To Suffer in Silence

by Matt Flanagan April 1st, 2021

The virtue of mental toughness is celebrated in sports. As I've ventured further into a new world away from football, I've had to relearn how to ask for help. We have been taught to bury our pains and problems for the benefit of others. In the highly structured environment each football season provides, it works. "We'll get our bodies right once we get to the bye week." "Let's get that surgery done once the season is over." In the post-season of life, where we becomes me, it can be dangerous.

I always thought resilience was the ability to continue on, regardless of the circumstances. It doesn't matter which way the wind blows or how much water spills over the sides, the resilient fight through, keep their head down, and continue to paddle. However, without the reset of a new game week or season, you can quickly find yourself stranded, paddling with no direction. When I feel lost at sea, I still struggle with a natural instinct to keep rowing the boat.

I'll find land eventually. I definitely won't get anywhere if I stop.

I've had to learn that resiliency isn't the ability to eat your problems, it's about being honest with yourself and knowing how to ask for help. After sitting in on a number of pitches, one of my favorite questions we ask is "What keeps you up at night?" I've seen a lot of founders quickly try to find the best answer to this. There really isn't one. What all good answers have in common is honesty. Everyone is going through something we can't see. It isn't always easy to handle a difficult roadblock or hurdle, especially over the last year. No one is expected to bear the weight of every problem on their own. That's what your support system is for. We work hard to be a part of that system for every team that we work with.

But honesty isn't always easy. When the conversations with friends and family change from "When's your next game?" to "What's next?", It's hard to admit that you don't know the answer. By embracing vulnerability, I'm no longer blindly paddling but trying to find true north instead. I'm still learning to use others as a lighthouse to give me direction and lead me back to shore. I've found that a lot goes on outside of what is built in public and that no one's journey is a straight line. We're all just trying to find our way.