• Brian Portnoy

Fun



The end is in sight. By the end, I mean the very beginning. The project my team and I have been working on for a long time* will see the light the day in a couple weeks. By "light of day" I mean paying customers.


I wish there were more of a hardscrabble creation story to tell.** But there ain’t. My team and I didn’t waste months going in the wrong direction, we didn’t spend countless all-nighters meeting interim deadlines, we didn’t run out of money, we didn’t have drag-out fights among the partners (who all maintained a reasonable work-life balance), we didn’t have problems with our freelancers and vendors.


What we did do is mind our three goals: Impact, money, and fun.*** These are pretty easy to grok and remember. By definition, we’ve accomplished little of the first two so far. They hover over us like low clouds.


The “fun” part is something I’ve thought about and even tried to plan for, but I end up just stuttering toward the sense that we know it when we experience it. Like pornography or a good marinara sauce, fun is hard to define.


One part of fun in a work context is the other people. I’ll write about that some other day. The other part of fun takes place in my own mind and heart. It is the visceral sense that I’m doing something right and good. That I’m in it, that it has enveloped me. It is elevating; and to ask whether “it” has elevated me or I am elevating “it” is to misunderstand whatever this is. These are of course “flow” states; it makes me happy that the word is an imperfect descriptor, that language is epiphenomenal to the sensation.****


By conventional start-up terms, we’re now in sprint mode. With only a few days to go before others see what we’ve been up to, I’ve experienced something I’ve not felt in memory: butterflies. For me, this is part of the fun. The fact that something is on the line, that I am responsible – and I feel joy daily in making it just right, of anticipating the regret I will feel were it not just right. (Yes, anticipated regret is constitutive of a fulfilling life; cf. overwhelming data that parenting is an unhappy but also deeply fulfilling venture).


Where are we sprinting to? The answer here and for always is: The next thing. In some ways, life has a circular quality where ends and beginnings flow into each other.***** That they are technically distinguishable is less important than articulating transitions as new paragraphs in our unfurling narrative. The labels on either side of a door are less important than the pregnant space of the doorway itself.


So we’ll launch. We’ll scrape our knees, spark joy, figure stuff out, feel stupid, feel smart, make some money, make a difference some places, be irrelevant in many others, miss the mark, learn lessons, flirt with failure, dream of success. And, yes, we’ll have some fun.

 

Notes:

* Depending on my mood and the audience, I tell different stories for the "long time" being 7 months, 22 months, or 4-ish years.

** I actually don’t wish this.

*** These "goals" also might be visions, missions, principles or something else, but I’ve grown exhausted by the start-up gurus on this topic.

**** I believe authenticity is more likely to be experienced when the “thing” precedes the word. When a word – which got inside you somehow – initiates experience or reality, it’s maybe a slope toward inauthenticity. Appropriately, “authenticity” is not exactly the right word here.

***** You better bet I’m resisting a riff on The Wheel and a link to Don Draper’s carousel.

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