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A few months ago, I went to the Burning Man festival in Nevada.  This was my third year and as always, it was a hugely inspirational experience.

It gave me some time to reflect on what I’m doing with my life and inspired me to write this post.  I originally jumped into the tech startup world for two reasons:

  1. I liked creating cool things that people needed.
  2. I liked that it allowed me to see my ideas to fruition quickly.

Originally, I think the second reason was more of an insecurity to me.  I needed to prove to myself that I could have an idea, do what was necessary to make it a reality, and then have people use it.  I’ve proven this to myself a few times at this point so it’s not as much of a focus for me.

The first reason is the core reason why I’m still passionate about the tech startup world.  It’s also why I think it’s important to regularly ask yourself:

“Why are you doing what you are doing?”

There are a lot of distractions along the way.  Building a startup is an incredibly challenging experience.  It is the most rewarding thing I have ever done but is also at times the most demoralizing thing I’ve ever experienced.  Once good friends have threatened to sue me.  Twitter’s API and policy changes have destroyed months of our work and vision.  Advisors and investors have publicly questioned my ability to lead.  I see the future of the things I’ve poured my heart and soul into threatened on a regular bases.  This constant demoralization is not easy.  You need to remind yourself of the bigger reasons that inspire you to do what you are doing.

For a lot of people this is ambition to be “successful”.  I actually don’t think ambition for success is a good motivator.  Paul Graham points out that the definition of success in a startup is that the founders get rich.  Failure, is when they get nothing.  So many people in this industry kill themselves because they want to get rich.  A lot of the founders that I’ve met don’t actually enjoy what they are doing.  They are doing it because they know they have a chance at success and they tell themselves they enjoy what they are doing because of that chance.  It’s a lottery ticket.

If you are not enjoying what you are doing, you are sacrificing your well-being.  I’m not willing to sacrifice my well-being for a chance at something.

I am however wiling to enjoy what I’m doing for a real and authentic reason.  I think this is different for different people but it’s important to ask yourself the question above and find that reason.  I’m most happy when I’m making things that people need.  Broken down a little further, I’m most happy when I’m making people’s lives better.

I feel like I make people’s lives better when I write about my startup experiences and share them with people who might find themselves in my same shoes.

GoChime makes the lives of business owners better by allowing them to target people who have expressed interest to buy their products.  We also make people’s lives better when we deliver the right offers to the right people when they truly need them.  When we screw that up we are not making people’s lives better.  Constantly optimizing the latter has been and will continue to be a focus of mine.

Why is making people’s lives better so important to me?  Ultimately, I think it boils down to my belief that we are all in this together (thanks Burning Man! ;) ).  So, making people’s lives better has the potential to make all of our lives better, moving humanity forward as a whole.

If I wake up one day and can’t honestly say that I am making people’s lives better, then I will know it’s time to make a change.

(photo credit: Brandon Christopher Warren)

  • DT

    Nice work buddy!

  • Austin Evarts

    Thanks DT!