In my recent travels around Asia, I’ve had the great opportunity to meet a lot of local founders and aspiring entrepreneurs.
A few themes that seemed to come up many times are questions like “What triggered you to become passionate about company culture and transparency?” or “How did you know you wanted to build Buffer to what it is today?”
One of the most memorable moments for me was talking to a super smart lady who is having a lot of success at a large company and longs to work on something more meaningful. She told me this about a friend of hers:
“My friend has her own fashion startup and is doing well. She is so passionate about what she is doing. I want to do a company in fashion too, but I don’t feel like I have the same level of passion as my friend. What should I do?”
There is a lot of advice out there that says “You must be super excited about what you’re working on; otherwise you won’t stick with it.” I think there is a lot of truth in that.
At the same time, if I look back on my own journey, I don’t think that’s how it worked. It would be easy (and incorrect) for me to say that I always imagined creating a company with full transparency and no managers from Day 1. Or for me to say that I had a vision to build a SaaS startup that helps companies solve their social media struggles and reaches 30,000 customers with $5m in annual revenue.
It’s OK to think small at first
The thing is, when I started the company four years ago, I didn’t even start a company. I just had a side project. I had to work full-time for clients to pay the bills. It was almost incomprehensible that I could dream about those things—I had much more immediate needs.
But I did have a little dream. My goal in the earliest days was simply to build something that truly solved a problem for people and make money online with a product. My earnings had always been tied to my time, doing contract and freelance work. I was passionate about moving from that to creating a product that someone would pay for.
Back when I started, having someone pay $5 for my product was as big as the dream got. It didn’t involve having a team, creating a movement around transparency, raising funding or building a unique workplace.
Your dream will form over time
Once I achieved that first dream, my horizon became much clearer. It’s like the fog lifted and I could see ahead and the next dream came into my head. After the first customer paid $5 for Buffer (in the first month we had total revenue of $20), my next goal was to make $1,000 per month so that I could drop my freelance work and focus completely on Buffer. This was the dream I pursued for the next few months.
The dream forms over time. It’s OK if you don’t have a world-changing vision from the beginning. The key is to follow that tiny dream. That little spark, the idea in the very back of your mind.
Once you pursue that, you are on the path to your most meaningful and fulfilling work.
How do your passion and dreams intertwine with your work life, projects and goals? I’m interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments.