On startups, ‘normality’ and finding real purpose.
So we’ve all been there. Expectations. From others, from yourself,… those we can meet and those that we can’t. Better yet, those that we should strive to meet and those that are simply, not-about-you.
Take parents for example.
Accidentally overhearing a parent say they’re frustrated/concerned about the fact you’re working in a startup, or learning how to hack. ‘You did so well at school’ , they say, quoting your past degrees, ‘why not get a proper job’?
A proper?. Oh man.
‘Why not be like’, they continue, ‘that Joe [insert name of one working at big consulting firm or other] who I heard (from instagram) is doing really well and, oh, has just asked his high school sweetheart to marry him??!’
Ah, Joe. I’m happy for Joe, I really am. I do wish him and his girlfriend-fiancé the best in the world.
But that’s, simply, not for me. Not, right now.
But we do that. We are sometimes made to feel, or make ourselves feel, that we’re failing somewhat, or are not ‘good enough’. Good enough by whose standards, though? Society’s? Our loved ones’? By what the books say and the stories films tell?
As much as disruption’s the-hot-new-thing-now, I guess we’re still slow to accept the notion that different is good, that disruption is good, and that maybe what’s supposedly ‘dysfunctional’ or ‘weird’ — aka building a business around hacking — might be exactly what someone (or society) needs.
We grow up thinking life will happen as XYZ. And yet life — real life — may interrupt that linear domino-hits-domino-falls-as-its-supposed-to (school-university-job-promotion-marriage-kid-more job-kid etc) sometimes, and you end up in what some might call ‘dysfunctionality’. They’ll say your dominos are tilted or your table’s at a different angle so XYZ doesn’t really equal XYZ for you.
So what if life doesn’t follow the norm and, ok, what if you should have figured it out by now but still don’t know whether you’ll have a job tomorrow, or have the faintest idea what 3 months down the line will bring? Should you feel small for that, or be discouraged? Who gets to define what the norm is anyway, and doesn’t (shouldn’t) that keep on evolving?
As much as we have made tremendous progress in accepting disruption, welcoming failure and challenging the status quo, even those who are progressive and contemporary thinkers will at times revert back to what’s safe, comfortable, or ‘better’.
So we’ve still got some way to go.
I don’t know about you but I much rather lead a curious than a ‘normal’ or ‘comfortable’ life.
Especially if by the latter you mean I would have to turn my back on not settling down right away, not living the craziness that is building and breathing a startup, the thrill of exploring what no-one has explored before, the gratitude I feel working with some of the most fascinating — insert, if you want, ‘weird’ — people I have ever met. Or ignore the fact that deep down nothing else felt like it gave me a sense of meaning, purpose and made my heart beat and my blood boil as much as what I’m doing right now, and feeling that I could, perhaps, really make a difference?
No. As upsetting as it is to be made to question what you are doing with your life, it didn’t and doesn’t dissuade me; rather, it made me more resolute, determined.. and focused.
Focused on doing all that I can to make this work.
If it doesn’t.. well, at least I tried.
I’m pouring my heart and soul into it — yes it is hard and yes I’m not a cookie cutter version of myself, or what others would maybe be more comfortable with and proud of, but I can’t change who I am or escape the fact that I have never felt more — as chaotic as life is nowadays —