When Our Startup Works For Everyone But Us
What the hell happened? We started out with big dreams of building our dream job, creating true financial independence, and just being able to do whatever we wanted on our own terms. That sounded great, right? Yet here were are, spending our days at everyone else’s behest. Our days and schedules are driven by the needs of staff, customers, and investors, all of whom mean well, but have essentially put our own goals and needs well into the back seat, and in some cases, forgotten about altogether
We are not happy. And I’m not happy. I am tired of defining myself by what is happening in the corporate infrastructure in which I work. I’ve been thinking about how often I see people roll their eyes with a ‘You know what, Charlie? Now I’m going to have to deal with you.’ face, or roll their eyes and say ‘Yeah, whatever. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.’ And what I want to tell them is that job satisfaction isn’t determined by where you work. Job satisfaction is determined by what you do. I’m sick and tired of people pointing to the success of one or two high-profile startups and making sweeping generalizations about all startups looking to scale.
My theory is that we need to stop thinking of startup founder success as being solely tied to the success of a first or second high-profile startup. It’s mystifying how that logic works, and it ignores the very real contribution that community tech like WeWork and collaborative tech like Tableau actually make to our regional economies, and the broader quality of life in those towns and cities.
Instead of pointing to specific unarguably successful startups with names like Slack, Twitter, Skype, or Foursquare, we should consider how much influence these types of companies have had on their local economy and their well-being. I’m not referring to people who attended the Harvard Business School with Tim Cook. You know what would be a better analogy? Pitch us the Amazon/Whole Foods/Pretzel store down the street and see if we’d still treat the sidewalk like a 5-star restaurant. I’m referring to the local mom-and-pop shops that have kept the local economy alive for decades with the steady infusion of venture capital and private equity.
These are the places I’m proud to call home. These are the places that I’m proud to own shares in and pay taxes to. Alright, fine. Let’s allow those people to complain. I can hear it already. It’s been said like thirty times, but every time it is said, the people rolling their eyes sound more and more like ‘me.’ My wife has said it more than once in private: Our economy is shrinking. Everyone I know has said it more than once in front of everyone else. Is it possible that people feel entitled to say it without feeling like they’re expected to support it? I would argue no. When the dominant narrative of our lifetime in America is that we are struggling, you start to believe that everyone else is suffering, too. This feels like a tipping point.
We grew, in other words, while they slept. Perhaps we’ll even end up doing the same to them, by failing to take time off work to explore our own interests more fully. What the Harbinger of 2020 Can Teach Us About Deliberate Practice In the presentation below, Distilled life coach Hannah Smith shares how a lack of sufficient focus and direction can ripe one to fail in today’s work-obsessed environment.
She outlines how her own mistakes have set her up to take action her whole life, yet give way to inaction at key moments, giving her no chance to experience truly growth — a type of growth that can lead to greater accomplishments over the long-run. Produced as part of the MozPod podcast series, this untitled talk was originally intended to focus on mindset and commitment for success outside your 9 to 5 job — a topic worthy of a broader audience and one we hope to continue exploring on the blog over the coming months.
It’s not that our intentions are pure — obviously, we want to see our friends and family succeed and live wealthy lives — but we’ve all become blocked in by what we thought would serve the best interests of the business. And ultimately, what we put ‘company’ first became the only thing that mattered. I grew up in an era where not being ‘company first’ was bad — it was considered brash, aggressive, sarcastic, and somehow less than ‘manly.’
But I never realized how out of touch I was until I stopped having to attend company events and instead caught wind of leadership drama and nepotism. Here’s the thing: When you focus on the needs of others, you lose sight of your own potential. It’s like the hippy cavemen who were obsessed with Woman’s Republic, crazy enough to get stoned in public, but unwilling to engage in genuine, meaningful conversation about masculinity, womanhood, and woman power.
They lived their lives by dogma, not logic. They followed water into rock, but never really understood the soil beneath their feet. Let’s be clear: We do not mean to say that most leaders are unsupportive of their teams. Far from it. They’re simply overwhelmed by the volume of responsibility that they have to take on. Having children is hard enough! Having employees? Unmanageable! So don’t dismiss the possibility that you, too, may be living out of sync with your own best interest. It just may be that you’re living in alignment with our former culture, where emphasis was placed on ‘company’ first, and achieving personal success was considered, well, secondary
In our current culture, investors will often stage their entire investment journey in the company of their dreams, only to come back years later, still disenchanted by the unrealistic expectations set for employees and the idea that just because you’re an investor, that doesn’t mean you know everything there is to know about your company. It’s a dangerous road, one where you can lose sight of what truly matters — because when you forget ‘you are nobody if you don’t have a company,’ you stop believing what you were taught in your very first job. When you focus on what really matters, you’ll be forced to ask questions like: Imagine if that mentality had been applied to all of our jobs instead of just the ones we loved — say, managing inspectors, managing construction crews, protecting democracy, running big companies.
Imagine if we had all accepted that the reason we were suited to harsh, demanding work, was because we excelled at it because of who we are.