That's Life!
Maurice Duffy

Written by Maurice Duffy

"That's life (That's life)

That's what all the people say

You're riding high in April, shot down in May

But I know I'm gonna change that tune

When I'm back on top, back on top in June"


I’m reminded of this song on the 14th birthday of blackswan.

It’s hard to believe that it’s 14 years since we started out on the blackswan journey of exploration and learning. 14 years of experiencing the good, the bad and the ugly of entrepreneurship.

14 years which seem like a lifetime, and certainly a lifetime of learning about yourself and others. 14 years where I think we have done some great work and wish we had time to redo some of the things where we could have done better. 14 years where the enthusiasm of starting is tested by the harsh winds of the market, and this line certainly is true: If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable (Seneca).

You start with an ideological vision of what you want to achieve and the process and systems that you think will get you there, but soon learn a universal truth: Hell, there are no rules here - we're trying to accomplish something (Edison). It took me years to learn the greatest truth of all however: You cannot continuously improve interdependent systems and processes until you progressively perfect interdependent, interpersonal relationships (Stephen Covey). 14 years where I have gained so much and lost so much. Regrets, I have a few!

Can I look back objectively on the 14 years—of course not! Can anyone truly analyse objectively their failings and strengths. One of the learnings I have both gleaned and taken great strength from, and suffered great pain from, is that everyone has an opinion about you, sometimes based upon great insights, sometimes drawn from very little data, and that people can be both very cruel and very kind.

And the song continues…………….

"I said that's life (That's life)

And as funny as it may seem

Some people get their kicks stomping on a dream

But I don't let it, let it get me down'

Cause this fine old world, it keeps spinnin' around"

When I walked out of corporate life in 1999 after some unbelievably joyful experiences I thought I was going with good wishes and great applause. Yes I was,and many of those who worked alongside me or for me have been a great source of strength. However success does attract sometimes the worst instincts in people and a greater willingness to believe the worst. I often ask does success breed envy. Is this one of the reasons that we are so interested in gossip and so interested in spreading gossip. We as individuals find it very easy to articulate the faults of others and so hard to see our own dark side. Most people aren't aware how insidious the deadly sin of envy is. It is unhappiness at another's success, or according to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, it's a "painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage". I believe every one of us is susceptible to it, and not only that, it breeds itself.

I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king

I've been up and down and over and out and I know one thing

Each time I find myself flat on my face I pick myself up and get back in the race

But the years keep rolling on and blackswan has changed so much from the early days in the War for Talent. We have seen and ridden out the DOT-Com Boom and bust, we have grown through the period of plenty, learnt from the financial crises and are now competing and challenging as the harsh winds of austerity affect so many of our customers.14 years where we started with five, and three of us remain standing. 14 years where we have seen some great people join, where we have lost some great people, and we have been a great employer and a less than great one. We just try to keep on learning.

Our imperfections are what test us each day; the market either allows us the room for sentimentality or drives us to commercial decisions. The pursuit of a dream is not without its harsh realities and its tests of character. The dream continues to live and hopefully we can strive to do better, irrespective of what life thinks. The song continues…….

"That's life (That's life) I tell you,

I can't deny it

I thought of quitting, baby but my heart just ain't gonna buy it

And if I didn't think it was worth one single try

I'd jump right on a big bird and then I'd fly"