Make sure judgement doesn't cloud the journey

October 29, 2011

Earlier today I was laying in bath (as you do, with a broken ankle) one leg dangled out the side, rather uncomfortably. Attempting to relax, I kicked back, reflecting on the last few weeks of life. As an overview, they’ve both been fortunate and unfortunate in different ways. Almost as if one was meant to happen to help improve the other.

So what am I going on about? Well, a little under 5 weeks ago today, I broke my ankle, after a heavy & damn right clumsy (arguably malicious) challenge on me at football. This was both painful and inconvenient (and still continues to be so), but what it did give me was plenty of time to think, and with the wonders of technology work from my bed. The extra time, which I might have normally filled with other activities, I used to plan and re-evaluate my working life.

For those of you that don’t already know, I run a web based media company called Bytewire and have been doing so for 3 years. I kicked straight out of uni into this and it’s been a roller coaster ride from day one.

Anybody who regular reads my blog will remember I wrote about a bit of a predicament we were having after being 3 years down the line and having not really achieved our goals as a company (least not the dream). If you didn’t read it, catch it here - Why web design is something I got into »

It’s definitely worth reading that first before this post.

Now, in this previous post I promised a follow up post, so here we have it.

Another few months have past and it’s been all change with my working life and company direction. After a great deal of thinking and deliberation we sat back and said, you know what.

What do WE want to be getting out of this?

Personally, professionally, and everything else that come’s with it. And it was really refreshing, like, really, really refreshing. It felt like alot of what we buried our heads in the sand with, previously, was finally being addressed.

Now I guess you’ll be wondering what sort of things we talked about and what that meant. However, I want to keep this post on a strictly personal level, so i’m not going to go into all the ins and outs of our start up company Bytewire decisions/plans.

As any Entrepreneur or business owner will tell you, you start out with a dream, something you think will be HUGE, even if it is totally unattainable in your mind right now! You’ve got to dream big. Those that do will change the world. We set out 3 years ago to build a game, then further that with follow up titles and expansions.

Truth is, we never quite made it. We received investment from a company and we blew the opportunities this very well could have opened to us. Reason we blew it, inexperience. We thought hey, you know what, we can keep all this investment money, not hire a single soul, and try and make it ourselves, then we’ll be better off. WRONG. So very WRONG. People are STRENGTH. More people equals greater STRENGTH (given you get the right people of course). Expansion was the lost KEY.

Lesson: Never consolidate in a start up, always try to expand. Of course use your head to make logical decisions. But never sit, not making the most of your resources.

What this meant for us, is, we slowly dwindled away vast amounts of our initial investment money. To the point we were at a couple of months ago. We recently made our final payment on our current office, leaving just 3 remaining months (probably less) before we would need to commit to more time there, find another, or leave.

After discussion, this would likely be our penultimate few months, if no improvements were made.

It was a stressful time!

During the few nights I spent in hospital I began to think once the last rent payment is made, it is make or break time. 3 years down the line just turned 25, i’m no longer a kid with a big dream. I’m an adult who wants to get something out of life, like a house, a new car, perhaps even a family (shudders), fly the roost and all that etc etc.

It dawned on me that, we need to make work more about us, what we need, and what we enjoy. Work should fit around our lives, not dictate them. We needed to start taking ourselves more seriously and doing all we can to make things work, in an all out attempt to make it WORTHWHILE. And in the end be able to sit back and say you know what if this isn’t worthwhile, then maybe we shouldn’t be doing it.

And this is the KEY for me. I love what I do, but in reflection we did it the wrong way round. We’re now at a point, as developers, we should have been at from the very start, ideally. Which hampered our ability in the beginning. It’s not all doom and gloom it did at least pave the way for greater things to come.

As all start up founders will know the people that have to make the greatest sacrifice are ME & YOU, the owners. When you start out, you have to accept, long unsociable hours, little financial rewards, strained relationships, and generally difficult times. And we most certainly have done this, for 3 years now. It’s gone past it’s honey moon period, when enthusiasm was rife. It’s gone into, this seriously needs to be working, or we cannot simply carry on blindly doing it. Life needs a shake up every now and again.

What we did was to both go away and identify things we would like to happen, a few things cropped up. One obvious thing was financially things had to improve, best job on the planet or not, if someone working in a Supermarket pulls more than our average wage a month (on a consistent basis), then something is wrong (of course absolutely no offense meant by this, i’m just using it as a benchmark, people can relate to). Learning new things, and tools to do our jobs better were amongst other mentioned things.

What I suggested we did was treat the next 3 months as if it were really a game. Stop all this long term thinking, like if we do that we won’t have any money left in 3 months. I mean who the f*ck cares if there’s no money left if what you’re doing does not financially support you right now! And you’ve already given it the time you feel it was due to flourish. Right?

Or planning for events like making no more money. If you don’t make any money in 3 months there’s a real business problem, right here, right now. Solve it, or it’s never going to be worth it.

Do not mistake what I am saying here for the fact we do it just for the money. It’s really not true. But as mentioned earlier it’s a key factor in life, moving out, and growing up. It cannot be forgotten.

Which leads me excellently to the title of this post. Judgement might tell you that, paying yourself more or rewarding yourself more often, can’t be done unless you’ve hit ridiculous milestones in your bank account. But you shouldn’t be thinking about that. Do not waste your time planning for the long term until you have something worth planning / protecting for! Focus on the short term, make yourself happy (don’t be greedy), focus on the reasons you work for yourself, and more importantly the benefits.

In business you must strike a balance between risk and safety. Without risk there can be little gains. Risks are everywhere, you’ll take them all the time, but when it comes to money, some people, are just less comfortable with taking risk than others.

As people we’ve all got a bit of stick or twist in us, how you answer, with personal money in your hand should be different to business money.

With business you must leave your personal money management at home.

Don’t get me wrong there is a big difference between reckless and calculated. And only you can decide where the line for you lies. But with everything in life, you do need to be able to draw lines under things and have the integrity enough to hold your head high no matter what the outcome. And also the knowledge enough to walk away from things which are not working, but still having gained valuable and useful experience.

It’s all about the experience and the journey.

If a ship opens its sails, it’ll most likely go somewhere. If you sit ashore, unsure of where the open water might take you, you’ll sure as hell go nowhere.

When you get somewhere, a long way down the road, then you plan for the future.

Right now, just live for the moment.

About me

Hello! I'm David Heward, how are you going? I'm a Senior Devops/Build Engineer, specialising in AWS & Cloud Automation. Based in London. Strong 10+ year background in Software development. Have a read of my blog. Have a look at some of my working projects. Contact me at @davehewy or on Linkedin.