“But, why join a startup?”
That’s the question I was asked over and over again not just by other people, but by myself, after joining Campfire as a cofounder in April 2020. Before landing at Campfire, I was wrapping up a JD-MBA at BYU in the middle of a global pandemic without a clear next step for my career once I was finished.
I should clarify that when I say I was ‘without a clear next step,’ I don’t mean I was completely clueless. There were a few things I had straight. Despite my new degree, I knew I didn’t want to practice law. I also recognized that my JD-MBA was one of the times in my life where I felt like I progressed the most and that feeling of progress was one I knew I wanted to help others achieve as well. I wanted to be in a position where I would continue to grow and one that, at the same time, gave me opportunities to help people. That much I knew.
But even with all that, the question still stood:
Why join a startup?
Towards the beginning of my time with Campfire, I had a one-on-one with Steve Arntz where we talked about my personal drivers. The things that, as he put it, get me out of bed in the morning. Together we walked through what we now call the “Drivers Assessment,” a self-assessment that gives a name to the things you value the most. Going through this assessment showed me that my core drivers are leadership, problem solving, respect, freedom, and learning.
The tangible results of that conversation were the names of each of my personal drivers, but the intangibles were even more significant. Here are two things I walked away with:
1. The power of conscious, confident decision making
Picking my next path after finishing my JD-MBA was not the first time in my career I was faced with indecision. In fact, reflecting back now, the choice to pursue a JD-MBA in the first place was one seemingly born more out of indecision than conscious, confident decision-making.
I did it because it seemed like it would be difficult in a rewarding way and because most of the lawyers I know seem to enjoy what they do and live good lives. It had nothing to do with my drivers, not consciously anyway.
Of course, had I taken the Drivers Assessment before starting my JD-MBA, I would have gone through with it the same way I did without knowing my drivers, making you wonder what the point is of taking some test to name the drivers already influencing your decisions subconsciously.
The difference, for me at least, is knowing the ‘why’ behind each choice, whether in my career or life in general. Giving my drivers a name gives me the power of consciousness to confidently say yes to the right opportunities and no to the wrong ones.
2. The strength to push through hard days
Building a startup isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Any founder will tell you that. Sure, it has its great days, like the day you get the check from your first paying customer or you see your brand name lit up on a billboard on the side of the I-15, but for every great day, there’s an insanely hard one right behind it.
Days when you’re called on to put out 19 fires or where you spend the afternoon in a fistfight with imposter syndrome throwing right hook after right hook at you of, “Am I really good enough to be doing this?” The type of days that, unless you know your ‘why,’ could tempt you into throwing your computer out a window and starting the search for a new job. I’ve had all of those days, and am sure I’ll have them all again.
Knowing my drivers by name empowers me, I can use them as heuristics on my hardest days, asking myself questions like, “Have I given myself enough freedom this week?” “What problems can I focus on solving today?” or “Where is my leadership most needed right now?” It gives me a way of checking in on myself to make sure I’m making time for the things that matter the most to me.
Your drivers can’t make the bad days disappear, but what they can do is make it easier to look past the ash and the soot and see the diamonds underneath it all.
So, why join a startup?
I joined Campfire without recognizing the words driving my decision. The same could be said of a lot of other decisions I’ve made throughout my life. Now that I do know my drivers by name, however, I can purposefully seek opportunities to use them and proactively eliminate things from my life that have nothing to do with them.
Now the question is, what drives you?