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The Reasons We Startup

Totally and completely honest and true:

People’s motives for starting startups are usually mixed.

They’re usually doing it from some combination of the desire to make money, the desire to seem cool, genuine interest in the problem, and unwillingness to work for someone else.

The last two are more powerful motivators than the first two. It’s ok for founders to want to make money or to seem cool. Most do. But if the founders seem like they’re doing it just to make money or just to seem cool, they’re not likely to succeed on a big scale.

The founders who are doing it for the money will take the first sufficiently large acquisition offer, and the ones who are doing it to seem cool will rapidly discover that there are much less painful ways of seeming cool.

via Paul Graham

A ton of good stuff to marinate on via PG, but, the above paragraph caught my attention the most, especially as I think about my own career history and the motivations / drivers that set my path and plans into motion.

I have made many decisions for the primary purpose of earning money. Most of those jobs ended up “fine” but a few of them ended in colossal, catastrophic failures — but not in the way most folks think.

Instead, the failure was always the annihilation of a relationship (or two) and those are the wounds that are the most deep, the most bitter, and the most difficult to think and move on from.

A final note that’s important to capture: My reasons for building companies have not only changed as I’ve gotten older, they have changed mid-flight, even while building a serious, venture-backed project.

I used to beat myself up about these oscillations but, in short, I’ve come to realize that this is mostly unfair — life isn’t binary and the ability to change one’s mind is a real superpower that most folks (intentionally) choose to ignore.

The point is to exercise introspection, to develop the habit of asking yourself the hard questions about why you do what you do and what you really believe because these things change much more often (and more quickly) than we’re usually aware of.

Having supportive friends and folks in your life who aren’t satisfied with your mediocre outcomes and behavior is a good gut-check as we think about how we’d like to (re)start our lives in 2021.

In truth, we must be willing to upgrade our relationships so that we can upgrade our lives; a sobering and anxiety-inducing thought at the wrong time.

But we can and we must.

  1. 5

    Just on this quote of your post:

    "A final note that’s important to capture: My reasons for building companies have not only changed as I’ve gotten older, they have changed mid-flight, even while building a serious, venture-backed project."

    I would say that it is important to be able to discriminate between "deep feelings/need for change", especially whilst a project is being executed and the more-than-normal founder blues & doubt that appears now and then whilst building a Startup.

    The first one requires introspection, questioning and may call for drastic change. You word it really well in your post.

    The second one is a matter of focusing on the long-term vision, and avoiding procrastination by accomplishing meaningful tasks (even the smallest of them) successfully to regain a positive morale and momentum.

    The trick is to be able to know which one is which ;)

    1. 2

      this is why having strong folks around you is so important...

      ... they will help us understand our feelings better... often times better than ourselves!

      the only way we can get that support though is:

      Having supportive friends and folks in your life who aren’t satisfied with your mediocre outcomes and behavior is a good gut-check as we think about how we’d like to (re)start our lives in 2021.

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