If you haven’t seen HBO’s Chernobyl, you should. It’s well done, relatively short, and intense. It’s hard to spoil the show because, you know, Chernobyl but if you’re super-sensitive to that… save reading this for after you watch.
There’s one scene where the head of the plant responds to the radiation measurement of 3.6 Roentgen as “Not great, not terrible”. He’s looking for anything that will confirm that things are OK. His Confirmation Bias is hard at work. So is his Dread Aversion. So is his Regressive Bias.
In reality, the dosimeters maxed out at 3.6, which is what they were reading the real values were significantly higher.
We’re all prone to this. Startup founders are probably much more prone to this. They have to be. Everything is signalling failure. Everything is a disaster. Especially when we’re running out of money, especially when things aren’t working, clients are complaining, engineering is unhappy, shareholders want their unicorn.
So when do you pull the plug? Maybe when continuing means your personal Chernobyl… when it will cause lasting impact and sow radiation into the soil for millennia. Unless you really enjoy adrenaline, the startup, even the highs, can be terrifying. It’s good to set limits to avoid meltdowns.