Fear – Master this to disarm fear

Shawn Davison – Fear – Master this and disarm fear.

So Fear.
Fear is one of those things that we all face, everybody does. I think we all handle it in different ways. If there is anything I would say to give someone advice, especially, you know whether it’s personal or professional in your life, about fear is; actually if you remember there use to be this company that had some t-shirt that said no fear , NO fear, well I don’t believe in that there’s always fear. I would say turn that around and say know your fear;

KNOW your fear. Really knowing it, being it, understanding it, because if you don’t, if you just let it chase you or you don’t be in it and understand it, that’s really the only way, you can actually move beyond it or transcend that fear. Because otherwise what happens; people become consumed with their fear. And if you become consumed with it, then it’s actually inevitable that it will happen. Your worst fears, if you have a lot of fear and you focus on that fear, it will happen, I believe that wholeheartedly.

So what is that fear; can you understand that? Can you deal with it? Can you understand that it’s a feeling an emotion? I never thought from that perspective, that’s a good one, be friends with your fear.

I believe that there’s some basic fear that we have: Fear of failure, fear of ridicule, fear of death and you know there is others that kind of drive a lot of fears in our social culture. If I look at my career some of the failures, first of all you need to learn from failure so much more that we learn from success. Lots of people validated that. If I look back and tell you about one of the biggest challenge, was actually 1999 the big internet boom.

I was CTO of an internet startup called Brainplay and we did a joint venture with KBtoys. We put 80 million dollars into the business and we had 100 million dollar post valuation and we spend 40 million on TV advertisement in six months. We were bringing people to us in a big way and they were awesome commercials and I spend 10 million on hardware and software alone. And some of the challenges that we had, I was buying Sun hardware and they were having heat catch issues which means: they were blaming these machines, we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of these machines and they would reboot in the middle of a transaction and Sun was blaming it on this heat catch issues on sun flares. Which is incredible; I’m talking about this machine is rebooting and you’re telling me it’s because the sun is having a flare right now? Yes, yes, we’re working on the problem. So I was dealing with that and we spend millions of dollars on hardware and we’re into November, and we’re in the toy business and literally we do 80% of our business in a six weeks period of time, between thanksgiving and Christmas.

Everything looked good going into thanksgiving week and all of a sudden we have a 20% plus increase in volume, huge volume. We started to see an inverted curve in performance on our website and we didn’t know what the problem was. It was a major performance issue and I was literally sleeping on a couch in my office Thanksgiving week. We had company come in from out of town and they had to the office on Thanksgiving Day to bring me dinner and say hi and that was pretty miserable.

So I spent the rest of my career after that to keep from doing that. That was a big lesson, a big failure lesson. So what happened was, we figured it out four or five days, what this problem was. It was technical, a very technical database cooling issue, we build our own database pools and they were; you know just the way it works, when the volume went up we hit a performance problem that caused it to go down, we were literally losing two to three million dollars a day in revenue. And then we figured it out, we fixed it in an hour after like five days of losing fifty million buck in revenue. As it turns out the next Monday wall street journal named us the best toy site on the internet. What, how did that happen? as it turns out they have actually done there evaluation about two weeks before, so they missed the bad part which is great and that then pushed us in a great place and we ended up acquiring the big fish in our pond, which was eToys, and that company went on to actual be acquired by Toys Are Us today. So Toys Are Us has that technology.

So that was one of the most; I mean if I looked at it, sleeping on the couch, life was about to end, I don’t think I was going to survive if we didn’t fix this thing you know, I was going to die. That’s how bad it felt you know and then looking back it’s like; No, life wasn’t going to end but I never put myself, because of that experience, I never put myself in that situation again. In terms of, I learn so much from that, the risks that we took, the technology change is such a big change in the short period of time that we got a lot smarter about: how do you handle that technology? How do you transition? How do you launch something and still take the risks that are necessary to get the market but not so much that it cost you fifteen plus millions dollars?