Success is the journey, not the destination

There’s a fable I like about an investment banker who meets a fisherman in a small coastal fishing village. The banker is impressed with the fisherman’s catch and even more impressed when he sees that it didn’t take him that long to make it. But instead of going out to catch more fish, the fisherman tells the banker that he’s going to spend the rest of his day with his family, drinking wine, and playing guitar with his friends.

The banker was confused and told the fisherman, Really They simply spend more time catching fish. Then they buy bigger boats, build a fleet, and eventually have full control over the entire operation, from processing the fish to shipping. The fisherman moves to a big city and runs the business from there. Eventually the business goes public and the fisherman becomes wealthy. All of this takes about 20 years.

“Well, all right… what shall we do now?” asked the fisherman.

“Then comes the fun part,” the banker replied. “Then I can spend time with my family, drink wine, and play guitar with my friends.”

For entrepreneurs, success is often defined by commonly worn metrics like funding rounds, revenue growth, ROI, IPOs, etc. But as a founder, I can tell you that satisfaction doesn’t come from hitting a magic number or goal. Instead, I’ll show you how to think about it.

Success and satisfaction

The problem with pursuing endless goals is that it’s never enough. Jess Ekstrom, founder of Headband of Hope, puts it well: entrepreneur“Sometimes we think a concrete goal like a TV appearance or selling a certain number of items will give us a sense of success, but it never does,” she writes. “Then one day we wake up and realize we’re sitting on an airplane, living out our wildest dreams, but in our heads we’ve already checked into the next flight.”

The never-ending chase can lead to misery and burnout, both of which often plague entrepreneurs, plus depression: one study found that a whopping 72% of successful entrepreneurs suffer from depression or other mental health issues.

So how do we get out of the hamster wheel of “it’s never enough”? Harvard Business ReviewRon Carlucci explains that our brains are wired to reward us when we achieve our goals, specifically in the form of the neurotransmitter dopamine. But this pleasure doesn’t last long, because our brains Also It is designed to provide balance from extreme emotional states.

“The result is that we develop a hollow desire to repeat the experience that brought us that joy in the first place,” Carlucci wrote, adding that “this seemingly addictive cycle completely derails our barometer of ‘enough’ and prevents us from objectively determining whether what we’ve achieved is truly satisfying.”

The good news is that we can recalibrate these barometers by learning to see success and satisfaction as independent variables. Instead of keeping score, focus on the contributions you’ve made to society at large, the connections you’ve made, and the opportunities you’ve gained. Focusing on the quality of the work you’re doing and the life you’ve built will ultimately be much more satisfying, rather than chasing ephemeral metrics that can always be improved upon.

No, more work doesn’t make you more fulfilled

We’re all familiar with the startup founder schedule: early mornings, no showers, stress, takeout containers… the sort of thing. And yes, there are times like that. When I started my company, I had many sleepless nights and banged away at my keyboard until the sun came up. But it doesn’t have to be like this all the time.

In an Indie Hackers post on “Unpopular Opinions,” several contributors dispel the myth that every entrepreneur’s goal is to toil tirelessly in the eternal pursuit of “more.” More funding. More users. More coverage. But for an increasing number of entrepreneurs, being happy and comfortable is enough.

Magai’s Dustin Stout, for example, shared his belief that starting a business doesn’t have to be a struggle: “There are times when I’m in a pinch, but I don’t work after dinner, I don’t work on Sundays, and I try to maintain healthy work hours that don’t sacrifice time with my family,” he said.

Jay Tan of Zylvie shares a similar view, writing that your business should serve you, not the other way around. “Take time off and smell the roses, travel a bit, indulge in your hobbies,” he writes. “Most indie hackers give their life for their business and end up in a miserable situation with no work-life balance whatsoever. In my opinion, they completely miss the essence of entrepreneurship.”

These may fall into the “unpopular opinion” category, but in fact, this way of thinking is everywhere these days. And that’s a good thing. You only live once, and you never know what tomorrow will bring. Striving miserably for some distant notion of “success” is a recipe for disaster.

Get off the pleasure treadmill

Just like any other job, working as an entrepreneur isn’t going to be fun every minute.

You don’t need to be passionate about your product, but you do need to find satisfaction in what you’re building. Twitch co-founder and serial entrepreneur Justin Kan said in a conversation with Stanford University’s eCorner that he’s been happiest in his career when he’s reached a flow state.

“For me, those moments came when I was doing something I really loved, like product development or programming,” he said. For those wondering where to start, Kang recommends looking inward. “What can I do every day that brings me joy? That’s what I’m thinking right now…If no one was paying me, if no one was watching, if it was just for my own edification, what would I do?”

Though Kang had all the typical metrics of success, he still found himself comparing himself to others and feeling like he had more to achieve, and he says he let go of that not because he’d finally “made it.”

“I went through certain events in my life that made me realize that this was a never-ending cycle of pleasure, that I was always dissatisfied, and that maybe happiness wasn’t something that came from external sources,” he explained.

Now, Kang is focused on the aspects of life that he finds fulfilling: working with people he loves and working on projects he loves. From the outside, it looks like he’s doing the same thing he’s always done, but the difference is in his mindset.

I’m not saying that every entrepreneur doesn’t need to have a goal, or that their company will magically be successful as long as they’re having fun — after all, a fisherman needed to catch a certain amount of fish before he could go home and spend time with his family and friends — but the idea that success always requires more is a myth. Sometimes, enough is enough.

#Success #journey #destination

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