The Startup Series, Part 2: Why We Need Each Other

I really love the word “immersed.” I realized this last week while listening to an incredibly heart-wrenching but lovely Reply All episode. In it, a father (and video-game creator) whose son was diagnosed with brain cancer designed a series of immersive virtual experiences that reflected his journey. The vignettes were put together as a way for people outside the family to enter into their journey – to understand the helplessness and longing that they felt as they watched their son’s health decline. I’ll probably lose it if I try to explain more, so you’ll just have to listen to the podcast – but it’s an incredible story of love and sacrifice.

Being immersed means to be involved deeply. To be wholly and completely plunged in, submerged, and covered. It’s a gorgeous and overwhelming thought all at once.

When you work at a startup, immersion is the perfect way to describe the experience. You run into obstacles often. You’re completely immersed in running tests, solving problems, hitting goals, making coffee runs, and Googling things. You’re trying to build something that’s never been created before (at least, not in the exact same way), and as a result, you have no choice but to try everything you can think of and learn as you go. Sometimes you think you have a great subject line, and then you test it only to find that 1 person opened the email (and that person was your boss). And sometimes you try one that turns out to have a 95% open rate, so you start putting it on everything (even if the email isn’t about that subject). It’s exhilarating and exciting and so much fun. But it can also make you want to curl up under your desk in the fetal position every once in awhile, because it’s hard.

A couple of weeks ago I was dwelling on the idea of patience (both in the workplace and outside of it) - and I came to a point where I wondered what we’re supposed to do when we just don’t have any more left in the tank. What do we do when we feel like we’re literally at the end of our rope? It’s a heavy thought, and one that I think we like to brush under the rug sometimes. We like to pretend that we’re never really in that dark of a place – but the reality is that we live in a broken world, and sooner or later we all reach a point where it feels like everything is just melting around us. Things we thought were certain aren’t anymore, and we’re not sure which direction to turn. Relational stress, spiritual struggles, career challenges, health issues…the list is endless. We live in a time and space where good and evil exist side by side. Not with equal power, of course – we know how the story ends – but with an equal weight and an equal level of visibility in our hearts and minds.

Every one of us is completely immersed in the human experience -  one of joy, beauty, pain, frustration, and ultimately, a deep longing for a place we can call home.

I think that’s where the answer lies, or part of it anyway. We are in this together. And we need each other.

At work, I know that I cannot achieve my goals without the help of my team. I could write the greatest ebook ever (maybe), but no one would want to read it if I didn’t have a great graphic designer to make it look good. My team and I could bring in hundreds of leads, but if the Sales team isn’t there to close them, they’re worth nothing. For someone who’s pretty independent, these are hard truths to accept, but they must be accepted. If I try to do life on my own, it may go well for a bit, but eventually things will break down – and eventually I will break down.

There are many moments when I need to remind myself that it’s okay to ask for help – it’s okay to say I don’t know how to do this, you’re better at it than I am, or I’m just having a really overwhelming day. And how often do I allow others the space to ask for my help? How often do I truly make myself available and take on the burdens of others – regardless of how much time and energy it will cost me?

The reality is, nothing will cost me more than believing that I don’t need others and that they don’t need me.

As I’ve been wrestling through some things over the last few weeks, I’ve been deeply moved by the people in my life who choose to enter in and say, I am here in this with you. There are few words more powerful, more kind, more generous and life-giving than these.

Bearing another’s burden is an act of love and sacrifice in which we say to someone in pain (much like Ruth), wherever you choose to go, and whatever you choose to do, I will be by your side. It’s more than a quick, I’ll pray for you, don’t worry, everything will be fine. It’s an intentional position that must be chosen. A place of steadfast loyalty, a place of “entering in.” A place in which we say to one another, I don’t understand this either, but I’m not going anywhere. I’m not overwhelmed or scared by your struggle – and you will never be left alone. It is the truest form of friendship and the greatest reflection of His love for us.

Just as He chose to be immersed in our world so that He could empathize with and rescue us, we too immerse ourselves in one another’s lives. And in this process, we find strength.