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Stand Your Ground: Life Isn’t Fair

LifesNotFair

This week, since the verdict in the Trayvon Martin killing trial was announced, there doesn’t seem to be a single person in America, except maybe George Zimmerman, who is satisfied with that verdict. Everyone seems to have a grievance no matter what side of the issue they are on. And if the U.S. outlaws stand your ground laws as Attorney General Eric Holder just threatened to do, it would mean that at a different time, but with identical facts, George Zimmerman might be found guilty. It reminded me of what my seventh grade algebra teacher told us:  Life isn’t fair. That and the quadratic equation are the only two things I remember from his class.

The firestorm this week over the Zimmerman verdict got me thinking about the number of times—almost too numerous to count—where, as an entrepreneur or founder, I found myself muttering under my breath, “That’s not fair.”

It’s not fair when:

  • A co-founder reneges on their agreement with you.
  • The executive sponsor at a potential customer leaves the company just as you are finalizing negotiations for a large contract, thereby plundering the deal into an uncertain state.
  • A venture capital firm shows a lot of interest in your company only to abruptly decide that they don’t invest in companies like yours any longer.
  • Investors change the terms of the deal after you’ve signed the term sheet.
  • Investors withdraw their term sheet citing “deal fatigue.”
  • You get balled out by your board of directors for a mistake that someone below you made. You have to take the bullet. You can’t be transparent.
  • A bank won’t give you a loan without a personal guarantee.
  • You can’t refinance your mortgage to take advantage of lower rates because you’re now self-employed.
  • A company you invested in can’t seem to ever launch.

When these things happened to me, let’s just say they weren’t good days. The frustration and anger can get so intense that one needs to develop coping mechanisms just to survive. At times like these, it’s good to remember the Serenity Prayer which you can count on finding on someone’s desk in just about any company:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

If that doesn’t work and you feel like some of the people who are outraged by the Zimmerman verdict, remember the guidance of my algebra teacher. Life isn’t fair.

 

 

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About the Author

Neil Kane, founder and president of Illinois Partners, is a leading authority on technology commercialization and innovation and has the battle scars to prove it. He specializes in bringing innovations to market that come from research labs and university research programs. Based in Chicago, he has started or been part of the founding team of over 12 startups in addition to doing time at IBM and Microsoft. He was named a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum in 2007. His Twitter handle is @neildkane. He’s also on Google+ and LinkedIn.

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