It has been awhile since I've posted as I've had three conferences back to back, including the main TED conference in Long Beach, our own Bazaarvoice Summit in Austin, and then SXSWi. So it is perhaps ironic that I write this philosophical post about time.
Benjamin Franklin was famous for saying many things and one of them was "remember that time is money" (you can read his full quote here). In my new journey as an angel and VC investor and entrepreneurial coach, I've been having many conversations with those that have been in these fields for longer than I have. In the first half of my life, I've been singularly focused on changing the world through technology - as the entrepreneur myself versus through others. One of the more stirring conversations I had recently was with a successful investor that said, "what use is money with no time". He was frustrated in that he had a lot of money but that it had chained him to have little time and he was vigorously trying to change that.
My dad knew what he wanted in life and he was very wise in how disciplined he was. In my tribute to him after he passed away in 2008, I wrote this about one of his lessons:
Being an incredibly balanced man, he knew what he valued in life. When I was 10, Wal-Mart approached my father to carry his products in all of their stores nationwide. Dad turned them down. I remember intensely pushing my father to do the deal. Dad had declined because he did not want to ramp up his operation to that level. It would have made him extremely wealthy, potentially, but it would complicate his life. And he knew he was happy already. I remember him looking me in the eye and saying, "Son, one day you may realize the value of keeping life simple… or you may not".
As I have talked about many times at Bazaarvoice, your calling in life is what matters most. How will you create meaning? In Tony Hsieh's book, Delivering Happiness, he cites research about finding a purpose beyond yourself as one of the biggest keys to being happy. I certainly tried to hire those people whose purpose in life aligned with ours at Bazaarvoice, as I wrote about in my post on our unique recruiting practices. A book I frequently referenced at Bazaarvoice is Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor. Viktor's takeaway - and why he believed he survived the Holocaust and three concentration camps - is that he knew what his meaning in life was, and he believed that other Holocaust survivors persevered due to the same reason. My dad certainly knew what his calling was. And my mother too. And I feel lucky to have known what mine has been since a young age, as I wrote about in my tribute to my mother, who passed away last year. Now I am building on my meaning by helping other entrepreneurs achieve their dreams - hopefully creating a lot of jobs and big economic ripples - as was profiled in February's Austin Monthly profile on me.
Entrepreneurs, by definition, create a lot of meaning. You breath a soul into your company. It is the ultimate expression of who you are, what you stand for, and what you are passionate about. Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, recently wrote a terrific book about this, and I encourage you to read the slide-based summary of it. Although Reid's advice may seem like it is more geared towards anyone building their career, I consider this the newest must-read for entrepreneurs, on the order of my longtime recommendations like The Bootstrapper's Bible by Seth Godin (available for free here) and The Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton Christensen. And let's not forget one of the original American books on entrepreneurship by the man himself, Benjamin Franklin - Advice to a Young Tradesman - it is an amazing and classic source of advice for entrepreneurs.
Nothing to date has awakened my soul more than the calling to found Bazaarvoice. Once I read Chapter 4 of The Cluetrain Manifesto, which I couldn't recommend more if you really want to understand the social movement and marketing, I knew I had taken the red pill (a reference for my fellow Matrix movie fans) and I had to leave Coremetrics to pursue Bazaarvoice with my co-founder, Brant Barton. My new calling to impact many entrepreneurs may be even more impactful. We'll see, and I believe I'm off to a good start and I'm certainly having a lot of fun. But it will be hard for me to beat creating as many jobs and economic ripples as we did at Bazaarvoice.
In any case, back to time is money. Is it? Or is money time? I look at money as a utility. Of course, it allows you to provide for yourself and your family, which is most important in Maslow's hierarchy of needs. But it also allows you to do things that you may be passionate about - to get to the top of the Maslow pyramid where self-actualization and esteem can be found. To take time for those things that so many of us in the day-to-day rush have no time to do. The reason why IPOs tend to create ripple effects with many new startups emerging from them is that they build entrepreneurial knowhow in their people and they give them the utility of money so they can take more time to think about their purpose in life and what mark they want to leave on the world - versus the rush to get a new job as fast as possible (or start their own consulting firm) and stay on the day-to-day treadmill. As I wrote about in mypost on the 7 lessons learned on the journey from founder to CEO, taking the time to reflect is incredibly important. I'm proud that I had the discipline to take 5-6 weeks of vacation every year to spend that time both reflecting on my journey as an entrepreneur and also capturing time with my wife and young children. I'm now committed to 8-10 weeks per year, and I know my dad would be proud to know that. Take that time when you can. During that time, think about what is most important to you. And then go out and change the world - your way.
Perhaps what Benjamin Franklin was saying is more meta than his words suggest. Perhaps he was saying that the key to happiness is time - time to reflect, think big, and make your mark. Time to find your calling - your meaning - in life.