I love asking this question to people, as it gives me an indicator of what truly motivates them in life. Most people that I’ve asked would consider not to continue the current work they’d be doing. And I shan’t spoiler you with their answers, so you can have the fun of answering this yourself and posing it to your friends.
I’ve had the opportunity to read The Almanack of Naval Ravikant, and it’s one of the most insightful books that I’ve read in awhile. I re-read it quite often (and I’m usually not one to re-read books!)
The book is a consolidation of the insights of Naval, CEO of AngelList, and it has 3 broad topics.
Wealth generates money for you even when you are asleep. To gain financial freedom, you cannot be a salaried worker your whole life. You have to own a piece of equity, or business. And you can get rich by giving society what it wants but does not know how to get.
Happiness can be learned. Happiness is there when you remove the sense of something missing in your life. Remember the times when you were a kid and you were usually happy all the time? It’s because you were living in the moment, instead of thinking of what happened in the past, or fretting over what’s going to happen in the future.
What is the meaning of life? Naval talks about 3 possible ways to look at it, but I personally ascribe to each of us defining our own meaning in life.
There is a piece in the book that wasn’t the main takeaway of my reading, but this is what he mentioned:
There are almost 7 billion people on this planet. Someday, I hope, there will be almost 7 billion companies.
It struck me that it is not very common (at least in my social circle) to get people to start their own thing (looking at the number of employed workers vs self-employed (~14%) in Singapore today).
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with working for companies. You deliver a lot of value to customers and make impact. You gain learning experiences and life-long friends out of it. There is stability. I was incredibly fortunate to have been in a company where I truly enjoyed my job and working with the people around me.
I get that not everyone derives purpose in starting their own thing, but I wonder if it’s an awareness problem, and the challenges that come with building your own company / brand.
In terms of awareness, school curriculum (during my time) didn’t involve any entrepreneurial subjects. We studied the Sciences and Arts, with which I didn’t recall most of it being applicable to what I’m doing today.
In terms of challenges, the work to build your own company / brand requires capital. And capital is something which you lack unless you spend time to earn it.
But here is an opportunity where you can leverage on “products with no marginal cost of replication”. Code, media, books are some, to name a few from Naval. Technology removes barrier to entry of creating your own content. Live streamers, social media influencers, YouTubers create their own brand on platforms that enable them to do so for free. Remove the capital problem, and many can start thinking for themselves.
Though opportunity cost is a real pain to consider for, because we are not trained nor influenced by society to think, “It is okay not to have a job”. Even if you try to be financially savvy, the prospects of a $0 income life hits you hard.
But why do people’s expectations of you matter as compared to you finding what you truly love doing? It is okay to spend some time figuring out what you want to commit the next few years or decades of your life to, especially since big returns in life comes from compound interest.
The challenge on accruing capital to start your own thing is also a reason why Sam Altman thinks that universal basic income will unlock more potential in humankind. Some of us would stop the rat race and focus on what truly matters to us.
So ask yourself (and your friends):
“If you had all the money in the world, what would you be doing?”
And if you’re not doing that yet, how do you get there?
PS. I know that I’m extremely privileged to be able to be in a position to think and reflect like this, and I’m grateful for it.