What's driving you in your work?
Six years ago today, my wife and I landed in Copenhagen airport after living in New York City for a couple years. I was all fired up and ready to start my own business.
And so I did.
Originally I had wanted to do a product business, but I ended up doing services and quickly lost sight of the product.
After about a year, I gathered an advisory board to get some direction. At this meeting, and after discussing several different strategies and tactics, Thomas Madsen-Mygdal took a step back and asked: “Where’s Lars Pind in all of this? I can’t feel you. Where do you want to go? What’s driving you?”
I didn’t have a good answer, and it bugged me. And in the following years, I still didn’t manage to come up with a good answer.
Not that I didn’t come up with any. In fact, I had lots of answers. But they were all phony. Fake. Constructed to sound convincing. And they probably did convince a few people. But they didn’t convince me.
I figured it was because it was a service business, and I really wanted to be in the product business. So I tried my hand at a few of those. And came up with esoteric, complicated explanations for how this product idea was meaningful to me. “It allows people to express themselves.” Or something. I guess. Again, I wasn’t truly convinced, though I tried to sound like I was.
Over the past year, I’ve been attacking that question increasingly head-on. And I’ve had to admit that I really truly don’t care that much about software. Yes, it can be really beautiful and cool, and great design and beauty is meaningful to me whether it’s in software or hardware or art or music. But ultimately, I find people and life so much more interesting.
I used to think everyone is like this. That was one of my blind spots. “Of course everyone would spend their time learning about how humans function if they could. We all have to do real work first, then we can do what’s fun,” the voice inside my head opined. Alas, it had it wrong.
As a side note, when you find yourself saying “once I’m successful with this, I’m going to write a book about __”, it’s a good sign you might want to skip the “this” part and go straight to the “__”. Keep that in mind.
Answering that insidious little question has been a process.
Around this time last year, I hired my first coach since starting my own business. She helped me realize that working with personal development, for example by becoming a coach myself, was actually an option.
That was another blind spot. For one thing, I thought I was a bad listener because I suck at remembering things like where my friends are going on vacation. Turns out I’m actually a really good at hearing people’s true desires and seeing their potential. Incidentally, I really don’t care one ounce where people go on vacation, but I deeply care about their development and their potential. Funny, that.
Accepting that coaching might be the thing I most enjoy doing, even though there’s no clear path to the billion-dollar product business was a third blind spot. I’m still working on that one. For some reason I was always convinced that I was not only destined to build a billion-dollar company, but that I couldn’t fully accept myself unless and until I did.
I’m trying to let go of that now. Trying to let go of the need to make and believe in big plans, to know what’s next and what it’s going to look like in the end. I’m trying to just do what I enjoy and what I’m moved to do every day and see where it takes me. Trying to not think ahead any further than I absolutely have to for planning. That’s a challenge, but an important one for me.
It’s not a process that’s over yet. It’s more like a love-affair with yourself. It never ends, it just keeps getting better.
How about you? What’s driving you in your work?