On the criticality of understanding what your life’s objectives are and staying true to yourself. Also, why companies shouldn’t all be the same.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
-Polonius, from Shakespeare’s Hamlet
What is your ultimate objective in life?
Every person should be crystal clear on what they want from their life. And yet, most people are not clear.
You live your life and work at your job, but are you fulfilling the objective for your life?
I believe every person has a truth for themselves, yet few people think deeply enough about their truth. Some may want to achieve significant material wealth, others a life of leisure, and others a life of meaning.
What is true for you? What are you looking for? What do you seek for your life?
Finding Truth for Yourself
Recently, at Lila Games, one of our employees, Debashish Bindra, resigned. He was hired as the best candidate from a pool of over 3,000 who applied. He demonstrated that he had the capability and intelligence to become someone who could have been a great HR lead.
And yet, it became very clear that HR was not the path that was true for Debashish.
There was more to the story than shown in the video, including mistakes, conflicts, and deep emotional reflection. I believe that the conflicts if captured, would have made the video even more compelling. However, even this version conveys the primary message: if you are not working at a job that aligns with your ultimate passion and objective for your life, you should quit and find your truth.
Your Truth is Personal to You: Like Flavors of Ice Cream
Our world today has become increasingly divisive. It is characterized by one-dimensional thinking, virtue signaling, and a predatory instinct to attack others based on differing ideologies.
And yet, people are different. Not everyone wants the same thing or seeks the same goals.
Shouldn’t everyone have the opportunity to seek the life they want to lead? Your truth should be personal to you.
Expanding on this philosophy, I submit that companies should be considered similarly.
Why should every company be the same? Why can’t companies have different objectives and be as different as people?
Earlier this year, I was told by the head of HR at a prominent gaming company: “You must adopt work-life balance at your company!”
Why? Why should every company be the same?
In response, I told her that employees at Lila seek a massively ambitious goal and seek to become masters of their craft. “What if they don’t want work-life balance?” I asked. “Why would you force it upon them?”
More recently, I was asked to present to the founder of a very successful gaming company about Lila Games and why we founded the company. I explained that our mission was to create an opportunity platform for people to develop mastery of their craft. We intended to try and give opportunities to those who didn’t have them and to try and unlock human potential.
He looked at me with contempt and very dismissively laughed in response, saying: “We aren’t trying to save the world!”
The implication was clear; he saw me as naive by not being completely focused on financial return. He also didn’t pay attention to my presentation when it was clear our approach differed from his ideology.
He was a mercenary, and I was focused on our mission.
Last night, a fellow games company executive tried to warn me about my company: “Hey, I just have to warn you, there’s a rumor that you guys have a very hard work ethic.”
“Good,” I replied. “I would have it no other way. If people are looking for work-life balance, they should go work at Zynga. Why should every company be like Zynga?”
Whether you are a missionary or a mercenary or prefer work-life balance to work-life integration, you should determine what is true for yourself.
I often use an analogy of different flavors of ice cream. I explained to this game executive that there should be different kinds of companies, like different ice cream. There should be different flavors that fit with different kinds of environments and objectives that people may have. For some people seeking work-life balance, there should be a flavor like vanilla ice cream. And for those seeking to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible and build something super ambitious, there should be a chocolate ice cream. Not everyone will like the same flavor of ice cream, so if there are many flavors, people can choose the flavor that best fits them.
Let people choose!
Don’t Force Your Truth Onto Others
A common mistake becoming increasingly popular is the belief that there should only be one way. Based on this thinking: everyone’s truth should be the same.
Unfortunately, the liberals of yesterday have become increasingly illiberal today.
This is a mistake.
People should be able to determine for themselves how they want to live their lives. Their objectives and what is right for them should be their choice.
Stop trying to ram your ideologies down other people’s throats!
Similarly, there should be different kinds of companies and organizations. They should have different objectives, and people should be able to choose the company that best fits their objectives and values.
Missionaries vs. Mercenaries
John Doerr, the famous venture capitalist from Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, & Byers, once denoted two kinds of entrepreneurs: missionaries and mercenaries.
Doerr explained the difference as follows:
Mercenaries are driven by paranoia; missionaries are driven by passion. Mercenaries think opportunistically; missionaries think strategically. Mercenaries focus on their competitors and financial statements; missionaries focus on their customers and value statements. Mercenaries are bosses of wolf packs; missionaries are mentors or coaches of teams. Mercenaries worry about entitlements; missionaries are obsessed with making a contribution. Mercenaries are motivated by the lust for making money; missionaries, while recognizing the importance of money, are fundamentally driven by the desire to make meaning.
Why am I talking about missionaries vs. mercenaries?
I want you to be true to yourself, regardless of who else believes in you. I want to establish that even if a billionaire founder of a successful gaming company, or any other person for that matter, considers what you believe to be true with contempt, continue to believe in yourself. What’s true for one person isn’t necessarily true for another.
Tesla will become the most valuable company ever created. Elon Musk founded Tesla with a specific mission:
To accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass market electric cars to market as soon as possible.
Ironically, mission, rather than maximizing profit, has created the greatest company ever.
The greatest entrepreneur of all time and the richest person in the world believes in building a company with a mission to make the world better for humanity. At the same time, a billionaire gaming founder holds me in contempt and scoffs at mission-focused companies. Both can be true.
There are a lot of super commercially successful people in the world. They got there some way, somehow. But don’t mistake commercial success for wisdom or truth.
Even further, don’t make the mistake of believing there is only one way.
Determine your truth. Use your truth to forge the right path for your life. Listen to others and consider different perspectives, but ultimately make your own decisions.
This above all: to thine own self be true!