Mojito Island

“Ridiculous yachts and private planes and big limousines don’t make people enjoy life more”
Richard Branson, Virgin Group founder:

“Humans are generally not built to derive sustainable happiness from sipping mojitos on a picturesque island somewhere in the Pacific. Once you’ve tasted the sweetness of a dedicated purpose, it’s near impossible to be content just sitting on the sidelines”
— David Heinemeier Hansson, 37signals

“I wish I had not sold it to [Yahoo]. The cash and freedom do not even come close; I would rather work on a big, popular product”
— Joshua Schachter, founder of

Kiwi business people are often criticised for a lack of ambition—selling out once they have a bach, a boat and a BMW.

I agree we should all aim all aim higher than this, but I don’t think this means aiming for a private jet or super yacht instead.

If you measure yourself based on how many expensive toys you can buy, you’re never going to be satisfied.

The reason is simple: there is always another level above – a more expensive car, a bigger house, a longer race. As soon as you have achieved something, you quickly normalise it and start to take it for granted. Then you start to compare yourself to those who are slightly ahead of you. Your appetite is always slightly bigger than your wallet.

To make this worse, if you’re lucky enough to be part of something that is successful, the first thing people ask afterwards is, “What are you going to do next?” That can weigh you down, take my word for it!

So it pays to think about what you really enjoy.

Consider this formula, from hotelier Chip Conley’s TED Talk:

How much time do you spend on each part of that equation? Those who understand how fractions work realise that the idea is to focus on increasing the numerator (on the top) not the denominator.

It’s hard to describe how much better it is to work on something that you care about, unless you’ve experienced it yourself. It’s not a factor of two or three times better, it’s more like 100 or 1,000 times. If you don’t understand this, go and work for a large corporate for a while.

Likewise, once you’ve been part of something as exciting as a startup that has momentum, and the rewards that come from that, sitting on the sidelines is going to feel like a step backwards. Even the biggest boat you can buy probably won’t compensate.

So, enjoy the walk. Think about why you’re doing all of this in the first place. If you’re lucky enough to work on a new venture and create your own job, appreciate the opportunity and try to enjoy it. Financial rewards are a way to keep score, but don’t get too hung up on them. Even if you do all of the above, it still may not work out the way you hope.

3 thoughts on “Mojito Island”

  1. Superb post. When I was first “interviewed” for CreativeHQ I remember saying “You spend a lot of time at work, I intend to enjoy it”. It’s still true.

    And, like you say, sometimes things don’t work out the way you hope … and I miss not being able to work on the things I want to work on, and not being able to change those aspects of the world I want to change. But I’m also enjoying being part of a bigger team, working on *great* stuff with the very highest expectations of quality and not having to stress about raising cash or dropping my family into a financial pit.

    (startups are for the young, discuss)

    Great post.

    1. I can argue this either way, I think.

      It’s definitely true that younger people are cheaper and more able to commit the time and effort that is required to get some ventures off the ground, and with the necessary naivety. Plus, there is a lot to be said for being pre-mortgage. A group of hungry kids with a laptop can achieve a lot – often more than a massive company.

      On the other hand, a bit of experience can be pretty bloody useful. As I said in one of these posts, the hard part with most tech ventures, it seems, is getting your head around a repeatable sales process. Age can be one of the factors that makes it more difficult to be taken seriously by potential customers.

      From an investors perspective what is important is scrappy execution. I’m not sure that is reserved for a specific age group.

  2. The difference between pre-mortgage (and I use that hyphen only because you did and in the knowledge that SM doesn’t believe in them) and post-mortgage is that post-mortgagees, like me, actually think about their next meal before they are hungry.

    I’m not exactly sure what you mean by scrappy execution but I do know that age is certainly no barrier.

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