There are many paths through the garden. I used to think it was just one way, forward with a machete and a chainsaw, cutting through the rain-forests of inanimate ideas, in an attempt to sculpt pure will into reality and ultimately to a giant pay day hidden deep in the dark heart.
These temples are rarely found and remain undiscovered to most startups who take up the same fight. The jungles are ridden with corpses, overgrown and decayed beyond recognition, so much so that you don’t realize that the very you ground walk is nothing but strewn bones and sinew of past explorers, never to be heard of again.
Every once in awhile through this hack and slash you’ll stumble upon a monument to what was once a fellow traveller, the epitaph a warning for current explorers of what they did wrong and why their grave is planted bitter-sweetly here before you.
We can’t see what we don’t know, we can’t fathom or understand the vast multitudes of those who are just out of sight and who have failed, we can only see those who succeeded and who have left epitaphs to guide us through the brush. It’s just a human bias problem, our brain doesn’t work this way.
While my heart is still with startups, with taking pure passion and distilling it into action, progress and victory, ever learning and adapting, it can be draining and disparaging when you look back to reflect on your current life and those of your peers or friends.
There are other ways to success and happiness, whatever those may mean to you. I continue to think that the ultimate goal is freedom, the ability to do whatever you want, whenever you want, not having the weight on your shoulders holding you back, making you second guess if you can risk or afford the time and effort on something. Having a successful startup that you exit can give you the pay day to make this dream a reality, but it’s chances are so low that it can’t be viewed as the only way there in a sane mind (after a few years of experience at least). This is where consulting and “lifestyle” businesses come into play. Doing work on your own schedule, making income nearly passively or with only working a few hours a week or month is doable, and can be a lot easier to achieve (and sustain) than running a startup through the full game and gauntlet required.
Having a successful startup that you exit can give you the pay day to make this dream a reality, but it’s chances are so low that it can’t be viewed as the only way there in a sane mind…
Hardwork can pay off, but the alignment of your goals and actions are better suited when you run the show, bootstrapping your desires and decisions then when you are slave to the wills of your investors. While of course your client is always the real boss, there is a joy in discovering them and providing them what they want and more, and you are rewarded for it.
You can run a consulting business that takes on large contracts, small contracts, that is just you or who has an outsource team, you can build Saas services, productized consulting services, coaching programs, content items like e-books, podcasts, courses and other info products. There is a wide world out there just waiting to be exploited for your future and current pleasure.
I’m in the midst of exploring all these options, seeing what sticks, what works for me, and what I truly enjoy doing. While startups and building businesses is still core to who I am, there are more ways to do it than just one and it can take a few tries before you start to see the answers you need to keep you moving forward.