A week ago I read an article on Tom Blomfield, the founder of Monzo, who recently stepped away from the digital bank he started 6 years ago.
He said he’d not enjoyed his role for a few years, and he missed the scrappy start up days where the entire focus was on the customer, not on meeting deadlines, projections and targets set by investors or external influences. More importantly, he discussed how his unique skill set and ability to create impact was best served at a different growth trajectory and culture. This was a remarkable admission that I've heard very few entrepreneurs speak about.
The timing was no coincidence. I received it when I was on a walk talking with a friend about the entrepreneur’s trap, the cycle we end up in, and how we're wired to think we should be doing X just because we're now at Y.
The next morning, I received a long and cathartic voice note from a successful entrepreneur also describing this trap, after I asked one question to an initiative he was running: why?
Ever since, it’s all I’ve been thinking about. When I speak to seasoned entrepreneurs, who are willing to share the real deal, the story they tell is one which goes against the glitz and glamour we’re exposed to.
There’s a story of being trapped, in a cycle, and feeding a void looking for something. There’s a fine line between the scrappy start up days that Tom refers to, and entering the cycle where you can feel like there’s no way out.
As we gamify our days, look for ways to be ultra productive, and strive for growth, we tie ourselves more and more into this. I’ve been playing this game for four years now, and I can start to see signs of it. I love the core work that brings me into flow, yet I’d be lying if I said the overall path wasn’t a grind.
I’m thinking more about about the future now, and asking ‘why’ more than ever. As entrepreneurs, the questions that are worth pondering on (that are incredibly hard to answer truthfully):
For most of us, it’s not about the money. Elon Musk isn’t trying to go to Mars to make money. He’s the richest man in the world as a byproduct. Steve Jobs didn’t change the way we listen to music, use phones and live our lives because of an extra 0.
We all know we don’t actually need much to live very comfortably (one for another blog), so what’s it all for?
If it’s a purpose, calling, or impact we seek, at what point do we become so far detached from the work, that we don’t feel it anymore? Something worth thinking about. (I don't know the answers yet.)
This isn’t a musing on the perils of entrepreneurship, because it’s a wonderful way to live. It’s a call for us to stop and ask questions on the journey, so we don’t let the bullet train of impact and momentum stifle us from looking out the window to ask if the next stop is ours. And/or, if we need to change trains, just like Tom did.