Watching stars fall

Posted on January 26, 2013. Filed under: startups, venture capital |

Oft covered is the guy who ascends through professional rungs, leaping road blocks, defying statistics…he is an outlier, he is romanticized, he is something slightly more than human but not quite divine…the rise of a star is an intoxicating story and object of observation.  A young phenom starts scoring 40 points a game in highschool…fascinating…a hedge fund manager puts up 80% annual returns…fascinating…a little girl starts beating grand masters in chess…fascinating

But like the rise, the fall has always been fascinating to me.  Lance Armstrong drops from world inspiration to nothing overnight.  Steve Cohen from wall st god to alleged cheat…fascinating…  I used to work at a place where the “smartest guy in the room” ran conversations, passed judgment on all, and was respected as the self-appointed “golden boy” of the firm…I remember reading recently of his “departure” from said firm…his wandering around without a home…and ultimate acceptance of a much less prestigious gig than the one he had obviously been pushed out of…I thought to myself…god that is sweet…I’ve watched countless high-flying founders turn their nose up at the world, only to have the rug pulled out from under them 12 months later…the rise is inspirational and the fall is cautionary…the fall is what happens when you lose site of your pre-rise self…when you start to believe you are above the law, or the rules, or other people…personally, I LOVE watching the fall.  If the rise and the fall were on tv at the same time, I’d DVR the rise, and watch the fall live…there is a justice in the fall that is just too good to turn away from…the fall is statistics catching up with you when you forgot that the longer you live, the less likely you are to defy them…there is something so beautiful about the guy who stopped being friend to man…sitting on his living room floor…alone…shamed and shocked…not having a man to call…out of moves…forced to begin again…in a place even lower than where his previous ascent begun.

How a man who has fallen rises again…if he rises again…is much less documented than the initial rise or fall…my guess is because after the fall…a man realizes that the rise and the power and the success meant nothing in and of itself…that the contextual pinnacle that he so proudly and arrogantly sat atop lacked the human foundation that he needed when it all disappeared…so to rise again did not mean bright lights and big bank accounts…but perhaps rather ordinary relationships and ordinary living…which is not a very media worthy resurgence…or maybe after a fall…one who has risen learns to fear the fall…fear the shame of falling again…and thus goes through a second ascent more discretely and tastefully than the prior…I don’t know…but I do love the fall.  It may be that those who do not fear it, acting wrecklessly in their pursuit and preservation of the apex, are in fact more likely to reach said apex…but I will stick with my fear…or perhaps I should say respect…of the fragility behind any state that is comfortable or enjoyed…that which we take for granted or as a given…is not…and while 99% of the days you wake up…things might go as you’ve become accustomed for them to go…keep waking up…and living more days…and the rake will catch up with you…push your whole stack in, (emotional, financial, social, or otherwise), leave it hanging there, in the middle of the table, as you hobnob with the other players and slurp down the “free drinks”…and one of these days your aces will get cracked…OR…maintain the mindset that no matter how big your proverbial stack gets…the rake is the rake, and you are as susceptible to it as the small stack to your left…and you will enjoy a life with small stumbles instead of 1000 ft cliffs…god I love the fall…life’s rake against those who rose without moral fiber, self awareness, and personal character.

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3 Responses to “Watching stars fall”

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The rise is fascinating, the fall is one of those “can’t look away” things, but what about the spectacular “re-ascent?” Think clinton or jobs. How the hell did they recover? I doubt either changed much fundamentally – bill’s probably just as slick as ever, and according the jobs bio he was egomaniac until the end.

Really great post. You either die a hero, or live long enough to become the villain.

and sometimes there is no rise again. Your athletics reference is particularly relevant. Athletes pour their entire selves into a goal so narrow, that can’t be snatched away with such impartial ruthlessness that they often follow a path of slow descent. Can you hedge these events? Diversify pursuit in order to have a fall back? doesn’t that limit the reach of the initial ascent?

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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