About a week ago, I wrote a post that decried the rampant overabundance of pithy posts and self-help quotes called Fuck You, Startup Yoda.
Yet here I am about to write a post that is specifically a self-help post. But here is the rub. It’s not about helping you.
It’s all about me.
Sound selfish? Well it is. I know, my inner mom voice is agreeing with you that it is wrong to be selfish.
But its not.
A entrepreneur is many things, and while it make not seem to be true, most often, selfish is not one of them. Founders put it all on the line to make sure that their visions become reality. And “it,” usually consists of their health, sanity and emotional well-being.
But thats ok you say. Once we win, it’s all good.
Yes, along with a lack of selfishness, most entrepreneurs are also overly optimistic.
The truth is that you are going to fail. In fact, the most successful companies are the ones that understand that failure is part of the process and engage innovative ways to manage failure in order to optimize success.
But if, after all the optimizing your company still fails, what are you left with?
I am at the core of everything I do. Me. Yes, there are dozens and dozens of people that help in the success of the companies we build, but strip away everything, and before we get to nothingness, we get to ourselves. The true ourselves that only we know.
And, for some reason, we have been taught that tending to that core being is selfish, and selfish is bad.
Why? What about ensuring that our core being is strong is wrong?
Take a moment and think about the first thing you do each morning. Do you reach for yourself, or do you reach for something else?
Jerry Colonna is a CEO coach, and he once challenged a room full of entrepreneurs with that question.
“I read email first.” I responded. “It’s for me, though. I want to make sure there are no fires I have to deal with.”
“Is it?” Jerry asked. “Is it for you? Sounds like its for your business, your employees, your clients…”
He was right.
Jerry is one of those people that enters your brain and refuses to leave, even as you actively work to reject his hippie bullshit as the ravings of a bygone era. The problem with guys like Jerry and Brad Feld, is that their simple questions crack your skull open and force you to look – really look – at what is inside, with a naked truth that is usually reserved for your sixth year of weekly therapy.
Ok, enough of my namedropping.
Let’s get back to me.
Several months ago I realized that I had no more to give. I was spending every waking moment either working on my company or helping others with theirs. I was traveling a couple of a days a week, sometimes because it had a direct relation to my business, or my FOMO was in such high-gear that I was afraid that not going would somehow be detrimental.
My tank was at empty. I sat in my chair playing Xbox, and my brain was not recognizing shapes. I kept dying over and over, and finally I just tossed the controller at the tv and walked away.
I was done.
As I laid down in my bed Jerry’s question came back into my brain. “When you wake up, what is the first thing you reach for? Is it you or something else?”
It was time for it to be me.
Over the course of the next several months I put myself first in a real, complete way. I made myself matter to me.
And I realized something. When we put anything in front of ourselves, we are proving that we matter less than something, anything else. We are not as important as something else.
Usually, it’s our company. So we work 23 hours a day. Or its our significant other (even if they have fur and four legs). So we stop working. Or maybe it’s the companies you have invested in, or your parent’s computer problems. Or whatever. It doesn’t matter.
As long as you believe that something is more important than you, you will always have a Fear Of Missing Out on something more important than you.
As I became more selfish, I started to see that I also became more “Zen.” Which made seeing the solutions to problems easier. Which made motivating others easier. Which made production go up.
As I became more selfish, it was easier for me to tell others what I needed. What I needed became clearer, and it was easier to separate what I need from what I want.
Yes. I realized that if I was selfish, and cared about me, then I could kick more ass, which would create more value.
That, in essence, my selfishness was actually beneficial to the people (investors, employees, family, etc.) that I once put ahead of me.
More importantly, I was happier.
Who knew that honesty + selfishness = happiness?
I do now.