You're reading my first message in a bottle.
It's February 2008, a late year to start a blog for a techie. But this is not my first. I had another blog in the 90s. One that spans three years of detailed events in the early years of the Internet. One that existed publicly before blogs became a public phenomenon. I've left it on the Island of Youth that I once visited, in the middle of the Ocean of Life. And now, instead of reflecting on the moments, I reflect on the years ...
I am the proverbial mighty pirate. I built a boat and I commanded an army of one. After a long chapter of struggle in the short story of my life, I set sail to the stormy sea again, but the tides changed. I was caught in a storm. Walls of water came raining down and crushed the boat. I floated in the water, semi-conscious, hungry, again, for days.
I live on another island now. It is inhabited by others. Some know how to swim, some know how to farm, but those who know how to build a boat are old and gray, left only with stories to tell.
Of being a pirate, I only keep the lingering identity, but ... I need a boat.
I need a boat for a different reason. Not for a gesture of grandiosity exerted by the self-made man. But because my heart belongs to the calm and unpredictable waves of the sea.
Desire and inspiration are unpredictable like the waves.
I found love once or twice, sitting there on the horizon, glimmering here and shimmering there under the rays of the rising sun. But the sun set ... and I let go to wake up to it another day. Days came and went. I woke up with energy, to go on board, to see the shimmering and feel the longing and the lust for getting there, where the horizon stood ... until the storm.
I need a boat.
I am a pirate that despises the navy and yet wants to be the navy, in search of the shimmering light in the horizon I think to be love.
I need a boat, and I need a navy.
This captain's log is on how to build the proverbial boat.
I wrote the above note in 2008 while I was moonlighting on my first startup in Seattle, reflecting on a broken heart, and heading into an economic recession. I completely forgot about the post, and in fact the entire log, until 6 years later in 2014.
I'm writing this update in San Francisco, having lost count of how many startups I've worked on so far. The words of innocent desire in the above post are a testament to the power of relentlessly pursuing a visualized self-image with the kind of faith that doesn't question "what if things don't work out".
When the US economic recession hit that year, I sank the startup and went backpacking to Europe, something I had wanted to do all my life. In perfect hindsight, that's one of the most important things I ever did with my life, because traveling has always been an end for which the journey of entrepreneurship has been a means. The next year after that I found my eternal love. The year after, I moved to California and embarked on many new journeys.
The "Island" I describe was the big corporation with its employees busy maintaining life's default mode of avoiding mistakes. I could still be on that island. But I'm on my journey. It turns out that the shimmering light in the horizon wasn't love. I found love already. The shimmering light was curiosity. It was a light from within, wondering about the regret of having lived a life unexplored. You see, when viewed in that way, sinking the startup and traveling the world was probably the best possible decision I could have made in that storm.
The measure of a lifelong entrepreneur is not how many failures he has avoided, but rather how many valuable opportunities he has correctly identified before the right time went by.
My reflections, 2014
It will appear, as you keep on reading my writings, that I see the process of entrepreneurship as a philosophy. I'm a strong believer of least-regret principle in life: you will regret things that you didn't explore more than all the mistakes you made combined. And in that sense, I treat entrepreneurship as a lifestyle and a journey. One that starts with an unrelenting desire and compulsion to be opportunistic, never receding from the faithful obsession to seek the enlightenment from touching that horizon.
I see it in the warm glimmer of an 80 year old mentor I hang out with every Tuesday:
It doesn't matter who knows your name or what you've accomplished in life. Nobody will remember you once you retire. All that matters is that you, and you alone, believe with all your heart that you lived the no-regret life that you could imagine at the end of your journey.
And for me, it's facing the fears and hopes of each day like a pirate captain.