Ideas are sperms
Her half-smile would tilt the upper lip creating a crooked wave near a little but deep dimple on the right cheek. The wave would romantically try its best to touch the dimple but could never do so. Her thin lips would be pursed suggesting a possible revelation of thousands of thoughts waiting to give life to a thousand stories, but the masked smile would stay at peace with itself. These idiosyncrasies created a beautiful concoction; referred to by her family and friends as Emily.
Many however were not aware that Emily was extremely fond of her high school friend Mark. They would often have projects together, discuss the classical literature and find new excuses to meet each other. One would think this should have been easy but 1953 was not as easy a society as it is today. Every evening at 6, the clock would stop and the world would freeze when Emily took a walk towards Anderson street from her University. Every day exactly at 6.05 pm they would meet near the old post office behind the University and walk together for fifteen minutes. They didn’t know what this relationship was; are we friends? Are we a couple? Are we just spending time together? Emily would always think to herself. Those Fifteen minutes were the most precious moments for which both of them would wait eagerly and restlessly through the long remainder of the day.
Colorful foliage and dry winds of the autumn give wings to Pink hearts. Slowly but surely, Emily in her heart knew that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with Mark but was he as affectionate and serious about this relationship too?
It had been four months since the beautiful walks began. Christmas was just three days away. The University had declared holidays and not being able to meet Mark was killing Emily. On Christmas eve, Emily decided she will go to the post office at the same time they met every day. She very well knew that Mark was completely oblivious to this arrangement but she still went. Telepathy is an actual thing. Is it the sound waves emitted by the heartbeat or does our brain sends signals? God only knows!
The heavy snowfall had covered the city in a white blanket. Five minutes after the unilaterally decided meeting time by Emily, a tall frame in a large brown overcoat approached her. With a burning cigarette in one hand and a springy confident gait like a sports hero, Emily recognized it was Mark coming towards her from a distance. As he came close to her, he smoked a long and final drag and threw it in the snow creating an ugly piece of art with ash and the cigarette butt on a better deserving white canvas. Mark did not utter a word and kept gazing at Emily, making her as uncomfortable as he could with a stare. He handed her a letter and left without saying a word. Emily waited just long enough for a departing Mark to become a small brown dot. Crushing the paper in excitement, she opened the letter. It read
My Dear Emily,
The last few months have been the best months of my life. I have never been this happy. We talk about the war, Maugham’s classics and what not but I have always failed to tell you what I truly want to say. Every time you come near me, my heart starts racing and I lose my voice; so I wrote it. I wrote it so that I don’t miss a word. In these few months, I have never felt as close to anyone as I have felt with you. I wait the entire day for that damn clock to show 6.05 so that we can be together for however long we can. I have wanted to hold your hand but never had the courage. I never wanted to leave an impression that I was an un-gentleman like individual. I have great admiration and love for you. Considering we have known each other only for four months, it might seem preposterous but would you like to be mine. I want to marry you, have many children and grow old together with you.
With family and closest friends together, three weeks later Mark and Emily got married at the St. Augustine Church. Days would pass just gazing at each other. Emily brought romance and sanity in Mark’s life and in return Mark would attempt at being as endearing as he could. Life was absolutely brilliant.
Months passed by. Last few days Emily hadn’t been feeling too well. She had started to lose some appetite and was always tired and nauseated. She decided to visit Dr Smith. God, I wish there’s nothing wrong with me. Maybe it’s just the flu but what if it isn’t! What will happen to my poor Mark if I died, he won’t be able to live without me but that evening she left Dr Smith’s office perplexed, scared and happy.
Mark, we are going to have the first of many children you wanted. I am 8 weeks pregnant. Exclaimed an ecstatic Emily.
Mark couldn’t process the news but grinned and told Emily how happy he was. This was the happiest day of their lives. Both of them couldn’t believe it was happening to them. Emily smiled and laughed and cried and screamed and laughed again. Mark comforted her, told her things will be fine.
Next morning when they woke up Mark wasn’t the usual cheerful himself anymore. Emily, I am only 22 and so are you. We are not ready to be parents. We are students and have part-time jobs. We don’t have any money. We haven’t even started to live our lives let alone bring another one in this world. I know you too are scared about this. Emily, I think, we should abort the child, opined a worried Mark.
Emily didn’t know what to answer. Yes, she was scared but she knew Mark was by her side. Together they could conquer the World. I know this is too much but we love each other and we are talking about a child, a person you and I have given life to. Mark, I too am scared but we can’t do this. This is murder! Replied Emily
It’s not murder. Many people are doing it in the big cities. I do not want to be a father; I want to live my life. Mark screamed with flaring nostrils and grinding teeth this time.
The arguments went for days. There was crying, pain, sorrow and once, a beating too. The most romantic man of the word had pushed the petite framed Emily as she crashed into the side of the cupboard. Those stitches on the left-hand side of her forehead left a mark on the body and the soul. This was the same person Emily thought would have died if something happened to her.
How cruel is life? She enjoys laughing at the expense of people.
The second trimester had begun and if Mark and Emily were to abort, they could never do it after this. The little zygote had started to take the shape of a human with multiple developing body parts and systems. Mark tried everything to change Emily’s decision; words and gestures, love and anger, everything. But she had hope. She thought the frustration was a phase and Mark will grow out of it. Probably she was trying to convince herself. But that was not to be. 12th Sep 1954 Emily woke up to find herself alone. Mark had left, ironically once again with a note.
I tried to explain to you but you won’t listen. I cannot do this. I have dreams and aspirations and I want to live my life. I do not want to sacrifice my life for your craziness. If you cannot understand what I want, then why should we even be together. I suppose our Journey ends here goodbye and God bless.
Initially, Emily could not understand if this was the reality or a dream. Thanks to the hormones, since the last few weeks she had been experiencing lucid dreams. She wanted to go back to sleep and wake up to find herself with her loving Mark. But the more she tried to fight her consciousness, the more it seemed to suck her in its perineal vividness.
With every passing second, her heart sank and sank. She was losing her voice. Her body wanted to fall but there was no one to catch her. A large lump in her throat settled like the lava settles on the ground after a volcanic eruption. She tried to swallow it but it didn’t go down. As a child, whenever Emily was scared, she would close her eyes and pray to God. Please God please, make this go away and there! the problems always vanished. That day Emily prayed for a million times; begged, beseeched, cried to God but he wasn’t listening to that day.
She closed her eyes, folded her arms, prayed to hope this time God will listen just to realize nothing had changed. With every passing invocation, a small strand of strength broke. With every unanswered prayer, breathing kept getting heavier.
Have you seen tears falling off closed eyes? When desperation and sadness turn to relinquish, streams of tears roll down breaking the eyelid barriers.
Emily looked for Mark. Searched for him in the neighborhood, at the university, at the post office. Nowhere! Mark was gone without giving an address, a friends’ name! Nothing! Just a note that essentially blamed Emily for the pregnancy situation.
How in complete despair, the heart somehow finds courage and the brain uses its wit to make the right choices. In a few weeks, the reality had set in. An almost lifeless Emily was starting to come back to life. She probably would have been completely shattered, had it not been for her unborn child.
Christmas arrived. Emily was seven months pregnant. The pain was like the unhealed skin wound that rebuilds itself on the surface but even with a light scratch, blood oozes out. Just one year ago something magical had happened but the Christmas of 1954 was dismal.
The incinerating pain, the cramps, the restricted ability of movement; none of these were as agonizing as nobody to share it with. Pregnancy is not a one-person job.
Emily gave birth to a beautiful boy and named him Andrew. Since the day Andrew was born, she never cried again. She devoted herself to provide a great life to Andrew. She kept busy and never married anyone else. Those scars were too difficult to revisit.
A newspaper report of 3rd July 1973 headlined Andrew Smith, the youngest player to sign the Superleague contract. His first contract was worth Fifty Thousand dollars. Andrew used to look exactly like his father. He too was tall, had the same features and even walked like Mark. As soon as the team confirmed the news publicly, Andrew hugged and kissed his mother. Celebrations were in order. That evening was probably the first in nineteen years Emily was not worried. That evening, probably the first in nineteen years, Emily was truly happy.
While Andrew and his friends were enjoying a small party at their home, there was a knock at the door. Time stood still when Emily went to answer the door. It was Mark waiting on the other side. He looked rather fit for a 41-year-old man indicating his life hadn’t been that bad. Emily, on the other hand, was 41 too but looked easily over 50. She was frail and her skin was shrivelled. The depth in the voice and the thick black glasses were a far-off memory from what she used to be less than two decades ago. The joy of being beautiful had given way to burden of responsibilities.
Mark self-invited himself inside without much of a ‘How were last twenty years?’ He too knew that the time for that was long gone.
Mark started screaming Andrew’s name as soon as he arrived in the hall. Once Andrew came, Mark hugged him, patted him on the shoulder and told him how proud he was of him. Emily was just a bystander and was not able to comprehend the unnerving sequence of events. Mark went about how he envisioned Andrew’s future. How he had been working with some people and knew all about sports management. Mark had plans for Andrew and wanted to be his manager. He went on and on about how he will change Andrew’s career and he will become the greatest player ever.
Neither Emily nor Andrew had uttered a word till now. Who is this person Ma? Asked Andrew. Well! I am your father, remarked Mark in an eerie manner.
All of this was happening too quickly. The overenthusiastic loud promises of Mark led Andrew’s friends in the hall. By now Andrew had more or less gotten a grab of the situation and was fuming with rage. We will make history my so… before Mark could finish his sentence, Andrew held him by his collar and dragged him across the hall. He threw him out of the door and his last words ever to Mark were, ‘If you ever come close to me and my mother, I will kill you’.
Mark kept banging the door. He kept screaming ‘he is my son; I have a right’. Emily looked at Andrew and smiled. The world was Pink again.
This story probably isn’t the best one to describe a business angle because of the emotionally distressing events which took place in the protagonist’s life. However, the relationship of an entrepreneur with his/her business is no less antagonizing due to the emotional and financial investments.
Now let us understand Emily and Mark’s story through a start-up lens. You will see that different sections of the story describe the different phases of a new business.
Emily and Mark had an amazing dream of starting a new life. It is also possible that it was only Emily’s dream in which Mark, voluntarily but unsuspectingly became an important part. Imagine you and your best friend start a venture together. In the beginning, it is an adrenaline gushing project but as it starts taking shape of a company, massive responsibilities and workload start taking its toll. More importantly, things do not go as planned. Investors do not show interest and personal savings deplete. This is a real test of the character. In the story, the child wasn’t planned but when it happened, Emily chose to do what she felt was needed. The argument between Mark and Emily can be equated to a case of two partners arguing about entirely different visions for the company. Choosing a co-founder is like finding a spouse.
Once Mark left, Emily was completely alone during the pre-natal stage. Imagine your co-founder left you when you needed him/her the most. This is where the importance of drafting a proper contract between partners, founders, cofounders is extremely important. One has to follow the method of vesting. The shares of every individual would depend on their contributions of money, sweat and the time. Different levels of commitment and a badly drafted agreement can bring you into Emily’s position.
After Mark left Emily without any trace, he made her vulnerable. She went through Herculean troubles all by herself, at least in the beginning. After that, she might have made some friends and colleagues who would have helped her and was eventually able to raise Andrew to become the sports star he wanted to.
This is exactly where we bring the point of intersection between the story of a company and the story of Mark and Emily. Mark assumed that the success of his son should also be his right because he was Andrew’s biological father. His only contribution was his sperm. Every day trillions of sperms end up on the washroom floor, toilets and paper towels. During intercourse, a few find their way to the cervix but only one gets to attach itself to the egg. Even after that, through utmost care, love and sleepless nights; sometimes the zygote does not convert into a human. Mark forgets the hardships Emily went through to raise Andrew all by herself. His toddler days, working and taking care of Andrew at the same time, financial burdens and relentless anger which Emily was trying to fight from within.
Many founders or co-founders believe that it is only because of their idea, the company has done well. If you too feel the same, you are Mark. Ideas are exactly like sperms. If they meet the right environment and the care and nurturing it needs, it will grow.
Once a business enthusiast was arguing that one of his friends stole his idea and built an empire. While nobody argues that the idea is not an important part of business but it is absolutely ludicrous to quote that the empire belongs to him in equal shares as to the ones who have nurtured the idea and brought it to life. Every day we get thousands of ideas and many are literally pretty good but how many are executed? How many manage to see the end of the tunnel?
While researching, I felt the analogy here was apt. You are welcome to suggest an alternative ending to the story at in the comments section on twitter because if a story has failed to touch us, it is not exactly a story.
Please share the story with your family, friends, colleagues or anyone you feel this story can resonate with. Thank you.