Rule #12 – You are not building the next Google. Deal with it.

Not to sound snide, but you are not building the next Google. Heck, the guys that built the first Google didn’t know they were building the first Google. Nevermind Yahoo!, Microsoft, IBM, Dell, etc. Neither you nor anyone else is doing themselves a favor launching a new business with the intention of becoming a company of thousands of employees and a 12 digit (or more) market cap.

Just so you know I’m not trying to pour acid on your dreams, let me clarify my point: quit thinking about how big and mighty and special and amazing the company may become. Quit thinking about your imminent riches and what NFL team you’re going to buy or how many super-models you’ll date or how many houses you’ll own or how many times you’ll land on the cover of “Wired.” Quit thinking of these things because at this stage you have virtually ZERO control over them ever happening, which is a good thing. Your focus should be to take your product’s core competency and build it, deploy it, and market it to the best of your ability.

In a recent business endeavor, I found myself stung by the, “we’re going to be as big as [fill in the blank]”. Founders, investors, employees, and contractors all found themselves being sold on the notion that the product could profit in the mid 7 figures each year. Cut up among those involved and everyone would have a nice little chunk of change to play with. The problem with this thinking was that illusions of grandeur prevented us from focusing on the success at hand. Instead of saying, “the money and size will come, but for now I’m making a pretty good living working with people I like doing something I love” we found ourselves constantly updating investors (and ourselves) about when the big pot of gold was going to show up. By the time things had really gone to hell, no one was happy with having created a viable company out of thin air; what we had created was much smaller then what we had imagined and promised, and there was no way to un-imagine such success.

Dreaming big is a great idea. Take some time every once in a while to imagine what it would be like to achieve a level of success like those mentioned above. But don’t set it as a benchmark. Guy Kawasaki wrote that everyone knows about Michael Jordan and Google because they are rare and come along once in a lifetime. Work hard, do the best you can, and remember to recognize and be proud of even the smallest successes you achieve. From experience I can tell you that there are far worse things then enjoying your work and having a role in your future. If you measure your worth on how fast you can get to an IPO, you’ll likely find yourself more miserable then you’ve ever been in your life.

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