Creation and achievement

Most of the valuable work done in a startup is highly creative. Whether it is programming, design, communication, strategy, marketing, sales, fundraising, it is all mostly creative. The few non-creative activities can almost always be eliminated, automated or outsourced.

At the same time, there’s the need to achieve: the company needs to launch a product, attract clients, put processes in place, become profitable, scale up, navigate unpredictable challenges, etc. If a certain degree of achievement is not attained, the company disintegrates. Some of this need for achievement is merely fear; but some of it is real.

We value creation over achievement. It took us a long time to figure this out. In the startup world, Stakhanov is overrated. We feel that our best work emerges from a state of flow. This state of flow goes beyond goals. It is in essence unconcerned with gain or loss. A purely achievement-oriented mindset is corrosive to our best work for three reasons:

  1. It is afraid of detours that might push completion dates further.
  2. Goals themselves can become mental golems and distract creative energy from the tasks at hand.
  3. A shallow result-oriented mindset tends to be very needy, and neediness turns off creativity.

Yet, there must be structure and there must be direction. Effort and achievement have their place. We feel they support creation in two ways:

  1. Showing up is immensely valuable, even on most days where we feel like goofing off. Having a daily and weekly stride of work creates vast spaces in which work (and hopefully creative flow) can happen.
  2. By asking where our work takes us, especially how that work can be of value to others, creativity can be turned in directions that create products/outcomes that can be used by others. That is what makes it a startup instead of a hobby.

Our goal is to put out our best work and make it useful to others. Deadlines and expectations fade away to the background when you feel you’re building a cathedral.

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