The courage to shed — to founders, employees, customers and investors

Courage has two types: first, the courage to try new/difficult things ( hence I will call it an additive decision) and second the courage to let go (hence I will call it a shedding decision). The additive decision is more common and are things such as trying new food, starting a new job, moving to a new city, changing career…etc. The shedding decision, not the cases where you are forced to let go of something (i.e. a loss due to an accident or being fired from a job) but the cases where you are making a conscious and deliberate decision of choosing, is a lot less common because fewer people have the courage to make such decision and are almost always pushed away when possible.

The additive decisions are often related to an initial phase of fear but are followed by a pleasant feeling of comfort. For instance, you might be anxious to start a new job but you get used to it after a few days and the anxiousness is quickly replaced with comfort followed by, hopefully, the fulfilment of self-esteem. In other words, you get to face the reality that you chose and as you are experiencing it, the unknown (or fear) factors are being eliminated. This is the reason why the additive decisions are almost always, encouraged by those who have experienced it. If you see a child (perhaps your own child) hesitating to take his/her first step down the slide, what would you tell him/her? Almost all adults would tell the child to try because we all know that overcoming the short fear is followed by a long joy of realising how fun it is to slide down.

On the other hand, shedding decisions are those where the unknown factors don’t disappear easily. More specifically, it is the feeling you get when you need to send 20 rejection letters to job applicants before sending the one acceptance letter. It is the feeling you get when you are choosing a project and rejecting the other few promising options while being fully aware that your choice would determine the survival of the company. Anyone who has experience in making such shedding decision would agree that the amount of courage required to ‘make-the-call’ is a lot heavier and difficult than that required to make additive decisions. This is because the unknown factors are not unfolded or can’t be experienced. As a result, the ‘what-if’ question will linger in your brain for a long time. What if the other candidates were better? What if the other projects led us to more revenue?

Adding more weight to the shedding decision is the necessity to make a decision. The result of deferring or not making the additive decision is often a mere missed opportunity such as not know what it is like to ride on a slide (which can be a big missed opportunity but by no means detrimental). The result of deferring or not making the shedding decision however can be detrimental. For instance, not firing an employee who is free-riding, not choosing the next project (right or wrong)…etc will all end the fate of a company.

Lastly and to make the situation worse, the shedding decision is also made in a very lonely state because other people usually don’t want to participate in such a decision process. This is why some say the CEO’s job is the loneliest and you barely can understand it until you get to experience the cold and lonely feeling of having to make the final decision of go/no-go (or yes/no). And all these factors of having to deal with the potentially lingering what-ifs, the necessity to make a decision and to do so alone make shedding decisions require more courage than the additive decision.

I, therefore, send my respect to all the founders and CEOs of small/large companies who have to go through, almost daily, the hard life of pushing and training oneself secretly so they can have the courage to make the shedding decisions on behalf of their employees, customers, investors, and for their future selves.

For employees, thanks for your service but please be aware that the level of comfort and realisation of self-esteem is made possible because someone (i.e. your company’s CEO and founding team) is taking a load off of your back so you can focus on your job.

For customers, thanks for using the company’s product/service but please be aware that someone, very consciously and deliberately, made a hard, bold and lonely decision to make it available in the market so you can enjoy it.

For investors, thanks for the trust but please be aware that the best support is often made when the CEO/founders feel someone has their back when they are making the hard, bold and lonely decision.

Finally, for founders, it is a difficult journey but be aware that in order for you to claim the true ownership, you need to carry the onus. And mostly alone. That way, when you succeed, no one can question you and even if you fail, you will be able to declare a clean submission without regrets and be able to rise again for the next journey.

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