I’ve been thinking about this for some time. It started nagging at me like a fruit fly and has festered into an all-out annoying bug in my ear.
Developers, coders, programmers need to grow a spine.
There is a lot to live for in this life. And someday, when you die, what will you have accomplished? I hope it includes more than your work or your professional achievements. I hope it includes the people you helped, the children you raised, the spouse you loved dearly. I hope your life is full, vibrant, and completely fulfilled. But I also hope you don’t die never having taken a risk. I hope you leave this world knowing the pleasure of losing. To know failure. To have bet on something important and then be deprived of that investment.
I hope you didn’t work a safe job, at a safe company, in a safe industry for your entire life. I hope you weren’t content chipping away at your 401k day after day, year after year.
I hope you took some risks. I hope you tried something new. I hope you learned much more than what college taught you. Because risks, losing, and the learning and soul forging qualities that those experiences give you are some of the most priceless assets you’ll acquire. A fulfilled life is inherently a risky one.
I was talking to a small startup yesterday that’s just raised $500k in a seed round. They are making $20k in monthly recurring revenue. They are desperately trying to find a key hire that will shape the technology future of this company. They were offering a competitive salary and a generous equity package. They had a candidate who they were excited about who was all but committed, but pulled out last minute because of “cold feet.” The risk was too great, he indicated.
Hold on a second—what risk? You were going to join a funded startup with revenues out of the gate. You were being offered enough salary to live comfortably and enough equity to build a wonderful outcome for yourself and your family if your hard works pays off. Where is the risk in that?
If this was an isolated experience, I would chalk it up to the presence of variables that I was obviously not privy to. Maybe the potential hire saw red flags. Maybe the timing was awful for this individual. Sure.
If this was the only time I’d experienced this attitude, I wouldn’t think twice about it. But this attitude is nearly endemic to too many programmers in my region of the country. Too many spend their time doing freelance work for others, or creating yet another meetup group in a sea of meetup groups (for resume purposes). Too many have never joined a startup or worked in a company with less than 50 people. Too many see opportunity, excitement, adventure staring them in the face—and they blink.
I’m not advocating a reckless approach to your life. You don’t have to go IPO or bust or lose your life savings on a risky stock. But you need to get outside your comfort zone. By at least a few miles.
There is no such thing as security
Hasn’t the last decade taught us anything about the world and unpredictability? My parents watched their hard earned nest egg erode at an alarming rate. The work and wealth they spent 30 years building suddenly lost its potential for returns almost overnight.
Jobs are downsized every single day. Huge companies lay off thousands of workers. I’ve watched friends sticking with “safe” jobs see themselves let go without much more than a couple months of income and a letter saying “sorry.”
The only job security is the security you create for yourself. The only way you can control your fate is to seize the reigns, not fall asleep in the caboose. The rate of change in the world increases, and more change means less stability. We need to be more nimble, adaptable, flexible, and forward-thinking. We need to seize opportunities, because the universe will never serve them up on a silver platter for you.
The motivation of risk
Think about it: when is the hardest in your life that you’ve worked? For me, it was when everything was on the line. Not just my job, but my income, my children’s schooling, and our groceries. I wasn’t working hard to impress my boss, get a promotion, or avoid a negative performance review. I was working hard to make ends meet. And I produced more, was more focused, more on-task than I’ve ever been. Having been through enough of these professional refiner’s fires, I’m not sure I would have ever chosen a different path. Your brain is a wonderful thing. You can spend your life trying to eliminate stress, or you can use stress as an amazing brain PED.
Some seemingly valid excuses for not joining a startup or taking any risks: “I don’t have time.” “I can’t work 80 hour weeks.”
I am amazed at how many people use those excuses and yet watch 15 hours or more of T.V. per week. T.V. isn’t inherently bad, but it is a distraction. If you work a 40 hour week and then watch T.V. (or video games, etc.) for 15 hours, you might as well be working in a startup. They don’t all require 80–100 hour weeks.
I know the thoughts of those who are too afraid to start something new, join a startup, or take a chance. I was one of those people. I was pushed into startup land because I was duped by a recruiter into becoming a contractor. I’ve been grateful for that awful recruiter ever since. I’ve lost plenty. I’ve got some scrapes and bruises. I sometimes have to scale back and take a safer road for a while (especially when it concerns my family). But I know I’m not going to be satisfied by settling into mediocrity.
Stop wasting your time padding your LinkedIn resume. Stop building others’ fortunes (freelance). Stop creating meetup groups like they’re some kind of real estate asset. Stop talking about ideas.
Build something. Build something great. Make it so great that it makes money. Then bring on other people who believe in you and what you’ve built so much that they’re willing to risk for it. Don’t do it only because it makes money, but let money be a reward for bringing more value to your customers. Risk, lose, learn, and then win. It takes guts. It takes a spine. If you haven’t already, grow one.
[Related, when you’re ready to join said funded startup, hit me up.]
Today’s status: (at Inspiration Point, Bryce Canyons)
My heart is pretty full today.
10 years ago, we were at our reception listening to older, “wiser” folks telling is that although we were giddy and happy, “just wait a few years.” Well we’ve waited ten, and I’ve never been more in love with this woman than I am right now.
We married young. Too young, a lot of people would say. I thank God every day for my sweet, wonderful Kim. We’ve “grown up” together in marriage. We didn’t have a merger marriage, we had a startup marriage. And through the tough times we’ve learned to rely on each other, help each other, to trust each other. Love isn’t a feeling you get when you’re around someone, it’s the state of having someone be such a part of you that their happiness is your happiness. Their joy is your joy. Their sadness is yours.
I’ll love you forever Kim.
Me and @provomayor comparing socks with a sock selfie … I think he wins. #curtissocks
@paulm (@paulmayne) in his element, destroying me at foosball and giving great startup advice. #StartupSessions (at Startup Ogden)
"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (at Sleepy Ridge Golf Course)
Me and my lady friend gonna listen to one of our fav groups, Nickel Creek. Woot! (at Kingsbury Hall)
Beautiful. Angel. Born 11:33am, 6 lbs 15 oz. Healthy, happy, blessed.
This may or may not have happened in the kitchen. #thuglife
Bad Cowboy … of the worst kind.