The question was posed to me, how does one get to where you are?
“There is no destination, only the path.”
I threw up in my mouth a little right after I wrote this in a linked in DM. It sounded like what I often call “fortune cookie bullshit” that you see all over the internet.
There was more than a little surprise when I was asked this question. I don’t see myself the way others see me. To have others think that where I am right now is where they want to be mystifies me.
I suppose people have an image of what they want their life to be and see me as one of many ‘successful’ people upon whom they want to model their aspirations.
I feel bad that I cannot help them by giving them a clear set of directions that might lead them to where I am.
There is no secret to getting where I am. I just did the things that seemed like the logical next step given what I was doing at the time. Fortunately for me, starting a game company or raising a fund seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I did not really have any of this all planned out, I just did it.
I am now going on 25 years of being a ‘startup person’. My path to the success that everyone thinks they see was me just doing what I do. It is not a quick path. It took most of my adult life to arrive where I am at now, and where I am at now is just where I happen to be at this time in my life.
On paper, it sounds so glamorous. Skateboarding, Rock Climbing, Game Designer turned VC. My life must be fantastic! And it is, but what I think people think when they reflect on who they think I am, they see the high-points — the Instagram moments.
They don’t see the lean years of my first startup, or the back surgery that I had, or the fact that right now I am dealing with a pinched nerve in my neck (all a result of the abuse my body took as a rock-climbing, bike racing, skateboarder).
The pain is part of it. You test your body and sometimes the test does not go so well. But you keep going, keep testing, and the inevitable toll of hundreds of small injuries starts to add up. They are a result of the pursuit, and a reminder of the work that was required to achieve any physical goal that I undertook.
You don’t see the grind.
Designing games is not glamorous. It is challenging, which is why it is fun. Much of the work is a grind.. day after day showing up and working on something that sucks — and then sucks less.. and then suddenly becomes fun. It becomes fun because of the grind.. it is not magic. It is every day for months showing up and doing the thousands of small things that remove suck and add fun.
Most of my days as investor tend to be me looking at spreadsheets. I say to myself that I am writing stories with numbers so as to distract myself that I spend a lot of time in excel. I actually do enjoy it. I imagine for some that it would be incredibly tedious — but this is the part that needs to be embraced. A good part of my life, when you look at the day to day is not glamorous or exciting. It is me starting at a spreadsheet and tweaking numbers and formulas.
Life is filled with ups and downs. I have been poor, and by most peoples standards, extremely well off. I have been stressed and not digging it and I have been content. The alignment of having a lot of money and being stressed or content is not a perfect match. I have been stressed when well off and content when poor, but the reverse is also true.
You ‘arrive’ only to find out that life goes on — and you deal with it by getting into a state of always arriving.
We measure the progress to success in the instagram moments. The day when the game started being ‘fun’ and the thought of finally shipping becomes real. The exits, the landing of a hard trick, the completion of a climb you have been working on for months. We celebrate the instagram moments and don’t talk much about the months or years of effort it took to create the conditions that allowed each of those moments to finally happen.
The tapestry of my life has been woven by the threads of these daily efforts.
The years of effort are the path. People see the destination, they don’t see each step. The joy is not the arriving, it is savoring each step, both the easy ones and the hard ones.
Where you end up is a reflection of the path you walked. There is no way to get to the destination without walking the path, and if there was a way the result would be hollow.
I cannot tell you how to get to where I am. I am no longer looking for a destination, as there is no destination, there is only the path.