Forsaking Life for a Startup

My current favorite author Randy Komisar calls it ‘The Deferred Life Plan’ in his book ‘The Monk & the Riddle’The Art of Creating a Life While Making a Living:

Only the Whole Life Plan leads to personal success. It has the greatest chance of providing satisfaction & contentment that one can take to the grave, tomorrow.  In the Deferred Life Plan there will always be another prize to covet, another dissatisfaction, a new hunger to sate.  You will forever come up short.’
‘Work hard, work passionately, but apply your most precious asset – time – to what is most meaningful to you.  What are you willing to do for the rest of your life?  does not mean literally, what will you do for the rest of your life?  That question would be absurd, given the inevitability of change.  No, what the question really asks is, if your life were to end suddenly & unexpectedly tomorrow, would you be able to say you’ve been doing what you truly care about today?  What would you be willing to do for the rst of your life?  What would it take to do it right now?
The Deferred Life Plan also dictates that we divorce who we are and what we care about from what we do in that first step.  By distancing the real person from her actions, all manner of bad behavior is justified in the name of business.  “Sure she’s an SOB at work, but that’s not who she really is.  It’s only business, nothing personal.”  Fueled by ambition, we hope that in the end we will be judged by our accomplishments, not by who we are.  Silicon Valley is a place where many people excuse their own behavior as “just business”.  I wasn’t holding my breath to see the “real” them.
The distinction between drive & passion is crucial.  Passion pulls you toward something you cannot resist.  Drive pushes you toward something you feel compelled or obligated to do.  If you know nothing about yourself, you can’t tell the difference.  Once you gain a modicum of self knowledge, you can express your passion.  But it isn’t the desire to achieve some goal or payoff, and it’s not about quotas or bonuses or cashing out.  It’s not about jumping through someone else’s hoops.  That’s drive.
In the Deferred Life Plan, drive pushes us through the first step.  The second step, the deferred life itself, is the home of passion.  We hope & suppose that when we get there, we will be able to resurrect our passions on our own terms.  If we get there.
The Deferred Life Plan certainly dominates Silicon Valley.  Most people think getting rich fast provides the quickest way to get past the first step – and where can you get rich faster than Silicon Valley?  The problem is that, despite the undisguised affluence, the verdant hills, and media-generated mythos, the vast majority of people in Silicon Valley will not get rich.  Most business ideas do not find funding.  Even the majority of those that are funded – that is, vetted by very smart people who think enough of the ideas to invest in them – ultimately fail.  And the lucky winners may get to step two only to find themselves aimless, directionless.  Either they never knew what they “really” wanted to do or they’ve spent so much time in the first step and invested so much psychic capital that they’re completely lost without it.

Randy Komisar

I worked for the life I was going to have and as it turned out, that life didn’t happen as the startup failed.  Who is sorry now, me of course?  I have exhausted myself over the past 10 years and have run on empty a lot, always holding the dream of the life that was to come in front of me.  Wrong, I should have tried to integrate that life in some quantity alongside the work.  Taking a few hours or a day off, often means that I come back fresh & with renewed energy, passion & vision, not to forget ideas!  I always thought that I drove myself too hard but it seems that I wasn’t driving at all, otherwise I would have stopped for a pit stop.  No I was taken over by a Dream, without integrating into the reality of a Life.