The biggest problem entrepreneurs have is focus. When you’re an idea factory it’s unsurprising that even when deep into a startup you are passionate about the ideas don’t stop coming. Personally I cope with this by having a notebook and new ideas go into the back of the notebook not to be pursued until the current one has run its course.
So I don’t have any doubt that I will achieve the goal of building something great. Something impactful. But I do like to remind myself what I’d do afterwards - as part of the broader question why.
As an aside I think, the way I feel about it, being an entrepreneur is not something you choose to be or not be as a fully formed adult. I feel similarly about it as do the folks who like to pose the question “when did you choose to be gay/straight?”. A question that usually brings a smirk when people think and realize there wasn’t some point of choosing this - there’s merely a trend to be observed among those who they are attracted to. When I hear people dishing out advice on whether someone should or shouldn’t be an entrepreneur I find it a bit silly.
What do I want to achieve. What’s my end goal? Well I suppose the reality is that, as an entrepreneur whatever I set as my goal today, whatever success I have with this company, or the next, it’ll never scratch that itch. There’s a reason you see so many repeat entrepreneurs. It’s a compulsion and it’s hard to stop.
My fantasy though? Well, of course, I have a son with special needs and several years ago had to face the uncomfortable conversation with the doctor where he told us there’s a 90% chance our son will never be fully autonomous. I have a daughter, in a world that, while it is so much better for women than a century ago, women still aren’t afforded all the opportunity and advantages men have. I have a wife who has had to make do with far less out of life than she might otherwise have had, in order to support my entrepreneurial path. I have two aging parents who have sacrificed so much throughout their life for me. In short it is important to me to take care of those I love. That’s why we all do this on one level, right? Love?
For myself though? Maybe I’d piss away some money on toys for a while - though I didn’t really do that last time I made some money from a small startup exit, not sure why I’d do it from a larger one. The obvious materialist impulses seem to have worn off with age. I’d certainly travel. Been traveling all my life. Ideally I’d like the ability to go anywhere any time. But for the times in between, I do long to have a nice house with a large library. I want the freedom of time. I want to be able to sit in my library and read and write about the areas that fascinate me - the intersection of modern physics and philosophy, an itch I’ve been periodically scratching since university.
First person experience is an exceedingly rare thing in this vast universe. I choose to take advantage of it, but I also think that learning is one of the best things one can choose to do with it. So, once I have finished changing the world, I want to retire to books. Lame really - but not so bad.
Reminding myself of these modest goals - even knowing I’ll probably be unable to quit, probably feel compelled to do another startup, then another - it helps me retain my focus. None of this happens without putting all the wood behind the current arrow.
I made the mistake of selling a company early once before. It was a deeply unsatisfying experience. Seeing your vision die at the hands of others. Explaining to one’s spouse why you’re only actually getting a fraction of what you initially thought, from the sale, because of the subsequent failure of the acquiring company.
Focus on the win. Answer the big questions of life that are unrelated to my startup vision later.