Eating Bitterness —

Editor’s Letter : August 2017


One of Elon Musk’s Twitter followers tweeted at him “Following @elonmusk on Instagram shows an amazing life. I wonder if the ups and down he had make for a more enjoyable life?”


As per the nature of Twitter, Musk’s response was short but poignant. He stated “The reality is great highs, terrible lows and unrelenting stress. Don’t think people want to hear about the last two.”


What Elon Musk has achieved in just a few years of his career dwarfs what many of us will achieve in a lifetime, not to discount the efforts of everyone trying to create something new. Everybody loves to revel in a successful end product, but the journey to get there isn’t usually public knowledge.


This past month for us can be summed up by that single Elon Musk tweet. We hit our stride with marketing and while the subsequent gains and growth might seem small, they’re welcome victories. Just as much as we seemed to be on the right trajectory, so too were we battling other things behind-the-scenes.


The most visible face of MAEKAN is represented by the community-supported publication that you interact with on a regular basis. But the current, and largely quiet, engine humming in the background and driving us forward is our agency, MAEKAN Studio. That engine is our work with a handful of clients to help them build a brand around amazing products and followings.


We didn’t set out to do agency work. Our sights were on moving the needle in culture through our stories, community and MAEKAN Sessions. But as is often the case, finding the right mixture of creative venture and business sustainability takes time and experimentation. It often feels as though the whole thing involves experimenting in every way, from the big picture, to the finest details.


There’s only so much you can do to prepare as a start-up. There’s a balance between moving too quickly, and burning too much cash, or moving slowly and cautiously, to the point where no progress is made. Even as balance seems to be struck, unexpected financial shifts happen, and you might be stuck wondering, “how am I going to pay the bills? How is the team going to get paid in a timely manner?”


Talking about this openly isn’t to drum up sympathy. This conversation is for equipping people with the perspectives to understand that: if/when you step out and do something on your own, be prepared. There’s this mix of highs and lows you’ll endure but each extreme is invaluable to the other.


We’re always hoping to be building and moving forward, and financial bumps can certainly compromise that trajectory. As grim as things sound, I’m not sure I’d prefer it any other way, because every day I see the collective love and freedom that comes from building something we truly believe in.


There’s a Chinese saying that translates into “eat bitterness.” It means to create something meaningful out of toil and hardship. We’ve grown an appetite for it. How does the same taste to you?


Until next month,

Eugene Kan


Eugene talks about our recent strides with reinvigorating our creative processes and continuing to move forward, even as the challenges we sought to solve and the world around us continue to evolve.