Today, much like every day, I woke up excited to go to work. It’s not a feeling I had felt since I first joined the workforce, and even then, I don’t think I ever felt this motivated. The reason? I work at a startup.
My startup, which shall currently remain unnamed, is in many ways exactly what you would imagine: ambitious youth, cutting-edge technology, exciting projects, and risk, lots of risk, an unusually high amount of risk actually. To paint an accurate picture of the level of risk, understand that I joined one week not knowing if I would have a job the next, and I would do it all over again.
Let me be clear, this is not my first job out of college, I am of sound mind and body, and I was not unemployed. In fact, I had a great job. I worked in Downtown LA (at the Deloitte building to be precise) where I had a corner office with a view of the city and earned an above-average salary. So why, then, would I leave? Why not, I ask back.
Sure, I gave up financial stability, job security, and the comfort of the familiar. But there is never truly a real guarantee that you will not lose your well-established job tomorrow (or that you’ll succeed in it). The difference is that at a startup this is not a secret. However, instead of focusing on the negatives, I chose to focus on the positives, among which are the following:
• Opportunity: While your contributions at a large company may (or may not) be appreciated, they are likely to be but a drop in the bucket. At a startup you can make waves! For example, with no more than 5 years of experience in my field, I could only suggest ideas that more often than not led to nothing at my old job. Here, I am impacting processes and procedures. I am bringing about efficiencies that previous employers could only wish to accomplish. At the same time, opportunity has many faces at a startup. Specifically, there is no task too small or too large for anyone on the team, and thus you are able to wear many different hats and take on responsibilities unimaginable at an average desk job.
• Excitement: I may not have been struck by lightening only to be in a coma for 9 months and wake up a speedster, but I do have some of the excitement of being the fastest man alive. I effectively work at STAR Labs, or at the very least it sure feels like it. My startup is past the handful of nerds in a garage stage and is now leasing a large R&D building that both looks and feels like the birthplace of a particle accelerator. That alone, is inspiring. The real magic however, lies just past the facade and among the rows and rows of overachieving, multicultural, ambitious peers who are literally developing the future. I cannot think of many more exciting things than, well, trying to change the world.
• Happiness: This is the part where I acknowledge the fact that startups are not for everyone. I am completely aware that the same water that softens the potato also hardens the egg. Some people prefer a routine life, without challenges, without change, without risk, and that’s ok. But if you’re like me, you’re averse to the ordinary and crave the extraordinary, (to a degree) the avant-garde. If you’re in this pioneering camp, a startup will not only satisfy your needs, it will bring about something that you likely lost along the way ever since you first started paying bills: Happiness. More specifically, the happiness that comes with following your dreams.
• Regret: Lastly, there is perhaps one single most important reason why I decided to join my startup, and that is regret, or in this case the lack thereof. I can say with absolute confidence that I would have always regretted not taking this opportunity, even at the cost of its almost insurmountable amount of risk. This, I believe speaks to more than just joining a startup; taking calculated risks, pertains to a way of life.
Ultimately, I would much rather live a life filled with rich experiences that may or may not work out, than look back at the end of my life longing to have done what I did not have the courage to do at the time. Thus, at the end of the day, if you’re wondering whether to take a leap of faith, be it with joining a startup or otherwise, ask yourself: What type of life do you want to live?
(Featured Image by: RawPixel)