“You’re so brave for starting a company.”
When I hear someone say this, I’m always so torn. On one hand, I’m flattered — who doesn’t want to feel brave? But on the other hand, I know what true bravery looks like and it makes me feel like an imposter because I think start-ups are many things, but my being brave has little to do with it — dogged, determined, sure, but brave, not so much.
Because I’ve lived around brave for so long. Brave is my parents leaving their homes halfway around the world in their teens, on the promise of a dream but with no safety net. I have always admired what they have made out of literally nothing. How they’ve woken up each day of my life and done what needed doing because there was no choice.
Last week I was reminded of that type of bravery. I met a young woman who recently moved to Seattle from Tennessee. She was interviewing for one of our roles. I wasn’t the hiring manager so I didn’t know a ton about her background before I chatted with her — just that she had recently moved and her prior experience.
I sat down and was immediately impressed with her energy — she just seems to have an amazing enthusiasm. I started my usual interview spiel — hearing about her background, telling her about the whys and hows of Poppy and my story.
We were nearing the end when I asked her if she had any questions for me. That’s when she looked at me and said she had read my blog and followed my stuff and that she was so happy to see a company that was being built by a woman.
She started tearing up and continued. You see, where she came from, not a lot of women took the lead and she had a daughter to raise and she wanted her to grow up around people that had a wider range of perspectives. She wanted her daughter to grow up to know that anything was possible.
So she and her husband just up and moved the family to Seattle. Just like that. Because it was important. And she was grateful that I started a company and was running it ambitiously and as aggressively as any one run by a man. Because it was proof of what she was looking for.
I was floored.
These days my circles are too homogeneous — small circles of people that live within the tech startup space. For all I read and try to stay in touch with the different perspectives of different groups, nothing is like having a conversation with someone that comes from a background that you know nothing of.
I have such respect and admiration — probably the ultimate respect- for anyone that attempts anything like this. I have rarely fawned over movie stars or famous people because I don’t find fame admirable — only bravery.
So here was a woman that I had the utmost admiration for. The person that got in the arena and was going to strive, no matter the cost or the difficulties.
This woman stayed with me in my mind, long after the interview ended.
This is what bravery looks like. We need to remember that. On my longest, hardest days, this is what I turn to for inspiration. The people that never quit. That put themselves into hard situations because they have faith that hard work and persistence will amount to something more.
This, is what bravery looks like.