Despite their amazing foresight, I always thought the founding fathers were just slightly off when they wrote…we are endowed by our “creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. The problem is that I believe we get confused when we pursue happiness itself as a goal. Typically we imagine some state of being – for instance being accepted to a certain school, living in a beautiful home or attaining a certain financial status as being synonymous with happiness. It rarely is.
By contrast, working intensely on an interesting project, using your hard-earned skills to build something you are proud of – that can feel really good. Doing it as part of a team of similarly skilled, committed people – that feels even better. Sure you are pursuing a goal, hopefully a very worthy one – that makes the work even more gratifying, but you are not pursing the gratification itself. Most of us typically find our gratification and reward in the work and the process. That is what I mean by the “happiness of pursuit”. Beyond family, this is what I believe truly leads to happiness.
Last week, at SugarSync I witnessed and participated in this pursuit. Both the technical and business teams came together to prepare for an important demo for a prominent journalist. The timeline was extremely aggressive and it was a real push to be fully prepared. The team actually added components to make the goal even more challenging. I couldn’t help but notice the buzz and excitement in the office – it was about working hard and seeing those results turn into something tangible and cool. Interestingly this way overshadowed the specifics of how the meeting went.
I believe the best part of working in a startup is this happiness of pursuit. The work is challenging, the contribution everyone is making is visible, the team is tight (no room for slackers) and the goal is clear. Of course we want that work to be rewarded with a great financial outcome for the team but the day-to-day motivation has got to be from satisfaction and happiness in the pursuit of that outcome.