“People ask me if I’m crazy.”
Two different women uttered this phrase to me in the space of a few hours as we talked about their early-stage companies. They reported that they answer this question multiple times a day. Sometimes they are the ones asking themselves.
I’m sure their male peers get asked this question, too. There is an undeniable element of risk-taking in this venture world, the kind of risk that doesn’t stop short of pride or reputation (I wrote about this previously in “Going Visible“). Exposure at that level warrants a good, hard look in the mirror, and a few late-night heart-to-hearts with the people in a body’s corner.
With that soul-searching accomplished, what does an entrepreneur do with the repeated question of sanity?
With these conversations and that one about the “confidence gap” from last week’s Soar lunch rattling around in my head, I got thinking about an answer that might flip the question.
A word about that term, “confidence gap” first. The confidence gap is the difference between how men and women are socialized to talk about their accomplishments, with men generally taking more individual credit and women ascribing more to their teams. It’s one variable identified as part of why women don’t end up leading in tech entrepreneurship.
So, if that’s part of what’s in play, word choice matters. A word applied with broad strokes and often part of the language of manipulative gas lighting implies a whole lot more than irrationality. Crazy implies mental illness or instability, to boot. Neither of those things are assets in the pressure cooker of starting up, or something to toss around.
But let’s take this to it’s illogical extreme. Drawing a parallel between creating something new and insanity doesn’t fit the ethos of an economy where we systematically celebrate divergent visions. We reward disruptors, rabble rousers, and luminaries with airtime at TED conferences and the mandate to lead us into the future, regardless of their gender.
But, I’ll answer the question directly, are they crazy?
Yes, and no—they’re crazy enough. And so are the women I talked to this morning.
I’ll elaborate. “Crazy enough” sees the potential for losing finances and face but do the thing anyway. That’s the good kind of informed bravery that rises above the norm, like “crazy confident,” “crazy good,” “crazy not to.”
I can’t wait to see how this distinct psychology plays out for these two, and the many others who have the guts to answer the question.