As I stare down 40, I can tell you that there were lessons learned, and lessons I wish I had learned at home before I left for my freshman year at the University of Southern California. Now over 20 years removed from that day, I like to think I’ve picked up a few lessons along the way — and I have the literal scars to prove it.
One important lesson, particularly for the former athletes among us, is that you can absolutely play basketball after 35. Just be sure not to jump too high or play defense, and definitely don’t play in an open league against recent college grads.
Had I known this ahead of time, perhaps I would have opted for a designated shooter role and avoided the ruptured achilles, MRSA infection, and four surgeries that left me in bed for months.
Quitting is not an option
The comeback wasn’t easy — early morning PT, significant pain, days with seemingly no progress other than my ability to endure greater levels of pain, and a goal of “full recovery” that seemed far off in the distance. But I kept going, and one day about halfway through my year-long recovery a light bulb went off in my head. That light was a memory of the most important life lesson of them all — and it was from my mother.
My mother had through her words and actions taught me that, no matter what, I was not allowed to quit. If I just kept learning and going I’d eventually reach the goal and have a more positive impact on myself, my family and the world as a result.
That mindset, which helped me endure my physical pain until I recovered, is also quite helpful when it comes to company building. unitQ founders Christian and Nik gave me an opportunity to join the founding team at unitQ when I had absolutely zero operating experience. I never gave up despite the light at the end of the tunnel seemingly barely flickering at times.
Over four years later, the light at the end of the tunnel is as bright as it ever was. We have built a world class product, signed customers like Chime, Strava, Spotify, and raised rounds of funding from Accel, Creandum and Gradient Ventures.
We’ve had some great success and, like every company at this stage, have had to fight through our fair share of challenges. But we kept going. As Christian says, “we work hard to get a little better every day.” Over time those days add up. Over time the incremental improvements become giant leaps forward. Over time a group of individuals becomes a team through open discussion, a shared mission, and shared values.
I believe the values that define us, that will define our success at unitQ, are the same values that I learned from others and especially from my mother — the importance of not quitting when the going gets tough, of working hard to get a little better every day, and winning as a team.
Thanks for the advice mom. I love you.
(Anthony Heckman is Sales Director and a founding member of the unitQ team.)