I never thought that, at the age of 41, I’d be re-evaluating my life like I did as a 20 year old. Unlike at age 20 though, at age 41 I was evaluating my professional life.
I didn’t start Infinity Softworks with a clear focus. I had noticed, while in college, handheld computers and it seemed logical that every person on the planet would carry one. I was completing a degree in accounting but didn’t want to work in the field and, being someone who had written code for seven years but never actually thought to major in it, I thought what a great way to learn. I’ll write apps for finance and business and accounting, but for handhelds. I wrote a calculator first that solved a problem I had in college and next thing I know I’m writing calculation software for the next 18 years.
I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder about start-ups, I always wanted to be a leader, and I decided years ago that the best way to be a leader was to raise money. People listened to people that raised money, right?
The second invention story for me and Infinity Softworks is that I didn’t know what I really wanted to do when I graduated so I figured I’d start a company and do everything. With that I’d figure out which parts I loved the most and focus on those.
It took me years but crafting great products is what I love to do, and what I’d love to spend the rest of my career doing. I consider it a craft, honestly, one I have now been honing with intention since 2008, both as a product manager and as a developer.
This has always conflicted with the money/thought-leader piece though and I never could reconcile the two. If I raise money then I can craft better products with more developers, but raising money means I need to spend more time running the business and less time focused exclusively on crafting great product.
I’ve also been concerned about hiring less than A players. Crafting great product means working with the best and, let’s be honest, competition for the best in software is insane. We’ve got a great, small team where I know what I’ve got. I wasn’t certain I could find more, which distracted me from building great products.
About two months ago I realized that I had been trying to cast myself into a role that I wasn’t wonderfully suited for. Can I raise money? Sure. But that isn’t what I want to do. What I want to do is focus on customers and how they interact with my products, and sweep everything else out of the way. I want to single-mindedly hone my craft.
These thoughts were going around in my head when Fred Wilson wrote an incredible blog post that opened my eyes. After all these years of not knowing who I was or how I fit in, after all these years of being conflicted by statements like “fail fast,” I finally had a word to describe me.
Happy new year. It is grounding to realize who you are. It helps focus energy, be more efficient and relax as you enjoy your career. I hope 2015 finds you grinding out many successes.
Thanks! And happy new year to you, too.
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