Yesterday I wrote a quick piece about visualizing failure, and didn't explain something important.
First, recall that failure was imminent. It was the expected outcome. The board had washed its hands, told me to shut it down (why they did this in retrospect is a mystery, they had no upside in shutting it down other than a possible tax loss).
The problem for me was I couldn't imagine going on with my life, facing my family -- who had said it would never work and I should just get a job. Or my friends, who I had been neglecting, for a very long time, because I was hunkered down trying to make this thing work. And how would I get work after this failure? And if I could, what would it be like to work for someone else, having failed at entrepreneurship? But even more ominous than facing family and friends or finding work was how would I face myself? I had been holding on to this dream of myself as a success, a self-made man, a person who creates his own destiny. I had had this feeling when I was a student that I had discovered my purpose. What would it mean to have failed at my purpose? How could I live with that? I didn't think I could.
I think in general, except in some very lucky circumstances, success requires that level of determination. To just wish for success is not enough. To want it is not enough. To deserve it is not enough. You need a word that's stronger than wish, want or deserve -- perhaps that word is "require."
Over on Ycombinator one of the commenters, TotlolRon, quoted Apollo 13 Flight Controller Jerry Bostick. "When bad things happened, we just calmly laid out all the options, and failure was not one of them." I think that's pretty close to the sentiment. You're out there, you're alone, and if you fail, you aren't coming back. That is the feeling I had outside the office that night.