Two Ways, One Lane, Rock Out

I’ve been thinking yet again about what it means to start a practice, talking with several successful friends who have gone through the cycle a few more times than I have.

The question of the hour: Why start a business in the first place? I’ve heard two reasons.

Here they are, two fundamental reasons I know of. Each reason has proponents claiming that one is more important over all others:

  • Important Reason #1 — to have control over the business
  • Important Reason #2 — to make a profit

I was first a subscriber to Important Reason #1 for many years until I spoke with my friends Bob, Jeff and Alen. The important insight regarding Reason #2: this is a mentality that successful businesspeople cultivate: if you’re not thinking of how to make a profit, you’re not going to make it at all. So Important Reason #2 is fundamentally the more practical guideline. Your business decisions are ultimately bound by this rule when it comes to money. And just about everything comes down to money…except when it’s not the end goal in itself.

Which gets us back to Important Reason #1to have control. This means a lot of things: independence, making decisions, being free of “The Man”, doing something that will be meaningful to the work, controlling my own destiny. Live Free or Die, baby! For me, it means that I choose the scenarios in which I work, to steer my career toward a life a meaningful work. Note how “profit” isn’t mentioned in there… this has been what’s bugging me lately but I thought it would dillute the “vision” of what it was that I needed to do to discover meaning. However, I now have a good idea of what is meaningful to me…now it’s time to focus on the mechanics of profit. Which is, as my friend Alen points out, is about as hard as counting apples. The trick is maintaining discipline.

So Reason #1: Control and Reason #2: Profit are two stars by which I can steer my rowboat. Generally, I’ve found that “Control” is pitched by creative people who have clawed their way out of the rat race and made it work. “Profit” is pitched by entrepreneurs and business people who see work as a means to an end, not an end in itself.

As for the actual mechanics of the business, this isn’t as immediately critical as I thought. Here’s what stuck:

  • From the business people, reflecting on the somewhat nebulous nature of my work, they advise get clients…you’ll figure it out as you go. And also make steady progress…do a few business-related things every day.
  • From the marketing people, I am hearing “find out what your clients want, then give it to them”.

What’s even more interesting is what I hear from my closest friends:

Dave, you’ve been here before. I don’t know what it is specifically that you want to do, and it doesn’t sound like you know yourself. Isn’t it Games / New Media / Interactivity?

They are always surprised to find that it is not.

I’m after something more than a narrow set of skills, and I have been thinking maybe it comes down to committing to management or producing. However, despite my claims that Games / New Media / Interactivity are not my primary focus, I really like knowing how to make things work. These are mediums in which you can create connections between ideas. You can do the same thing in any media, any field, and any relationship. Intuiting connections between ideas, concepts, people, desire, dreams, and technology, and then figuring out how to get it to happen is something I do with relative ease…it’s the closest thing I can do that feels like flying.

So I still don’t know what that is called, but getting clients that recognize and value this trait is probably the easiest way for me to get some traction on this business thing.

Last night, I’ve had a huge insight into “that thing I’m reaching for that I can’t define” that always nags at me. Metaphorically, I Want to Rock. That puts EVERYTHING into perspective. More on that later.