Deserve is a Toxic Word

Rowing single shell3.jpg

Deserve is a toxic word.

During my junior year in college, I trained like crazy to make the varsity boat on the crew team. Two workouts per day for six days a week during the four week Christmas holiday and on through winter training. That winter, I set a personal record for a 2000m sprint. In April, we left for Georgia and Augusta River for spring training where our coach seat raced the team to decide the varsity lineup.

We spent 10 days seat racing. Two boats would race for four minutes, stop, switch two people, turn around, do it again so coach could observe the delta. After the last switch, I felt elated when my name was called out on the varsity squad. But I didn’t race as a varsity oarsman that year.

I spent the few weeks following spring training soothing tendinitis in my wrists, not attending practice, and not working out. I thought I deserved my seat. When I finally made it back into a boat, it was clear I was slowing the team down. I had lost my speed. Coach pulled me aside and told me I was cut from the varsity.

Whenever I start a sentence with the words I deserve, I remember the run from the boathouse up the hill to my dorm with my anger, hubris and disappointment hanging around my neck.

I don’t deserve anything. I have to earn my seat every day.

Published 2013-10-03 in Culture 


I'm a partner at Redpoint. I invest in Series A and B SaaS companies. I write daily, data-driven blog posts about key questions facing startups. I co-authored the book, Winning with Data. Join more than 18,000 others receiving these blog posts by email.


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