The biggest tragedy for any founder isn't failure. It's becoming trapped inside a business that you don't actually like.
If you could build any type of business you want, why would you build one that makes you miserable?
Ideally you wouldn't, but it happens surprisingly often. I've interviewed 500 successful founders, and many of them can't wait to quit so they can start over and "do it right this time."
It doesn't have to be this way.
We all want different things. Many of us want to be rich. Some want fame. Others want more time, creative freedom, or the ability to work from anywhere on any schedule. It's not hard to see how a business could provide these things.
But what about more exotic desires — can a business help with those?
What if you want to hang out with your favorite celebrities? Or travel and be guaranteed to meet new friends all over the world? Or regularly eat at all the best restaurants? Or have tons of people read your writing and ideas? Or befriend successful and inspiring people from a particular field? Or get fit and stay that way?
I know people whose businesses have enabled them to do all of these things. In fact, I'm a prime example — I literally have to talk to interesting people every week, because I started an interview-based podcast.
No matter what you want in life, starting a business is a powerful way to help you get it. But you have to know what you want first.
The easiest way to figure out what you want your business to do for you is to start asking and answering questions about yourself.
This should be your first step as a founder. Before you come up with an idea, before you find a partner, before you do anything, take the time to examine who you are.
I've typed up a list of questions below. You don't need to use this exact list. It's just here to give you a rough idea of what I'm talking about:
Sure, it's a lot of questions. But any business you start might last for years or even a lifetime, so it's crazy not to spend an hour or two upfront thinking about the kind of person you've proven to be.
And be honest! Don't self-sabotage by lying to yourself about any of these questions. Later on when you're coming up with a business idea, you'll be much better equipped to evaluate whether it will make you happy (and tweak it accordingly) if you have accurate answers to these questions.
Before I started Indie Hackers, I knew I wanted something…
Having a list like this made it easy for me to throw away some of the other ideas I was considering and focus on what seems to have been the right one.
In fact, having this list helped me come up with the right idea in the first place. We often worry that constraints will limit our choices, but more often than not they simply serve as prompts to boost our creativity.
Your business can help you accomplish anything you want in life, so remember to aim high. But more importantly, just taking the time to aim at all can work wonders.