Success is an elusive metric. What does it mean to succeed? I've pondered over this question a few times. I avoid reading this stuff up, though. So whatever follows here on are my own thoughts. Some influenced me, but mainly as they occurred in my head. They must be naive, for most of you.
What is Success?
According to a dictionary, Success is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. Let me, then, start with my purpose. For a long time, my only aim in life has been to live free, to pursue my curiosities while not worrying about financials. My interests aren't at the scale of solving world hunger or climate crisis. They are much simpler - build a robot or two, teach kids basic sciences, invest in people who need a break, write a book, pursue my own idea of spirituality and so on. These are highly selfish pursuits, too - I don't have any grand visions of philanthropy.
But that is what almost all of us want. Even those of us in a job, isn't that so?
I cannot define the purpose in terms of money. After all, if all I wanted was to make money, I might have done better to have worked towards a career in investment banking or other potentially high-paying career choices. Entrepreneurship, and especially Solopreneurship, seems like a path in vain. The purpose is both the journey and the destination - if that makes enough sense.
As I've mentioned many times, starting up has been my target for a long time. Well, before even the terms were fashionable. But it has taken me this long to come to a place where I can give this a fair shot without drowning myself. Along the way, I've learnt quite a bit - in terms of tech, running a company and so on. And I understand - first-hand - how hard things can actually get. I remember, though, my mentor used to say - It is one thing to know something, but it is entirely different to be able to do the thing.
I usually got things done even after they were abandoned by people with far more knowledge and experience than I did. Mostly because I felt I had to try for myself and a little because I didn't know what I was taking on. This is the part of me that wants to start up first-hand for myself because my history says I might be able to do it better! It is somewhat arrogant, but it is also confidence in my capability. It's an immense privilege to scratch an itch like that. And I am incredibly aware of that and grateful to a lot of people in my life that are allowing this to happen; taking on more than their fair share of the load. Special mentions to my wife - the primary reason I can do this; secondly, we have been aspiring to do this together for a little over a decade now. And if we play our cards right, she will soon be able to join me. As cheesy as it sounds, we do complement each other as a whole.
Frankly, it is very, very far away. And the destination is what I mentioned earlier - freedom to live my curiosity; Freedom for my wife to live her curiosities, and for our kid to live his curiosity. Even before the Steven J's quote became famous, I've always wanted to build things that will outlive me. One of the end goals is to create something larger than myself. I am not an activist by any definition of the term - so creating a movement isn't up my alley. And I am not an artist in the literal sense of that term either. So the best way, as I see it, to create something larger than myself is an organisation, a business that will outlive me. I would have arrived if I started that. And I will probably have to create multiple small ones that don't go very far before I start one that will.
The idea is to build a multi-generational business with sufficient momentum to survive bad leadership because it adds value that society needs. This aligns with my thoughts on following "hypes". I cannot follow hypes; Even as a kid, I hated falling in line. And following a hype is like falling in line. I will only build what makes sense to build. That might align with a hype because the technology becomes feasible - but never built because there is hype around it. That's just falling from the pot into the fire.
It is unrealistic to run an infinite experiment. We need a metric to decide if we are moving in the correct direction and not forgetting any of our uncompromisables. My metric looks like this:
I am taking on something that will be 18x7 until it grows wings (or burns down). So I shouldn't have too many down days in a row.
- Down days are times when you can't get yourself to do any work.
- To me, doing certain types of basic grunt work is challenging to bring myself to do. So, too many of those are bad!
- Of course, the first such occurrence is not bad. But if I am unable to find an affordance to delegate or redeem myself from the situation, then it is a warning sign.
I have a planned runway for about 18 months. I should be able to replenish the runway to keep me going. While I needn't hit a jackpot, I should make a minimum viable income.
- A minimum viable income is a revenue that isn't necessarily profitable but is needed to stay afloat - including any salaries.
- Our son's lifestyle, education or entertainment shouldn't be compromised. Yes, we could argue that it will build him some character or that it will give him perspective - frankly, it will be meaningless to have waited this long if we wanted him to go through that experience.
It should be fun. I should be as excited as I have been about keeping this going all these years. Being excited to pursue this direction doesn't mean toiling away at something that isn't working.
- Products fail all the time. Sometimes, they are just unnecessary. Other times, they are way too ahead of time. We should know when to quit those.
- We need to develop the muscle and discipline to let things be - allow them to simmer and blossom - while focusing on other shorter-term lifebuoys.
These are our guiding principles at the moment. I may revisit and revise these if I think of other factors to include here.