When I started my first company, I motivated myself with the promise of “one day”:
One day, when we had lots of customers, I’d be able to live in a nicer place and go on more vacations.
One day, when the money rolled in, I’d be able to travel the world. I’d be able to take care of myself more. Beautiful women would want me. Smart people would seek my advice. The people I cared about would respect me.
One day, when I sold the company, I’d be able to do what I really wanted to do. I’d be able to serve something bigger than myself. I’d be able to spend time living in a foreign country, surf all around the world for extended amounts of time, or finally go on really long hikes through epic, isolated terrain. I’d publish a book, and I’d visit my friends everywhere. I’d live in a tropical paradise far from the bustle, and have time to reflect.
I believed this would all happen “once my company succeeded.” Because I had to — it would be too hard to push through otherwise. Living on air mattresses, eating rice and beans every day, slouching over my laptop from dawn to dusk. One day, though.
Ecquire may have become a legit business, but I didn’t get rich. The punch line is that in the two years since I left, I achieved all of those things. There was no plan. It just happened.
Once I stopped working on my startup, I started doing what felt right at every point, both personally and professionally. I trusted my gut to know when it was time to stay or move on, when it was time to make money or spend money, when it was time to work hard or play, when it was time to experience and when it was time to reflect.
I kept expenses low, and I took ego out of the equation. I measured myself, to quote Warren Buffett, “by how many of the people you want to have love you actually love you.”
It worked out. For the last two years I’ve lived the richest life I could imagine. I don’t have a lot of money, but I’m not broke. I’m capable of earning a salary that covers my needs — and I have the patience and discipline to push that off for a while.
At the moment, I have no more “one-days.” Sure, there will be more coming soon, but I’ve learned that wealth probably won’t be a prerequisite.
Having no more “one-days” forces me to be extremely honest with myself.
As a result of having smart, entrepreneurial friends, I have no shortage of tempting, lucrative opportunities.They all have the potential to grow my bank account. Now, however, when I think about why I want to do something, the standards are much higher.
When I think about how much money I could make, my next immediate thought is…then what? If that’s all there is, I quickly lose drive. (Why not take my skills and get a well-paying, low-stress job that carries zero risk, and enjoy my free time?) If I do another startup, it’ll be for the right reasons: getting to pick your team, autonomy, and working on something hard that matters to me.
Beyond paying the rent and saving a little, I’m just not sure what large quantities of money would give me. Basic financial security is critical, but being rich doesn’t change the laws of physics, fix your health, or get people to love you.
The way I see it, you still have to eat three times a day, sleep 6–8 hours, and go to the bathroom. Sunsets are still sunsets. I’ll still want to work hard with great people.
If having millions of dollars may free you to have experiences, then having lots of experiences frees you from pursuing millions of dollars.
So what does someone who has achieved everything do? Now that I harbor no more overrated fantasies about the future or what I haven’t done, what’s left?
The answer is to pause, look deep inside and ask, okay — what it is I really want to work on? Imagine being a millionaire with free time. What would I choose to do if I was independently wealthy?
Because I am.
Originally published at Tal Raviv.