As a product manager, I meet a lot of interesting entrepreneurs and successful businessmen. I met a really interesting owner today. He has a really large penthouse on 5th Ave in New York and employed only 5 people. His company solves, what appears to be, a very simple problem. He has been doing this for the last 18 years and he is really good at it. So good that he is now solving completely different and far more profitable problems for his customers.
Then I remembered a two week ago meeting with another successful friend and then another plug-in developer doing really well for himself.
These meetings make me feel inadequate. I often wonder if I would do better on my own as a business owner. These guys don’t seem any smarter. They are different because they are more ambitious. They are willing to take risks or were in a situation that they had to take a chance and make it work. And so they did. Then I remember “survivorship bias“. I’m meeting the best that have made it. I do not see the many that tried and failed. Just because I see folks hat ave made it… I believe I can do it to.
Its hard to throw a big paycheck away now in the hope of making a larger payoff. Plus, for me, now.. money is not in the equation as much as it was before. Finding something really fulfilling. Starting a business just for the money does not seem that attractive. I’d rather work on something that I enjoy or believe in.
I had a great meeting with a potential partner in the UK today.
At the dinner, we all answered this question, “What would you be doing, if you won the lottery today”?
This is a fantastic interview question and also a great getting to know you question as it forces introspection. I was surprised how honest and sincere my answer was. Here is what I said:
” I dont think money is as issue for me today so winning the lottery will not change my behavior too much. I think I will still go to work. I have a great job. I dont think I appreciate what I a great job I have because I have been doing it for so long. But, I also think I might quit my job and join my dad in his business because no amount of accolades in my current job will compare to spending the few remaining years I have with my father.”
I think I made some people cry at the table.
Others followed this up by their own stories of how they shaped their own careers contrary to what their parents, especially their fathers wanted them to do. One person’s dad wanted him to be a professional football player but he decided to pursue cricket and software after he reached 5’10” and stopped growing while other goalkeepers continued to grow. Another guy told me how his parents wanted him to join the restaurant business but he decided to go anothey way after seeing the pain involved in running a restaurant – even after he paid will own way through and earned a degree in restaurant and hotel management. The fourth person on the table recounted how he wanted to be an artist but his father asked him to consider a more economically profitable career. He chose software then and then instead of picking a highly paying job at a telecoms firm, he decided to work for a small visual effects company that was doing work for Jurassic Park. Its only now, at forty, that he is beginning to pursue art again. His father still does not approve but he cares a little less about it… just a little less than before mind you.
We also discussed how selfish you have to be to be an artist. You put your work before everything else. Friends, family, wife and children included to be the best you can be.
Its really interesting… the impact your parents advice has on your career and how an honest answer opens up the table for more sharing. I think we all felt a connection at the end of what could have been a very ordinary business dinner.