I’m not an entrepreneur (anymore). I don’t run a startup (anymore). The last thing I ever programmed was ASCII Pong in DOS. I avoid risks like a parachuteless base-jumping venture capitalist doesn’t. To illustrate just how mind-blowingly scared I am of risk, I once made a wager with a friend that I would never make a calculated bet.
I won on a technicality: our agreement wasn’t very calculated on my part, and we made no paradox provision. But despite my near perfect betting record, I would be happy never to wager again. Frankly, even witnessing my schoolyard friends defiling our cafeteria with an unholy stream of Diet Coke, Mentos, and stomach bile was enough to turn me off from betting. And Mentos. Freshmaker my ass.
I’m not even a very good writer. Or fast, for that matter. It took me an hour to write those last two paragraphs, and I completely sidetracked the flow with that inane betting side-story. I routinely aim for cheap laughs. Remember that last paragraph where I hinted that my friends projectile-vomited Mentos and Diet Coke for a few dollars? I’m also not very subtle.
I’m lazy and undisciplined when I’m bored; listless and dispassionate when I find my work valueless. I can’t “communicate up” or “manage people” effectively and rarely meet the expectations of a typical “Master of Business Administration.” I’ve also never mastered anything in my life; least of all business.
If you’ve come far enough to read this, you must be thinking to yourself: “There’s a grammatical error in the first paragraph but I’m not going to tell this moron.” After thoughtful consideration (and pity), you’d follow with “Why is the author listing all these weaknesses? Don’t they make him less qualified than a consensus of successful, pedigreed entrepreneurship experts?”
Well played, reader. These kinds of incisive questions are keeping you at the front of the pack and ahead of the curve. I must say, you are front-packing the hell out of this curve. Like, you’re six-sigma’ing it right now. No, scratch that. You’re a seven-sigma ninja. You’re that good. Good show.
By now you’re thinking, “The author is stalling. And why would he need to stall since he’s the one writing all this, including my paraphrased thoughts? Why can’t he just make his point?”
...the suspense is killing you, isn’t it?
Okay, I’ll bite. Like any good story, there are always clues in the beginning that foreshadow great revelations. The answer to both your questions (why I’m qualified and why I’m stalling) is simple: I’m an exceptional smart ass. How about them italicized first-quote-of-the-prologue apples? Not a few paragraphs in, and you’ve already had a Usual Suspects-grade epiphany. [Spoiler alert: the rest of this book is six standard deviations worse than The Usual Suspects]
But beyond being an exceptional smart ass, I’m also an observant smart ass. I spent a few years surrounded by a Silicon Valley business culture that seemed equal parts inspirational and absurd. I decided the absurd parts were more entertaining, and thus set out to write a fictionalized (yes, this is a work of fiction) account of a modern company’s rise and fall with a distilled focus on the ridiculous, from business school onward. The great entrepreneurship engine of America seems that much more incredible when you pry open the hood to find half of it running on unicorn droppings; so why not write about the unicorn?
Unicorn feces aside, there is another reason I listed all my faults. Because (almost) every other serious writer about the latest startup/management education du jour doesn’t. Of course, I’m a tad bit egotistical by even committing these thoughts to paper, but my ego can be fun and entertaining! Their ego has a more sinister effect.
Most of these authors (though not all) are “startup winners” by luck. Sadly, they believe, and express quite publicly to our great detriment, they were “winners” by some intrinsic skill instead -- they hide their faults and claim their good fortune as skill. They hold conferences and seminars and webinars and webexinars and god-knows-what-else-inars and get paid large sums of money for speaking engagements purely because they could rationalize their luck. Ideas that flow from their fount of felicity become “common wisdom,” filter into management curriculum, and often trump common sense. It’s sad, but it also makes poking fun at this “conventional wisdom” much, much easier. The very title of this work is a pun at the expense of one of these philosophies, and I’m sure it ticks off throngs of hive-minded devotees. Which means I probably picked the right title.
I’m sure much of this work will be inflammatory and derisive to people that have staked their careers and their very identity on...well, on bullshit. To those people, I say: I can’t help that what you do is funny.
I also can’t help that you have lots of power and sway, and ultimately, I’d rather not be on the powerfuls’ shitlist. So for now, I’m going to stay anonymous like a good Internet coward, until such time as the benefits outweigh the risks. Or some smart ass 1337 haxor pwn’s my identity. Or if someone asks nicely on reddit. February 2014 Update: meh, whatever.
With that philosophizing out of the way, you’re probably wondering how I’m going to dig myself out of this proselytizing hole and actually get to the meat of this tale. Keeping to my weakness as a poor writer, the transition will be done abruptly and without context. Let’s hope the rest of the novel fares better.
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Copyleft MMXIV Josh Cincinnati