Today I emailed an amazingly talented founder to "beware of Rock Star Syndrome". His new product has just been revealed to the public and people are amazed at it. Accolades are pouring in, web hits are skyrocketing and the media bloggers are jumping on the story.
So what is "Rock star syndrome?" Why beware of it?
Rock Star Syndrome:
A state of mind that creeps into the soul of especially talented individuals, progressing from mild gratitude into a transcending condition of an unknowing escalation of increasing degrees of euphoria as larger and larger audiences exclaim in louder and louder voices how amazing the individual is until the media brands the individual and guest appearances are flooding in. Known especially for its let-down psychosis which sets into the soul of the rock star who begins to become dated and is superseded by a new rising star.
Been There Done That.
"Thrills lead to spills" is another way to put it.
It is an emotional high to experience and feel victory, at last, in your startup. First product works (at last). Giant corporation orders 100 at $50,000 each. Your dream VP Marketing accepts your offer. The demo at the conference has people amazed with media rushing to interview you. You finish your B Round at $100 million valuation. And so on. Amazing results. Triggers powerful emotions.
If you realize where you are, you will be all right. If you get caught up in the emotions and forget where you are, you can fall a mighty fall.
Eventually the rising fame will turn into harsh criticism, complaining customers, annoyed employees, angry board of directors and worse. Wait until your web site gets hacked. Or a stealth startup suddenly bursts on to the scene six months ahead of where you have so joyfully advanced to. Then you'll know where you are.
Serial entrepreneurs respect the Rock Star Syndrome. They stay focused on building a great company. They avoid getting caught up into the rise and crash of the first time entrepreneur.
BOTTOM LINE: Yes, enjoy those euphoric moments of victory. But also recognize when and where you are. Humility trumps arrogance. "How far the mighty have fallen" is an old adage, one worth reflecting on. I and many startup CEOs have learned that the hard way. So now I enjoy watching and advising much younger men and women as they also learn it. If you can too,soon, you'll add a key element to your unfair advantage.