I took a 10 days trip to Taiwan.
A personal retreat.
To hit the reset button and to start 2017 right.
It was also a good chance to take time off and do some thinking. About the company, about life, about my wife and about me.
I finished reading Shoe Dog, a memoir by the founder of NIKE and how it got started. I chanced upon the book after my colleague Iccha, who is also an avid reader, brought it to work one day.
There were many things I could relate to from the book, from Phil’s (founder) shoe sourcing adventure, mishaps, ever growing problems, love and passion for sport and family.
- Grow or die
- Your team makes or breaks the company
- We get more problems as we grow, not less
- Life, is about more than just money
- Luck matters.
If you haven’t you totally should get it.
Back to 2016, what a year. The company grew, made more money, raised more money. It also operated at higher cost, had more operating problems. We moved offices, started paying ourselves a little more decently and had a bigger team. I moved to a new place and thankfully am about to be a father as well.
All these happened in less than 10 months and while we closing last quarter, I realized I was burning out. I grew tired, everything looked bleak, profitability seems further away. I had doubts about the company. The founders made plans, we discussed about layoffs, paycut, All sorts of worst case scenario played out in my mind. We weren’t sure if we were in it till the end.
It was until the trip away that I managed to take a step back to realize what I was thinking. This article on a Medium pretty much sums up what I was thinking:
1. In life, your only opponent is yourself.
I treated everything like it was zero-sum when there was so much else to gain.
That’s the chess mindset. And it holds you back.
In Tetris, you’re only playing against time and the never-ending flow of pieces from top to bottom. The mindset is internally focused — you are challenging yourself to correctly manipulate a random stream of inputs into an orderly configuration. There’s no final boss. No blame to assign.
The real game of life is completely internal. There really are no big, bad enemies who exist to make you suffer. There is no absolute right or wrong move that a certain opponent can punish.
I realized it was internal, it was fear. Fear has been rearing his ugly head. Fear got me thinking that we will run out of money and close. Fear got me think about quitting, even though we still had a product people were paying for.
This is what we learnt. Tests started with a maximum score of 100 and points were deducted for every wrong answer. If tests started at zero and awarded points for every correct answer, we would be encouraged to continue doing better. Instead, we learn to fear mistakes and point them out in others.
Startups start at zero and earn points along the way. We expand our strengths instead of minimize our weaknesses. There is no maximum score. Steady progress, not expected outcome, is the measuring stick.
via A manager’s FAQ
We started with almost nothing and we’ve created a product that is shipping by the thousands every month. Fear is a good motivator, and it should feel like a driving force but I’ve let fear stopped me from moving forward.
Steady progress, is what I should be doing. Sure, BG may have to course-correct along the way, but we should always be moving with a purpose. I should always be moving with the purpose, and that purpose is to build and create value, whatever it may be, and it should be an enjoyable process that makes me feel alive.
“When you make something, when you improve something, when you deliver something, when you add some new thing or service to the lives of strangers, making them happier, or healthier, or safer, or better, and when you do it all crisply and efficiently, smartly, the way everything should be done but so seldom is—you’re participating more fully in the whole grand human drama. More than simply alive, you’re helping others to live more fully, and if that’s business, all right, call me a businessman. Maybe it will grow on me. THERE”
― Phil Knight,