2019 was topsy-turvy. For the last few years my goal has been to build a successful software product. To break free from the wage-slave existence of working 9 to 5, to dramatically increase my learning rate, and to spend my time however I chose.
I saved money from the beginning of my professional life to facilitate that, continuing to live in a 500 square-foot studio apartment as my salary went from 45k to over double that. I continued to drive my beat-up 2005 Mazda until it became more expensive to repair it than to buy a new car. I could go on.
I spent most of my free time reading books on entrepreneurship, listening to podcasts on marketing and startups, and building a few MVPs.
I recognized an opportunity to turn a one-off contracting job into a software product – and went for it. I quit my job in July, took another contracting job full-time for a month, and then began working on the product full-time.
In the next few months I bought my partner out of the company (stressful), rebuilt the product twice, emailed hundreds of businesses, met with over 20, figured out a pricing model, exhibited at a conference, and ultimately convinced 15 organizations to give my software a shot for the 2020 PIT count (read more about the product here if you’re interested).
A couple of months ago I finished the software, had the business more or less figured out, and suddenly I lost most of my motivation to continue. I had everything that I had sought since starting as a developer in 2015, and that was the problem.
When I was younger, I knew that destinations don’t bring you happiness, although journeys might. I forgot that, and so was left without a journey to give my life meaning. My life, upon reflection, follows a pattern. First, I’m unmotivated and listless. Then, I discover a goal worth pursuing, get fired up, and spend almost every free moment on it. Then, I achieve the goal or something robs it of its meaning, and I go back to square one.
This is a bad pattern. For one thing, it’s unsustainable. Each accomplishment ratchets up the requirement for the next, and I’m running out of accomplishments that feel worth devoting my entire life to. For another, it’s unhealthy. With the constant focus on future accomplishments, you can’t focus on the present. I don’t want to end up a “successful” old man who only focused on his career.
For 2020, I’m going to try something different. I have the luxury of spending my time however I want (within reason), so I will work to craft a more balanced life. Instead of escaping into work, I’ll strive to make each day an enjoyable one. Carpe diem!