Every now and then, you hear something for which you don’t have a default response. Something so out there, you’re speechless. Had a moment like that while talking entrepreneurship with some young guy on LinkedIn, the other day. He was one of those progressive, liberal types — I’m always walking on thin ice with that bunch. So the words that came out of his mouth shouldn’t have surprised me.
“My biggest problem,” he began, “is that I can’t always figure out how to enjoy the day-to-day of running my business, you know?” He went on for a while. But at that point, he had lost me. What? Did he say he’s trying to enjoy every day of the business? I was confused. Then it dawned upon me: He was trying to be happy running his business.
Upon realizing that, I just had to interrupt him. “Wait, let’s double back on something. Did you say you were having problems enjoying running your business?” I asked.
“But why? What made you assume that was the best idea?”
He thought for a minute. And then answered with the longer equivalent of, “Why not?” And that’s when I went blank.
I don’t expect to enjoy what I do every day. Sure, I do some cool things. My company makes trading bots, for goodness sake. Try getting bored of those. There’s never a dull moment around here. And yet the daily routine is sometimes soul-crushing. At the end of some 14-hours days, I’m merely a shell of a person. It’s not that the work is meaningless. We make some positive little changes around here. For instance, I recently became the sponsor of a young artist in Siberia. Purpose isn’t the problem. The problem is there’s a limit to how much discomfort people can take.
Sure, your capacity for pain can increase. But it takes a while. And it’s not hard to bump up against the fence, no matter how much you move it. I’ve been working 90–100 hours a week for just over a couple months, now. Before that, it was 70–80 hours a week for more than a year. So I’ve had plenty of time to acclimatize. And yet, life is pain.
All this discomfort seems perfectly reasonable to me. After all, I’m running a business. It’s not about me, anymore. It’s about the company. Your happiness is not the company’s concern. Is it a good idea to hate your life every day when you come to work? No. That’s not what I’m suggesting. But do you need to be overjoyed every time you walk through the front door? Also no. Because if you are, you have to ask yourself, “Am I really pushing myself to my limits?” Because if you’re not, failure is certain. This isn’t college. You can’t just fail a class five times and retake it. Failure has consequences in the world of business. And I think you should pay attention to that instead of the amount of fun you have every day.