Modern Plagues Afflict Observant Business Types

Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, April 25, 2016

I am Jewish.

Not the most religious, but still a regular attendee at synagogue, I am celebrating the eight days of Passover. This is God’s revenge on the Jews who are forbidden to eat bread as well as 129 other things that are tasty to remind us of the misery that our ancestors endured in Egypt under the evil reign of Pharaoh (sometimes referred to as the first venture capitalist).

The story is a simple one told by historians. They tortured us, we fled, the Red Sea parted and then we had a really good pastrami sandwich on corn rye. But first, we needed a hero – Moses. God tells Moses that he has been chosen to free the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. It is reported in one of the books of the Bible that Moses responded – “this ‘chosen people’ thing is getting a bit tiresome; would it upset your grand plans if you chose someone else?”

But God has a plan, and he sends 10 plagues down to help soften up Pharaoh and get him to see the light. I offer to you the same plagues – but with a modern interpretation.

1. Blood. The waters of Egypt become polluted and unusable. For reference, visit Flint, Michigan.

2. Frogs. This comes from the famous line – “you have to kiss a lot of them.” This means presenting your pitch deck to 83 investors who are only tire kickers, while looking for the one guy who actually owns the car.

3. Gnats. These are your pesky LinkedIn/Facebook friends who tell you how cool you are, but really only want a job.

4. Wild Animals. These are the very large gnats.

5. Pestilence. After you have been jerked around by investors, suppliers, customers, partners, co-founders and employees, you are inclined to say “Fie, a pestilence upon you all.” Trust me, that is a rational response. You will be forgiven.

6. Boils. This was designed specifically for all the Jewish children who were demanded by their pushy parents to become doctors, and when they graduated from medical school, instead of choosing neuro-micro-genetic brain surgery, picked dermatology.

7. Hail. Biblical scholars often misinterpret this plague as the cry when you are trying to get a cab in New York on a rainy night after theater. If it is cold outside that night, then you get hail.

8. Locusts. This is sometimes interpreted to mean consultants. This plague afflicts start-ups who do not have a fully formed management team and are promised a safe passage across the Red Sea if only they will enter into a six-month, non-cancelable monthly contract for services, which in retrospect will be seen as superfluous and useless. (They tell you that the water is wet.) Consultants can be spotted by business cards that contain words like – “take your business to the next level” – and the frequent use of the word “strategery.”

9. Darkness. This is that period between the day after the first raise of money for your company and the day before the last day when you either go broke or sell the company. During that time, there is only darkness. Beware the darkness. (See No. 4 above, wild animals will be in some of the cubicles.) Buy a headlamp.

10. Death of the firstborn. God is getting pretty serious at this point. No happy board meetings now, you missed your numbers, your burn rate is too high, you have no sales, your CFO quit, the code doesn’t work, and no one cares that your app will connect space aliens to shoppers at Whole Foods for free delivery of food using Space X. This one is why I still go to synagogue.

But do not lose hope. There are always things that happen that you cannot plan for and often appear when you least expect it. Moses drags the gang down to the Red Sea – the only way out – and the surf is above their pupicks (Yiddish for belly button), drowning is definitely in the cards – but as they enter the water, the sea parts and they walk across on dry land. Some people would call it the result of global warming; I call it a miracle.

Rule No. 465

Don’t question cosmic events; just be grateful.

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