“Don’t do it for the money.”
It’s easy to say when you have it. It’s easy to say when you aren’t scared shitless your company will go under. It’s easy to say when you aren’t living at home because you can no longer afford the rent. It’s easy to say when you don’t have investors with an excel spreadsheet masterminding your cap table. It’s even easy to say when you don’t have employees comparing the compensation package you offer to your competitor.
When you start, collecting on a huge pay day is the last thing you are worried about it. Surviving is all you care about and convincing everyone around you to believe consumes every waking hour you have. Hearing “no” a thousand times, to the point of it sounding like maybe, is the struggle you go through to get off the ground. Often you see an opportunity few people around you can see, until you turn it into a cash generating, user growing machine.
And then at some point you look around and realize everyone else has their hand out. You realize your investors aren’t going anywhere until they collect theirs. Potential employees worry about compensation first, job details second. Retail “partners” add fees to protect the margin they expected to make on every sale of your product. Vendors change the terms to better improve their cash position, despite your contract. Banks don’t care about your potential, just your balance sheet. Even customers are searching Google to figure out how to get your product for less.
It hits you like a ton of bricks when you realize everyone else is just thinking about the money.
As Mike Tyson would say…
“People want to be my friend so they can get my money…People are trying to steal my fuckin' money…You work all your life, break your fuckin' back, and a guy who doesn’t have calluses on his hands wants to take your fuckin' money…I’m gonna wind up rich…They’re stealing from me…I’m not gonna wind up broke.” ~ Mike Tyson (“Bad Intentions: The Mike Tyson Story”)
Despite all of this, don’t do it for the money.
Because when you do, it changes everything. The passion you started with turns into a spreadsheet instead of a real problem in the world. The people around you turn into costs. Your brand is referred to as an asset to be leveraged. Your customers become annoying people who won’t leave you alone. Your handshake gets replaced with a legal contract that protects you in all circumstances. You start taking short cuts expecting the acquiring company to fix it. You stop worrying about making your culture great because it won’t matter once everyone makes money.
You start destroying the very masterpiece your are trying to build.
Instead, do it because you love it. Do it because you actually give a shit about making the world a better place than you left it. Do it because making the rules is more interesting than finding a way to screw everyone. Do it because when the walls are crumbling around you, there is still no place you would rather be. Do it because a customer loving your product is sweeter than collecting a check. Do it because creating opportunity for people is better seen than politicized. Do it because you see a world yet to be created that few people even understand. Do it because hearing “no”, motivates you to make it a yes. Do it because having lived is better than having not. Do it because when you are awake in the middle of the night you believe you will find a solution to the problems you face.
Do it because no matter what happens at the end of the day you are happier after your company than before it.
If not, when you don’t have a pile of money, your company fails, or you’re on the outside looking in, you won’t be happy.
Image Credit: 401(k) via Creative Commons