Well time sure does fly – it feels like I was celebrating my 25th birthday just a couple of years ago. Now I’m 35 and I thought I’d share some reflections that I can look back on ten years from now. Over the last ten years I’ve gone from an early employee at a startup to a startup founder and investor – it’s been an incredible journey and to be perfectly honest, I still feel like I’m just getting started.
Here are a few reflections on three important lessons I’ve learned over the last ten years:
1. How you spend your time is so important – while I loved working for a company in my 20’s, I told myself that would be the last time I work for someone else. It’s not that I didn’t love what I did, or that I didn’t learn a lot while I was doing it, but I spent all day away from Daina and I was focused on one very specific part of the business.
I went through a phase where I would say things like, “my day job is x, but on nights and weekends I do y.” It felt weird, I was getting to a point where I was doing a million different projects outside of work and my time was highly fragmented.
It all came down to how I was spending my time. While I loved the experience (and learned a lot from it) what I really wanted to do was learn how to build a startup from the ground up, and Daina and I had a wild and crazy idea to do it together. Now we spend all of our time together building a company with an incredible team and technology that is disrupting a huge market. It’s more work than I could ever have imagined but it’s exactly what we dreamed of doing and we spend our days living our dream.
I no longer say, “my day job is x, but on nights and weekends I do y” – now I say exactly what we do, no more “day job” now it’s our life.
2. Focus is also so important – I wrote an article on Medium.com about focus. The lesson here was a good one and directly relates to what I just discussed. When you’re doing one thing during the day and a different thing on nights and weekends you end up getting overloaded. The result is you do an “okay” job on everything rather than a “great” job on one thing.
I can still remember working on a million “projects” – not surprisingly most of them never went anywhere. No more projects for me, now it’s all about focusing on one thing. It’s actually incredibly liberating because when you’re focused your mind can really go deep-into something, when you’re trying to do ten things at once you often rarely get below the surface on any one thing.
3. Everyone has an opinion, you have to form your own – In my 20’s I was heavily influenced by what people thought about what I was doing, how I was doing it, etc. Let’s face it, everyone is likely to have a different perspective and most people aren’t shy about sharing it with you. The challenge is, they aren’t you, and in many cases they aren’t in the same situation that you are.
That being said, if you ignore everything people tell you then you could miss out on some great advice. What I’ve learned, particularly over the last few years is how to get better at determining what opinions/advice are useful and valuable and which aren’t.
In reflecting on life at 35 I can say that my life has become a lot less about me, and in a good way. Now I care so deeply for the team that we have built, their lives, and the kind of company and culture we are building. At the end of the day I realize my happiness has less to do with me and more to do with the impact I can have on those around me.
I guess what it all boils down to is at 35 I realized that I’m still learning, still growing, and I still have a lot to learn, it’s just different lessons now.