Reckless Abandon

There’s a Blink 182 song called “Reckless Abandon.” It’s about the youthful, somewhat desperate desire to make the most of summer. It could be a bunch of high schoolers or college kids singing it. The lyrics start out hopeful enough with the chorus:

On and on, reckless abandon
Something’s wrong
This is gonna shock them
Nothing to hold on to
We’ll use this song
To lead you on

This group of kids would give anything and everything to “have a summer that they could call a memory full of fun.” Based on what they end up doing, however, the whole thing quickly goes awry. Turning up the music way too loud? Sure. Making fun of your friend’s mom? Okay. But breaking windows, throwing up from alcohol, and feeding the dog hash brownies? Hmm, maybe not.

The next time the chorus repeats in full, the true outcome of their overzealousness is revealed:

And break the truth
With more bad news
We left a scar
Size extra large

The song reminds me a lot of entrepreneurship, especially some of my early heroes. When I first discovered them, be it via their book, blog, or some interview, their mission always seemed clear and coherent. The longer I followed them, however, the more I got the impression that they, too, didn’t know what they were doing or, at the very least, were recklessly abandoning projects left and right.

“This new social media platform is the best! I’ll post there every day! Follow me!” Six months later? Deserted. “I now have a podcast! I’m writing a book! I’m starting this new company!” One year later? Abandoned, abandoned, abandoned.

When you’re starting as an entrepreneur, excessive “thrashing,” as Seth Godin calls it, is part of the deal. You have no clue and no skills, so you must try a lot and give up most of it. The goal, however, is to do this early so you can focus sooner rather than later. Yet, even very successful entrepreneurs keep doing it. Why?

The only projects we must recklessly abandon are the projects we recklessly began. If you hadn’t jumped on Twitter for all the wrong reasons, your motivation to tweet wouldn’t have faded within a week. If you start a podcast only because everyone else has one, how long do you think you’re gonna last?

To some extent, letting go is necessary. At some point, however, dropping projects, things, and people becomes reckless. Your job is to find the line between the two — and then walk on it.

Don’t run through life leaving scars wherever you go. Thrash early, then settle. And if you need a reminder, every once in a while, crank up Reckless Abandon.