Meditation Lessons for Startups Pt1

On my dauntingly long list of things started and stopped without reaching any sort of proficiency, you’ll also find meditating.
A few years ago, I got a chance to participate in a secluded seminar where a buddhist monk introduced a small group of people to buddhist meditation and some of the principles behind it.

meditation

If you’ve read Siddharta or anything about buddhist meditation, you’ll remember that meditation is a life-long quest for enlightenment.
However unreachable this might sound, already engaging in the art of meditation can enrich one’s life I was told.

Unfortunately, as with everything else, success doesn’t happen overnight. Give it a few years and you might be able to laser focus your mind on not thinking anything for longer than 30 minutes.

So how can startups, or people in startups benefit from meditation?

One of the principles behind meditation that stuck with me can be perfectly applied to the way startups are sprinting a seemingly never-ending marathon.

Imagine you’re in some river or lake water. You’re in constant movement and thereby stirring up the water all the time. As a result the water is muddy and you cannot see the ground. Meditation changes this and as the mud settles down, clearness in water, i.e. mind, is achieved.

In a startup you’re at all times building the bridges while walking them, trying to check off dozens of things every day from an infinite to-do list, while being uncertain whether you do the right things at all.
I love it. I wrote more about this in my post on joining Startups.

It seems obvious to me that once in a while, the stirred up mud has to settle down to give a clear view of goals, strategy, vision, or solutions to complex issues.

If this happens from time to time both on the individual and team level, I’d imagine that less time is spend pursuing wrong directions, and the important things are pushed forward faster.

Does this mean everyone should start meditating? No, but how about drawing your own analogy to this meditation technique: focus laser-sharp on not being disturbed or drifting off, settle down for a bit, and listen to yourself.

Go.

Joining Startups

Joining a startup is an experience I wouldn’t want to miss in my life. That’s why I’ve done it twice. And I’m not alone as I see more and more people choosing the startup path – whether they do it right after graduating, already before, or leaving their well-paid Goldman Sachs, consulting or agency jobs. (Just in the last month I’ve seen three people being lured by Rocket Internet to join their worldwide clone empire, but that’s for a different post).

It’s clearly a trend – and a logical consequence of more and more people jumping to found their own startup.

We’re reading a lot about these brave entrepreneurs these days – but what about the people who buy into their visions, join their startups at early stages, and help them make it happen?

We love the startup game. We’re not entrepreneurs or founders but we definitely have some entrepreneurial spirit and some of us might risk to jump themselves later. The famous examples of the YouTube founders who were early employees of Google or the whole PayPal Mafia show this.

Joining a startup as employee #1 is a totally different game than founding it and can’t be compared. I also agree with Christina Cacioppo that joining a startup is different from joining startups. She’s written an excellent post about the difference that you should read.

Joining startups is fun. We accept the hard work with lower pay and get rewarded with an incredible team spirit that is essential to achieve things that at times sound impossible.

So who are the people who join startups?

I feel they are strong individualists and yet they’re united in their motivations and beliefs.

People who join startups are united by their strong drive and passion to create value, excel at whatever their work is and have a can-do attitude. They get motivated by seeing direct results of their work and being empowered to move things. Move things and shape and build.

They enjoy the varying degrees of ambiguity and uncertainty every startup is facing and see it as an opportunity. They grab the opportunities and take the lead with own initiatives, bringing new ideas to the table and also execute them.

They leave secure jobs with “clear” career options, move to another country without knowing whether the startup will still exist in 8 months. And they prefer to work agile, can’t stand the feeling of being restricted in strict hierarchies, facing walls when trying to get fresh approaches accepted.

So one could say that in many aspects they have certain startup founder characteristics. And yet, we know that our burden and risk is far smaller. Our upside and downside is not as extreme.

You probably noticed my switching between ‘they’ and ‘we’ as it’s hard to have an objective point of view – so I will stick to ‘we’ and ‘I’ from now on.
Joining startups also requires a certain degree of ego-centrism anyway:)

I have many learnings and stories I want to share. Expect me to write more posts: tips on evaluating whether to join a specific startup or not, the ups and downs, marketing lessons learned, the joys and lowdowns, the gap between bubble and real world, making sure you don’t work for free, team spirit, understanding differences between business people and developers,…there’s a lot going on in startup life.

I’d love to hear from you, too! Are you thinking about joining a startup? If you’re already at one, why did you do it? Do you regret it?

In the meantime as put by Chris McCann: Join a startup or do something you love. Life is too short to work at a boring company.