager, and lead programmer while working 40+ hours a week at their day job.
2. Any attempts by one person to be all of the above roles will swallow you whole and make you suck at everything you do, which will in turn kill motivation.
3. Starting a business is learning to embrace ebb and flow. On one day you might win a client. On the next day you can lose a partner. On the day after you can be admired. On the day after that you can be forced to revise the whole business plan.
4. Once you commit to a particular idea, many other good opportunities will present themselves. In the case of Spek, it was the opportunity to be the lead developer on the title that was going to be the highest-budget project our studio had ever taken on. By a factor of two.
5. And despite all of this, your commitment must be absolutely unwavering.

Though I’ve avoided reliving lessons number 1 and 2 with Bonanzle (where I’ve yet to do a lick of programming (I miss it, but Bonanzle’s success to this point would have been completely unattainable any other way)), lessons 3, 4 and 5 have been just as applicable to this project as they had been to Spek. The difference is, this time I saw it coming. The longer I can prove to myself that I have that unwavering focus on what the end result is, the more fortified becomes my ability to lead any type of business, or really, realize any type of goal. What is it that Thomas Edison says on a notecard tacked to my wall?

“The three great essentials to achieve anything worth while are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; and third, common sense.”

I knew the words, but now I know the depth of their truth.

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