This is Work, Not a Cult

When you work for a startup, despite it being work, it sure feels like a cult. You are all working together to create something new. You’ll all a bit delusional, working behind a fearless leader who can convince you of just about anything. Sure, there are disagreements among the tribe, but in the end, it’s clear who you work for, and everything kind of falls into place.

That is, until the leader moves on. It’s common in startups for this to happen by choice or by force. As the company grows and changes, it turns from a cult to something that resembles a slightly more normal corporation. The challenges are still there, you just don’t have that, uh, crazy glue to hold it all together. And, as per the case in many startups where this transition happens, one by one, the early members leave, go off to new adventures, and the few that stay are left in a little state of bewilderment and shock.

This is a good thing, in many ways, as you want your company to grow and change as long as it’s meeting business need. That’s the goal of any startup. But suddenly your working 48 hours straight to prep for a business pitch when you were a team of five doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t matter that when you went to a business event you hustled and felt bad every second you weren’t getting leads, at all hours of the day, or when you stayed up all night to do a sales pitch to inbound leads from Russia, China, India and Europe when all you had to pitch was a very bare bones deck, because no one from that group is left. People have joined because the company already is somewhat successful. Yes, you were a small part of helping build that, but who cares. Right now, your job has changed significantly. You helped build the car, now be part of a new engine, and don’t blink twice because you’re either on board or you’re off.

What complicates matters more is the jealousy that comes with watching others move on to new projects. Many team up to start new things. Some seem to have great potential. And while I really, really want to focus on being completely 100% dedicated to my role right now a part of my mind wanters into jealousy territory. Jealousy, envy, and the sheer sadness of feeling unwanted, like all the work I did to prove I could help build a company wasn’t even good enough for the people whose cult I was once part of. I’m the member that was kicked out, never asked back in. Which is fine, there are plenty of reasons for that, many of which I’m sure have little to do with me anyway, and there’s the reality that it probably wouldn’t be the ideal choice to go to even if asked, but it hurts not to be asked. I think that’s a natural human reaction to the situation. I just don’t want to dwell on it too much.

I wouldn’t dwell on it so much if I felt I was the right fit for my current role, and able to help with the challenges we’re facing today. I can help a little, but feel so overwhelmed on the grand scale of things, and am lost in questioning everything these days. Even though my previous leader was by no means perfect, he is gone. And as it really was such a cult that gave me superhuman powers to get stuff done in ways I never had before, all due to this group mentality, I have to figure out a way to get that back and motivate myself. I do a lot of work still, don’t get me wrong, but I only feel alive when I’m pushing myself like this. It’s probably healthier not to have a leader like this who tears you down a bit to motivate you, who has unrealistic expectations that somehow you still have to meet. And yet, I miss that. I just need to make that crazy leader voice something in my head so I can excel in a healthier, maybe even one day stable job environment and career. Hmm.




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