Startups and Spirituality

I think this post is a long time coming, and especially on the third day of sickness, I when I’m just getting the remnants of the ish out of my system, I have a chance to think about what I want to write.  Over the years, I’ve thought about both these topics a lot, and over the last year, I’ve realized just how intrinsically connected they are, at least for me.

Spirituality, to me, is about being a better human being, a better citizen of humanity.  I think at the highest level, it’s about practicing love, especially in situations when you find yourself wanting to do anything else but forgive.  It’s about judging less, listening more, and being compassionate.  It’s also about living with integrity, whatever that truth is for you.  Other people call it mindfulness, self realization, zen, whatever you want to call it, I call it spirituality. Because for me, at the end of the day, I believe a higher power exists (in whatever form it is in) and humans are inherently good.  I believe life has a purpose, and our mission in life is to find it.  Plain and simple.

When you run a startup, you are thrown out there every day, usually in situations that bring out the absolute worst version of yourself.  It’s sort of like that Tom Cruise movie, Edge of Tomorrow, where day after day, he’s thrown into the same battle, but he tries to get a different outcome.  That’s sort of the game of life I see play out when you’re running a startup.

The reason I believe that startups and spirituality are so intrinsically tied together for me is because it’s pretty much life or death.  Not the, my startup is going to die if I don’t figure it out (because trust me, it won’t), but the I am contemplating killing myself (literally) because it is so emotionally and mentally taxing.  All those people who have run a startup know that contemplating suicide is actually part of the game.  It’s so normal it’s scary.  I know because I’ve been there, and it was probably one of the scariest moments of my life to date.  The thing is, I think everyone, at some point in time, has been there.  And chances are, if you haven’t been there, you will be.  Whether it be college, a relationship ending, startups, or whatever, our society has thoughts of suicide all the time.

But for me, my startup pushed me to that brink. It was a fleeting moment (a moment when I just realized, holy crap, did I just seriously consider that?) but it was enough.  And that’s where spirituality comes in.  Why is mindfulness, meditation, zen, self actualization becoming more common in the startup space? Because it’s really the only way we can stay sane and create beautiful things in this world. I think of my company as my artwork, my contribution to the world- and I am one of the artists creating it.  But I want to enjoy the journey, not despise every moment of it.

That being said, I want to take it a step further.  Mindfulness and zen is great, but I truly believe in compassion, integrity, and forgiveness at the workplace as well.  It’s about finding how those spiritual practices ACTUALLY make good business (and over the past few years I’ve seen that make a lot more sense).  I believe the future of business is good business, is spiritual practices, and an overall healing of the planet.  I think anything that doesn’t strive for that is going to be dead in the next 50 years (or at least on it’s way out).

I know it’s not a popular topic, God (or The Universe) in general is something that’s not cool to talk about for fear of being labeled a crazy person, especially when you relate it to tech and startups, but I’m calling it like I see it.

I believe in a higher power, and I believe that incorporating these practices into startups will actually make the world a better place.

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