There really is only one question you should ask yourself before starting any new venture:
Do I want to make meaning?
Meaning is not about money, power, or prestige. It's not even about creating a fun place to work. Among the meanings of "meaning" are to
- Make the world a better place.
- Increase the quality of life.
- Right a terrible wrong.
- Prevent the end of something good.
Goals such as these are a tremendous advantage as you travel down the difficult path ahead. If you answer this question in the negative, you may still be successful, but it will be harder to become so because making meaning is the most powerful motivator there is.
It's taken me twenty yeas to come to this understanding. [Guy Kawasaki - ]
For six months I've tried to answer that question. I've thought about the times I was happiest in my life. I realize that I am happiest when I am teaching and inspiring people to do something they consider impossible. That is my purpose in life.
What should I teach? I've thought about teaching technology, but that bores me to tears. One of the few good teachers I've had was my high school chemistry/physics teacher Mr. Seela. He won Iowa Teacher of the Year for 2004 and he deserved it. Mr. Seela was one of the few people who never gave up on me in high school. No matter what I did, he kept trying to reach me. I've thought about following in his footsteps and teaching high school science. But the pay sucks. And the system sucks. Mr. Seela deserves to make 10 times what he makes but most of my other teachers should not be allowed within 100 yards of the nearest classroom.
When I was younger I dreamed of being a software developer, a Navy SEAL, or a Navy fighter pilot. At one point I planned to become all three - a real life MacGyver if you will. Eventually I realized one of my dreams. I became a software developer. I should be happy right?
Last year I realized that writing code to make someone else more profitable, by making banks more profitable, isn't that fulfilling. That's when I decided to go into business for myself. I thought that if I chose the products I worked on, I could make meaning with the products I created. But the idea of writing code in my spare time doesn't appeal to me anymore. I want new challenges. More importantly, I want to spend more time working with people than I do working with machines.
Then I remembered one of the other passions from my youth - flying. I've thought about becoming a flight instructor in the past, but like many teaching professions, the pay sucks. But I see ways to change that. And I want to change it. I want to change the way the flight training industry works. I want to find a way to make flight instructor the premium position in the aviation industry. I also want to find a way to reach kids that are like I was in school. I know that Mr. Seela could've reached me by teaching me to fly. That would have been the motivation I needed to live up to my potential in school. I know that there are kids out there like me, who need something to focus their attention. I know that through flight instruction, I can change the world. And who doesn't want to change the world?
So thanks David Seela. Thanks Guy Kawasaki. Thanks Robert Scoble. Thanks Steve Pavlina. Thanks Dave Winer. Thanks Adam Curry. Thanks Eric Sink. Thanks Jon Udell. Thanks Seth Godin. Thanks Jack Canfield. Thanks Harvey Mckay. Thanks Duane "Dog" Chapman. You have all inspired me to change the world.