I didn’t know this would happen, but the journey of starting my own business has taught me more about myself than about business.
“The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.” – Bob. Lost in Translation.
And that was not in the plan. The plan was to outsource development, sell millions of copies, and get acquired by Google/Apple/Facebook/EA/Disney in a year. Fortunately, none of that happened. Instead of hiring out the development, I put my head down and learned to do it myself. Instead of selling millions of games and getting acquired, I assembled a small team and made great like-minded friends.
The MBA in me keeps wanting to go big and run fast, but the me in me keeps wanting to stay small, stay creative, and have fun. (Hey we are in the game business after all ) I would spend weeks and weeks drafting and perfecting business documents – executive summary, pitch deck, financial forecast, income / cash-flow statements, valuation, product proposal, cap table, surveys, market research…etc. I had a lot of experience in these before going on my own, and I don’t mind doing the work at all. But I always come to a point where I look back and think to myself, WHY? Didn’t I leave the corporate world to be more creative, and to work on things I love?
Maybe it’s the fact that spending time with spreadsheet gives me a (false) sense of security, a rare luxury for people outside the career track. Maybe I was addicted to talking to big names in the industry and feeling like being part of the circle. Maybe I was too used to dealing with numbers in millions, that dealing with numbers in thousands or even hundreds scared me. Going back to the old corporate tasks and habits was a way of protecting myself from all the uncertainties in starting and running a business.
And reading all the news about everyone raising millions of dollars everyday certainly didn’t help. I love TechMeme / HackerNews / VentureHacks as much as everyone else in tech, but the constant noises from the all-mighty Startup Universe was overwhelming. It made me feel like I wasn’t doing it right if I didn’t do it the way that everyone else was doing it. It made me anxious, stressed, and fearful.
Yeah. Not exactly what I had in mind. I didn’t start a business to make a shit load of money, so why should I care if Zynga is going IPO for an insane amount of money? (real money, not virtual coins) I wasn’t inspired by the noise, and couldn’t think of anyone that I’d rather be from all the startup stuff I was reading about.
I realized the people I draw inspirations from are great designers and artists, and not great businessmen. I put away the MBA hat and started looking inside. Who is Brandon Wu? What do I want? And most importantly, what do I believe in and what do I want to be?
Questions like these help me find a direction that I am happy with. A direction I can devote myself into, one that I can continue going forward even when things get tough, as they always do from time to time.
So what do I believe in? I believe in art, design, music, helping others, sharing good things in life, honesty, honesty in business, open communication, genuineness, creativity, fun, work / life balance, independence. And I believe if we are true to ourselves, good things will happen. I am going to make sure these beliefs are held at Studio Pepwuper and 30 Day Books. Why? Because “fake it until you make it” doesn’t work for me. Business is personal again, and the business needs to be a reflection of me, otherwise we lack authenticity, and we lose sight of what we set out to accomplish.
So before you make your next business decision, think about what you believe in. It might just change the way you see a deal, an opportunity, or a future.
A video shot in the hospital from Lost in Translation in Tokyo. I went to this hospital to get my wisdom teeth removed (which cost me less than $10, but that’s a story for another day), and found myself surprisingly familiar with the building. When these little document transporting robots showed up, I realized I had found the hospital in the movie by chance. :)