When I ask other founders how things are going, I’m often given the reply, “you know, living the dream”. Most times this comment is dripping with sarcasm as they slug through challenging times in their startup. Founding a business isn’t easy; in fact its incredibly difficult. However, for me, it has always been a dream. Launching, running, and growing a success technology-based startup has been my goal for as long as I can remember.
For other non-founders, the “dream” often sounds more like a nightmare. They don’t understand why anyone would want the sleepless nights, high anxiety, family tension, long work hours, low pay, etc — how could this ever be considered a “dream”?
This is what “living the dream” as a startup founder means to me:
- Working on What I Want: This is huge. I often tell people that I started my own business to feed my own bad habit: inventing. Being a startup founder allows me to wake up every morning and chose what projects I want to work on and what problems I want to solve. This freedom to chose what you work on doesn’t exist for most employees. It does for founders.
- Working with Who I Want: As an employee, your employer decides who you work with. Very often, you have little to say in the matter. As a founder, I chose who I want to work with. The “heart” of any startup is the team. We are very selective as to who we hire into our startups and spin-offs – we try hard to follow the policy of “hire slow, fire fast”. If new employees fundamentally don’t fit our culture and get along with our team, they don’t last. There are a lot of things in the startup life that are out of your control, but who you bring into your team and who you chose to work with is fully in your control. As a result, my teammates aren’t just work colleagues, they are great friends.
- Seeing the Impact of My Efforts Every Day: I’ve worked in large corporations before. The impact of my day-to-day activities was almost impossible to identify. I was one individual in a company of thousands. The lack of connection between my efforts and the impact to the company drove me crazy. Was I helping the company? Or not? Personally, to stay motivated, I have to be able to see the direct impact of my actions on the outcomes of the company. As a founder, you see this every day. The harder I work, the more successful my startups become. If I slack off, it hurts my companies. For most founders, this direct relationship between effort and outcome is what drives them to do more. This is what sustains your passion and gets you fired up for Monday mornings.
- Freedom to Manage My Work-Life Balance: I have a young family of four great children and a wonderful, supportive wife. My work-life balance is always a focus for me. My family means the world to me, and I’m not interested in ever having that change. Being a founder allows me to manage my own work-life balance, without having to ask permission to take a day off or leave early to catch one of my kids’ hockey games or see my daughter’s riding competition. My work schedule is my own. I get done what I need to get done, whatever the time of day. I’m also am able to make time for my family whenever I need to – and that means the world to them. You can’t put a value on that.
- Living with No Regrets: This is a simple mantra I live by. When it comes down to challenging life decisions, I just reflect on which decision I will regret later on in life. It makes many challenging decisions very easy to make. Being my own boss and owning my own company has always been my goal. I could have chosen to work for others and made a good living with much less stress, but I knew I would regret not having “taken a shot”. This is why I made the jump and launched a startup. No looking back now. I’ve never woken up wondering why I did it. I know that I would have regretted it had I not.
Many may question why “financial freedom” or “financial rewards” aren’t part of my “dream” definition. Don’t get me wrong, my goal (as with most founders) is to ultimately achieve financial freedom, but this outcome doesn’t make-or-break the “dream”. Regardless of the outcome of this amazing journey, I’ll always be able to proudly say that I had the great fortune of not just “living the dream” but living my dream.