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For me, my hair is my darling.
That doesn’t sound right as it implies that I am vain and that classic literature (and the characters of classic literature) and the mop on my head are one of the same. Not what I mean. I’m comfortable with my hair. My hair is my adulthood blankie. I’m fine with that. Don’t judge me.
According to the United States Department of Labor, it is a common misconception that 80% of small businesses fail within the first five years. Instead, between the years of 1992 and 1996, only 17% of small businesses closed due to bankruptcy or “other failures” in 1997 (because 1997 would be the five year mark/time-frame in question for this… yes, it confused me too at first). Granted, these numbers are over a decade old, and we don’t want to scare away entrepreneurship with ridiculously high failure rates – I get that.
Erring on the side of older-than-a-decade-optimisitc percentages that are over 60% less than the common misconception (Real people speak – these numbers are insanely low AND from 1997), 17% is still a considerable number when you factor in the amount of darlings that went into the start-up. Your traditional, and well over-used “blood, sweat, and tears” of the 17% of these ventures in question would likely equate to an overwhelming pool of bodily secretions.
And then, begin to factor in the departments within companies, the failed divisions, the poor innovations, the non-profitable areas that barely function in the large scope of the organization. Part of the 17% of actual failures? No, not quite. But hundreds of thousands, hundreds of millions, probably, of dying darlings that were killed by the mothers, fathers, adopted parents and familial units, thereby ending the lifespan of hundreds of thousands/millions of bad ideas and an equal, if not more, amount of true innovations.
Most of the time, the darling needs to go. It’s impeding the bottom line of something.
But, the other times, the darling just doesn’t get the love it deserves.
The case of Bebo fascinates me. In April of this year, AOL decided to pull the plug on the once successful social networking site, mostly popular in Europe. The site was purchased for $850 million in 2008 and then, well, sold for peanuts. Criterion Capitol Partners LLC bought the site for less than $10 million. After being acquired by AOL, Bebo employees claim that they lacked the funding needed, both on a financial as well as development standpoint in order to successfully compete in the marketplace. Well, at a loss of about $840 million, it’s clear that this was a darling that didn’t have a chance on a strategic standpoint after the acquisition. AOL: You probably should have given them more resources and strategized more effectively as to how this network could figure into your larger content based strategy.
And then, there are the dreamers. Theatre in high school got me through it all – the awkwardness, the boredom. I was told I was good. I was told I should have continued, somehow in the performing arts. I see friends and acquaintances, old teachers and the like and the question always remains, “why didn’t you continue with it?”. As Hedda Gabler, “You were better than Martha Plimpton!” And so began my nickname from those that knew me years ago, “Corporate” (because, and so apropos, I went corporate). And for me, letting go of theatre was my first real meaningful darling I had to let go.
And then offing my darlings became a little easier.
Find a way to take your loves, your true loves in what you do and apply them to your mundane. You’ll have to kill them most of the time in order to move forward. We can’t all win Academy Awards and fraternize with the Zuckerberg’s of the world. But quite honestly, the darlings will never truly die. Even Faulkner knew that, and you can see the similarities across some of his most popular pieces.
Plus, this was only a chunk of an otherwise ridiculous mass.