John J. Walters is a freelance associate at Wasabi Ventures.
Last week, I met up with my boss for the third time since I began working for him last year. We ended up talking until almost 11 at night, and during our conversation he told me that he didn’t want me to get too comfortable; that I shouldn’t accept where I am and what I am doing — not at my age.
On the surface, these remarks can seem callous and unnerving, especially when coming from someone who has the power to fire you. But in the context of our conversation they were encouraging. One of the hallmarks of a good job is the potential it offers you for personal growth, and that was our talk’s focus that evening.
If there is one thing I learned during this past year of working for Wasabi Ventures (actually, there are several), it’s that you need to have passion for your work or you’ll never be good enough at it to beat the competition.
Wasabi Ventures is a venture capital firm, which means we live and breathe start-ups. It is not an easy business, but it is an engaging one, and one that changes so much you never have time to get comfortable. To be perfectly honest, there are a lot of things that flat-out suck about start-up life, but there are also a lot of opportunities to pour your heart and soul into something about which you are truly passionate.
They say nobody leaves this world wishing they had spent more time at the office. So how does one balance the voracious appetite that start-ups have for time and money with one’s need for a life outside of work? If you are like me, your need for free time is matched only by your desire to achieve, which almost requires me to sort each and every moment of my life into two categories: “life” and “work,” with no common ground between the two.
My dad advises: “Find something you love doing and then trick someone into paying you to do it.” This suggests that there actually is — or can be — more common ground between “life” and “work” than we might think, and that there is a vast difference between looking back on “a life spent working” and our “life’s work.” The former becomes a waste; the latter a legacy.
I’m not sure who said it, but I once heard a quote that said, “There should never be a point when you say to yourself, ‘okay, I’m a success. I can take a nap.’” Why is that? Because comfort is a nice thing, but comfort’s ugly cousin is complacency, and a lifetime of complacency is the one thing people regret more than a life spent at the office.