Podcasts to me, like for millions of people, have become an amazing staple this year. Forget TV: Podcasts are my episodic content. Tara Gentile's Profit Power Pursuit, APM's Marketplace Tech and NPR's How I Built This have transformed my business.
One of the most valuable podcast episode you can listen to right now, though, is Basecamp and Ruby on Rails founder David Heinemeier Hansson on The Tim Ferriss Show. It is a monster of a conversation, clocking in at 3 and a half hours and touching on everything from smart productivity to brilliant learning strategies to startup mistakes.
The absolute best reason to listen is this gem:
Expectations, not outcomes, govern the happiness of your perceived reality
The line is originally from Heinemeier's own stellar piece about becoming a millionaire in The Observer. He and Ferriss spend a significant amount of time breaking down exactly what it means.
Here are three high-level lessons, though you'll want to listen to the whole discussion:
1. Develop skillsets necessary for after you "make it". If you are doing 100 hour weeks, sacrificing time with friends and family and not developing any other interests aside from your business, then how do you expect to be happy once you sell your business and suddenly have a life composed of only undeveloped friends and family relationships and withered interests?
The key: Maintain your outside pursuits, however minor the effort. In my own case, selling my first startup didn't land me in early retirement, but it did bring up many emotional issues on how a major part of my life was now gone. Imagine if it had been longer than a year of my life - and imagine if I had sacrificed being a present father, husband and friend along the way.
2. Your sacrifice now doesn't increase your chances of happiness later. Heinemeier notes that he and Basecamp co-founder Jason Fried manage the wildly successful company on a 40-hour a week schedule. Forty hours! There are administrative assistants that clock in more hours. Heinemeier, Ferriss and even I have met many an entrepreneur that believe sacrificing everything for seven to 10 years means that you'll find success and the ever-elusive happiness at the end. But there is no guarantee that you'll live to see it, nor that it will actually be there when you get there.
The key: Now is all you've got. If your quality of life sucks now, then, after a decade, you'll be in the habit of burnout, hypertension, depression or any other aliments your body become accustom to. Better to take things day by day and pull in as much enjoyment within the time you have, which is a major premise of Heinemeier and Fried's wonderful book Rework as well as my own best-selling series, The Bite-Sized Entrepreneur.
3. Focus on process, not success. Success is often a deceptively vague outcome. If your goal is to be rich, then do you have a number in mind, and rich compared to whom, exactly? If your goal is to be famous, then is it to the world, to strangers on the street or to a handful of people who matter to you? And, as I've confessed recently, reaching goals is elusive because ambitious people always move the goal post as soon as they near meeting it.
The key: Focus on the parts of the journey/struggle that motivate you, as they will be the same whether you have financial success or not. Heinemeier says that he enjoys himself the most when nurturing his now-ubiquitous programming language Ruby on Rails or working with his long-time business partner Fried - just like, as he notes, when he was broke living in a tiny Copenhagen apartment. The happiest among us do what we love now because we recognize where we feel the most alive, and, for better or worse, recognize that money won't change that basic principle.