First of all I would like to thank each and every one of you who took the time to support me by reading my first blog <<Why start startups?>>. I got a very positive response and it was clear to me that I would continue to deliver content that helps people think in entrepreneurial ways to their benefit and that of society. With that as my aim, I thought it would be a good idea to structure my future blogs in a logical sequence.
Today, I would like to cover a very important topic when it comes to entrepreneurship and how to live a good and meaningful life in general. Before jumping into it, I will quickly go over a hypothetical story of two archetypes; Let’s call them Will and Linda. Will and Linda are the same age, they went to school together growing up. Both are now 25 years old, recently graduated from university in their respective fields and are currently working their first full-time jobs. Will is a jr. lawyer, having landing in a mid-sized firm and Linda became a graphic designer following an excruciating period in an accounting firm she briefly worked at. When Will wakes up in the morning he feels motivated by the prestige and the money — and who knows, maybe one day he’ll have even more prestige and money when he works his way up. When Linda wakes up every day, she feels motivated to be working on new and exciting projects where she can apply her creativity to solve challenging problems for clients — who knows, maybe one day she’ll be applying her skills to the most cutting edge design problems to help humans interface with intelligent machines. After a few years of this, quite unsurprisingly Will has decided that law wasn’t for him. As the days went by, so did his patience for turning the economic machine of his firm while not feeling like he was having a real positive impact on society. Linda, after a few years had worked her way up through various gigs to find herself at an innovative company for whom she leads a team developing cutting edge user interfaces. Every day, Linda gets to live her dream by advancing her field and her passion simultaneously.
What’s the difference between these two individuals? The answer is simple, Linda had a “why?” whereas Will did not (or perhaps it was misplaced). What this amounts to is an orientation of personal or societal values which allows us to explain all of our actions as we course through life. Will went wrong because the values that drove him out of bed every day weren’t necessarily his and they weren’t the right ones to be seeking either. Many people are able to tell you what they do. Fewer can tell you how they do it and fewer still will be able to tell you why they do what they do. Take a look at figure 1.
Our “why?” is our motivation, our raison d’être. It’s an easy concept to explain and it quite possibly explains how some people are so wildly successful and happy, while others drudge through their lives day to day, just trying to get through to the next weekend. At this stage you’re probably thinking to yourself that defining your “why?” seems like a daunting task. It’s equivalent to something like asking you to choose if you believe in god or not, because ultimately the two aren’t so different and can have a similar effect.
The common answer most people will give is something like; I want to fight for world peace, I want to end the pollution of our planet or perhaps it’s just I want to get rich.. You get the point. These aren’t bad but something is missing to make them truly valid “why’s?” that we can act on. First of all, we need to try to ground our “why?” in reality, if we are going to have any chance whatsoever in achieving our aim. Otherwise, focusing on it, expecting a real outcome is just an exercise in futility. One way to approach this problem is best demonstrated in the figure 2.
In our attempt to determine our “why?”, we must look beyond what is merely passion. Two other factors to consider are; what are you good at? And what is profitable or rather — what does the market need? By adding these two factors it can give us a bearing on whether you have the adequate skillset to do something about it and if you will to able to make it happen economically. In my first example of “world peace”, it’s a noble cause, possibly the most noble, but do you have the ability to bring about world peace? Furthermore is there a political or economic model that will allow you to rally a network of people in order to accomplish it? A much more daunting task indeed when these two factors are taken into account.
Here’s my “why?”: In everything I do, I want to improve the human condition. I’ll achieve it by empowering people to embrace entrepreneurship as a primary means to help thousands of individuals solve challenging problems in a period when job security and satisfaction are low. My time is entirely dedicated to building institutions, networks, systems and content to bring me closer to my goal.
The true utility of using this model is that it allows you to align your passions with some fundamental realities which can quickly signal whether it’s possible to realise or not. That alone can put many people on the right track to accomplishing their goals. Beyond that, orienting your life towards an overarching mission can make you unstoppable. All opposition, roadblocks, setbacks will pale in comparison to your ‘’why?’’.
In summary your “why” should find itself at the intersection of your passion, your skillset and what the market wants. If this balance is achieved you will be able to bring your talents to bear to solve a problem shared by many while being guided by an inner mission so that society as a whole benefits.
In future posts I will go over how to build skills in specific areas of expertise and how to validate real market needs, but before that in my next blog I will cover how we should perceive the future.