This post is dedicated to the late Al Davis. Rest in peace.
“Just win baby.”
Back in the bad old days when I was running Loudcloud, I thought to myself: how could I have possibly prepared for this? How could I know that half our customers would go out of business? How could I know that it would become impossible to raise money in the private markets? How could I have figured out that there would be 221 IPOs in 2000 and 19 in 2001? Could anybody expect me to achieve a reasonable outcome given those circumstances?
As I was feely sorry for myself, I randomly watched an interview with famous football coach Bill Parcells. He was telling the story of how he had a similar dilemma when he began his Head Coaching career. In his very first season as coach, Parcell’s team, The New York Giants, was hit with a rash of injuries. He worried incessantly about the impact of the injuries on the team’s fortunes, as it is difficult enough to win with your best players let alone a bunch of substitutes. When his friend and mentor Raiders owner Al Davis called Parcells to check in, Parcells relayed his injury issues. Parcell’s: “Al, I am just not sure how we can win without so many of our best players. What should I do?” Davis replied: “Bill, nobody cares, just coach your team.”
That might be the best CEO advice ever. Because, you see, nobody cares. When things go wrong in your company, nobody cares. The press doesn’t care, your investors don’t care, your board doesn’t care, your employees don’t care, even your mama doesn’t care. Nobody cares.
And they are right not to care. A great reason for failing won’t preserve one dollar for your investors, won’t save one employee’s job, or get you one new customer. It especially won’t make you feel one bit better when you shut down your company and declare bankruptcy.
All the mental energy that you use to elaborate your misery would be far better used trying to find the one, seemingly impossible way out of your current mess. It’s best to spend zero time on what you could have done and all of your time on what you might do. Because in the end, nobody cares, just run your company.