Editor’s Note: I guess when working at a startup I only make time to write once per year — at the end when everyone has time off. I guess this is that annual post, and something on which I need to work.

Just over a year ago now I wrote about the importance of maintaining a balance between work and life when working at a startup.

My life with Jena is too important to slip into old patterns — to prioritize work ahead of us. I’ll need to take time off. Not just vacation, but evenings and weekends. That can be hard at a startup. It will just take awareness, discipline, and good habits. It will take growth — growth of a different kind.

A year go, I thought it would take awareness, discipline, and good habits to take control of my life and to maintain balance while working for a startup again. Increasingly, however, I am learning it will actually take complete change of perspective. A new way of conceiving of myself.

Introspection has never been something that has come naturally to me and I’ll write more about this in 2020, but over the past three years, I have come to know myself much better. I’ve been inspired by a confluence of sources as I have begun to look more inward these past few years:

  • Time way from work, after SmartThings
  • Author, Sam Harris’ book/app, Waking Up and podcasts, many of which deal with consciousness and meditation
  • Working with and growing with the extremely generous and open leadership team at Misty Robotics

But largely it was a growing realization that I should be curious about myself—that there were parts of me that needed to be examined, understood, and hopefully improved.

Part of what I have come to understand is that I am not my work. (I am also not my thoughts, but that is also a post for another time). I have to remind myself of this often, but I know my value is not derived from what I do.

“Your value comes from who you are, not from what you do.”

When a great friend, recently sent me, Chop Wood, Carry Water: How to Fall In Love With the Process of Becoming Great by Joshua Medcalf, these ideas—these recent realizations—were reinforced and illuminated in a new way. That last quote above, and those below are from this book.

“It is easy to feel like your value is much greater when your teams win, when you make a lot of money, when you experience great success in business. But it is just as easy to feel defeated and depressed when your teams aren’t winning, when your business is failing, and when it feels like you are failing at everything”

Is my value equivalent to the success of the businesses I’ve started? Does the success of this little robot I am working on now change who I am as a person?


“The truth is that your value is constant, it is priceless, and it never truly goes up or down based off of results or your performance”

And that is the same for everyone. Companies — especially startups come and go. Whether I am designing an app, executing a marketing plan, leading product development, or operating as CEO—when that role changes, my value does not.

“Find your identity in something that cannot simply be stripped away in a moment, and do the hard work of reminding yourself that your value comes from who you are.”

Think about it. You can lose your job in an instant. Can you lose who you are in that time? No. But if how you see yourself is so tightly wound with what role you are in, it might feel that way. Now I haven’t figured all of this out yet. I still put too much of myself into my work. But I am learning. And I am looking to the future.

As 2019 comes to a close, people everywhere will be contemplating their goals for the new year. I won’t be. Other people or outside forces can stop me from reaching goals. I’ll be looking for a mission for the rest of my life. When I find it, no one will be able to stop me from living it.¹

  1. Don’t worry. I’ll write a post about it too.