We all know the “Silicon Valley” siren call:
- you quit your job, and start a company, AND
- you raise money (early & often), AND
- you prioritize the growth of your company over everything else in your life, AND
- you can hang onto the reins for 5-12 years…
- you’ll be rewarded with a Scrooge McDuck sized money vault, AND
- you’ll ultimately live a fulfilled, happy life!
I used to sip this Kool-aid…
- I devoured Hacker News.
- I obsessed over my startup ideas, and let them consume my every thought.
- I soaked up every rags-to-riches startup success story that I could get my hands on.
Thankfully, over the past couple of years, I’ve started to recognize how silly all of this was, and ultimately how empty these promises can be.
Over time, I’ve come to realize that:
- I don’t really have any desire to be super rich. I’m grateful for what I have. I live comfortably, and don’t really need anything more.
- When all is said and done, wealth will not bring me happiness. It just won’t. In fact, it has the exact opposite effect in many cases.
- Being the CEO of a growth startup sucks. It’s extremely stressful, and it comes with on-going sacrifices (mostly related to time) that I’m just not willing to make.
- Many people look to entrepreneurship as an escape from the rat race (i.e. a job they hate). It’s not an escape from the rat race, it’s merely a transition to an entirely different rat race – where instead of chasing money, and position, you’re now chasing money, fame, and head count. As the founder of a VC, or angel backed company, the sad reality is that you’ll be even more trapped than back when you were an employee. As an added bonus, your performance will be under an even larger microscope.
- The joys felt after exiting a startup are short-lived. It’s common knowledge that most businesses are doomed to fail, but let’s say that luck is with you and you do happen to strike it rich… What next? Now you have a bunch of money, but your business is no longer yours. If you’re acquired, you’ll be stuck as some boring enterprise for another 2-4 years just to collect your full payout. You’ll long for that rush you felt before the acquisition, and the emptiness will eat at you.
Unfortunately, this side of the startup founder equation is seldom talked about. Conveniently, you only hear about the unicorns, the big wins, and the overnight success stories.
It’s been a long time coming, but…
I no longer have any desire to start a startup (Yay!)
Instead, I’ve selected a different path. I chose to stay employed.
The formula is simple:
- Find a job you adore (where the compensation meets or exceeds your needs)
- Keep your job
- Build fun projects on the side (limiting yourself to an hour or two each weekday outside of work)
Giving up my startup obsession set me free
I no longer dream of quitting my job. I no longer fantasize about starting my own business. I no longer obsess about business ideas with every passing thought.
I feel more balanced. I feel happier. I feel healthier. And while I do plan to continue tinkering with projects on the side, money is no longer a driver. It’s so freeing to work on a side project, and know from the outset that it doesn’t need to turn into a business that will conquer the world, and it doesn’t have to grow into something that can replace my current salary. It can just be a fun little project!
Not every technology business needs to be a unicorn. Not every side project needs to be a full-blown business with employees, an office, and investors. For all of the hype around becoming a startup founder, I honestly think that it’s just not all that it’s cracked up to be.
I don’t do comments on this site, but if you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.