I’ve been laying low for a while now for many reasons that I can’t exactly put out here but I wanted to write a little about something that I’ve come to embrace - the new type of success I want to pursue.
I used to think that to build a successful business, it would require a lot of work and that would mean that large sacrifices had to be made. Time would have to be taken away from friends and family, from games and movies, from sleep even. Maybe it was the melodramatic success stories that I’ve heard that gave me the impression that one needs to feel more pain to have more gain. And while the bit about making sacrifices is true( as is the need for hard work ), I’ve come to question what sort of success that would bring.
And so I’ve spent some time watching and listening to the people I used to work with - the ones on their phones dealmaking all day and night, the ones constantly having no time for anything else other than work, the ones who resolutely and confidently say, “I’m focused on work. Everything else has to be put aside. Focus is everything.”
Some of them look like they’ll do rather well where they are. They’re moving forward with their careers, wealth collecting, relationships( it still troubles me that one friend of mine gave a disappointed look when I asked if he had a girlfriend - almost as if having one was something he had to have so that his checklist could be ticked off )
But I discovered something about myself while taking all this in - I’m not envious. Sure, I want the kind of money and shot at career progression that they seem to be having but taking their life in entirety, it seems like they’re trading off all their sources of joy and meaning for “success”.
I’ve longed struggled with the questions, “Why am I doing all this? If I do all this so that the people I care about can have an amazing life with me until we die, then why am I not making enough time for them now? Wouldn’t all this amount to nothing if I make all the sacrifices that everyone expects me to make and I find myself alone when I get to that end of the road at the peak of the mountain?”
I have my answers now. And about a month ago, an incident happened that acted as a catalyst for changes in the way I lived.
I now have no qualms about just working 9-6pm. I work more when I have to, but I no longer feel that every extra minute I work means I’m catching up on the competition. I’d rather spend those extra minutes catching up with old friends or spending time with family. They bring so much more to the table not just emotionally but also in terms of perspectives. For someone in a startup environment, this means that I’m happier, I constantly get fresh eyes on my situation and I’m kept as honest with, and about, myself as possible.
I’ve somewhat separated my work life and personal life. I used to try to answer every phonecall and every email at every possible waking moment( maybe it had something to do with doing webhosting as my first business and so being on call 24/7 was something I was conditioned to do ), but now I check my email about once or twice a day and i’ve adopted a dual phone/dual line set up. When I think i’m done with work for the day, I’m off my work phone and only the good friends who have my personal number can reach me. But the biggest thing I feel is that I don’t really care when everyone else can’t. Having this self-created space where I can retreat to is both comforting and rejuvenating.
I now have time to do things that I enjoy most. Things like reading a book( fueled by my recent purchase of a Kindle. I’ve read 11 books since 2011 came. Or 13 since I received it during Christmas 2010. ), or just watching tv or videos.
And yet, despite all the changes I’ve made, I don’t think I’ve settled for any lesser dream. My plans are still to change the world. And I still hope to make a gajillion dollars and have my product/services be used by every person in the world.
But I realise now that when people say, “Work smart”, it’s not just about maximising productivity - it’s also about putting that productivity where it matters most in a greater scheme of one’s life.