I read Jeremy Lattimore’s blog post about lifestyle design on Startup Student the other day and it got me thinking. Sure, I have thought about the concept several times since I decided to found a company rather than taking a regular job, but reading that blog post made me more conscious about my decisions. Furthermore, it forced me to reflect on how starting a company is lifestyle design in many ways.
The stereotypical lifestyle design as described in David Risley’s example is to come up with a fairly cheap, easy to sell product. While I’ve not gotten around to reading Tim Ferriss‘ 4-Hour Workweek (it’s in my house in paper form, honestly), I think this is the primary example Tim uses in his defining book about lifestyle design as well. This approach is somewhat different from the approach used by Jeremy Lattimore, but the final goal is basically the same.
In my case, I had something that I desperately wanted to do. There is a theme that has been at the core of some things I have enjoyed working on over the last few years and I believe there are lots of business opportunities centered around this technology. When I set out, I did not want to start this all by myself. I wanted to have one to three other people heavily involved both to discuss plans and to verify that the idea was good. The one I wanted the most since I knew he also has an interested in the core technology was very eager to be involved and things started to happen. Now, we have a business development company involved, a pilot customer and leads to the next batch of customers as well as a possible lead to a large number of long term customers.
So, I’m starting a company and that does not exactly sound like lifestyle design. Starting a company means working long hours, with little or no pay and making things difficult for oneself. This is in many ways true, generating revenue doesn’t happen over night and the bigger your goals are, the longer it takes for that revenue stream to turn into a profit. I am willing to work long hours and I expect to have to live off my savings for a long time and get some funding to hire more people in the not too distant future, but… In the current situation, I work from home and I work when I want to rather than when some early bird has decided that I should work. I don’t feel bad about taking breaks during the day and I don’t force myself to pretend to work when I don’t think I will get anything done because I’m either too tired or my mind is preoccupied with something else. This does not mean that I’m slacking, I’m just focusing on output rather than time.
Looking back at my weekly sprints, I see that I mostly finish ahead of time and only once did I fail to complete my sprint in time. I actually worked longer hours during the failed sprint than otherwise since it was much harder than expected. Now, as I write this blog post, I am way ahead of the original schedule and we should have no technical problems meeting our first major milestone, first customer live.
Is this lifestyle design? To me, it is. I’ve been coding since I was 11 or so and I started because it was interesting and fun. The service we are developing is something I would like to use myself and I’m having fun developing it. While I don’t have a steady stream of money flowing into the bank at the moment, I believe that this service will make money and generate a profit at some point and while getting there, I am having fun coding and writing blog posts. I expected to have fun along the way when I decided to try out the startup life and I feel in control. I think this is very much in tune with Jeremy Lattimore’s lifestyle design thoughts.