The people whom cdixon talks to that say they want to be '"working at or founding a startup"' are lying. They are lying to themselves first and foremost and only secondarily to cdixon. Their actions speak much louder than those words. Those actions say that they want to safety and security of the job that they don't enjoy rather than the risk and uncertainty of a startup.
In my experience I've found that by thinking about what they want, a person can get a better understanding of what their choices are offering. The challenge is differentiating between 'heading to' (aspirational wants) versus 'running from' (symptomatic wants). The question the example person in Chris' article did not answer was "Do you want to do X?" (aspirational) or "Do you not want to do Y?" (symptomatic). People can spend all of their careers running away from things they don't like, that seems to leave them feeling bitter.
The nuance that I think Chris overlooks is that you can see the next hill but the valley is still full of fog, and that fog can obscure the fact that some hills have a cliff on one side of them. For example you can't just go over to the local hospital and say "Hey, I'd like to be brain surgeon! Got any openings?"
One way I've found to separate things I'm simply running away from versus things I'm trying to run toward, is that when I think I want to go to X, I start researching X and what paths lead there. Sort of like looking at people who are in the space I think I want to go and looking at the path they took there. Then trying to figure out what steps were necessary and which ones were not. To be a doctor these days you need a medical degree, its necessary, but you don't need like biology, that is helpful but not essential. If I am unwilling to take the essential steps, I have to consider that perhaps I don't really "want" what I think I want.
As a result one of the things I try to do in every place I work is 'round' myself out in some way or another. The goal is to make as many "hills" accessible as I reasonably can.
As much as I don't wish for another down-turn, I will admit that it washes out the gold-diggers, the frauds and the wantapreneurs.
> How can smart, ambitious people stay working in an area where they have no long term ambitions? I think a good analogy for the mistake they are making can be found in computer science.
It's as if being an entrepreneur is the end-all, be-all of all careers. It's hard work. It's riddled with failure. It's not for everybody.
In addition, the algorithm that the author attempts to describe is called Simulated Annealing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simulated_annealing
EDIT: Almost all multi-agent exploratory algorithms have these characteristics: evolution, free-market capitalism.
And we all (as the species, as the beneficiaries of the system) benefit, even if 10M sperm died to give us 1K eggs to give us 1 living turtle to get back to the beach to re-spawn. The species will live. The ecosystem will adapt and thrive -- but it is very wasteful in terms of point-probes on the multi-dimensional problem space. 1K:1 or 1M:1 die, to have the one survive, because it found the niche in the problem space. That's all fine and dandy until we realize that each of us are the point-probes. We think that we are better than that. Well, maybe we are. In 1000 years, they will look back and see.
EDIT2: > It's as if being an entrepreneur is the end-all, be-all of all careers. It's hard work. It's riddled with failure. It's not for everybody.
Well, for the system, it's great. The system searches for it's maximum potential. For the entrepreneur, he's just a point-sample (in one algorithm), or a geodesic field in yours. These things are tried and tossed away as if they are trash if they don't "fit".
Nothing wrong with that ... it's as if the universe is using the human geoplex as a hive-mind to achieve something greater. But, we, as individuals, might have opinions about how we want to be treated as agents of this algorithm.
EDIT: I'm simply saying that saying: "I told you so!" 25+ years later doesn't get me my life or my wife back. I was a misplaced, from my agent-centric-point-of-view, sample. If I could only learn to lean back and give it up for England. (just kidding)
And the last one i thought was a nod to genetic programming.: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_programming
Close to maybe 90% of those people said yes.
Something closer to 5-10% of those people have ended up starting their own businesses.
Anecdotal for sure. I'd bet that it's a statistical outcome that's not too far from the average however.
They like the idea of finally being their own boss. Most people don't know very much about running a business or starting one, so they think it means immense amounts of increased freedom, to take vacations when you want to for example, or set more convenient hours for yourself.
Then any time they think about taking concrete steps on it, the reality wall hits: the risk (financial & personal) is terrifying (often for good reason). Or they're intimidated by what seems to be a very difficult process ('where do I even start?'). And then they just never do start, the idea never leaves the drawing board, where it remains a sweet fantasy.
I've found you can quickly tell whether someone has a real intention of starting the business they have an idea for, just from the vocabulary they use when discussing it. For one thing, if they're not going to, they'll immediately turn away from any encouragement toward getting started or learning more about it (no matter how small the suggested first step is); they'll shoot down conversation that veers too close to reality, preferring to keep it as that nice thought.
Polling people about such things is ridiculously unreliable. Based on a common view of owning your own business, you might as well ask people: would you like to be your own boss, get rich, set your own schedule and love what you do for a living?
They should probably be more specific and say they want to be working at or founding a successful startup though.
I think it's quite possible to have both. Have a full time job, work on a side project, and if it becomes successful enough to quit your full time job, then do so. Startup without the uncertainty!
Granted, now you've pushed the odds of your startup failing from 95% to perhaps 98% (since you're not devoting all of your time to it), but what do a few percentage points matter at that level anyway? Replacing a 5% chance of winning the lottery with a 2% chance doesn't mean you should no longer play (especially since you've eliminated the stress of potentially starving).
I have to imagine the failure rate of pushing a product that people don't need would be high, and the ability to support a product that they do need would not be compatible with the side-project concept. Am I wrong in thinking this?
However, if you build software for doctors that avoids the regulatory compliance problems, then get it expanded out to 14 hospitals, then raise, then have staff, you can then go back and do that HIPAA compliant SAAS solution that you initially wanted to.
Which pretty much describes my path over the last 3 years
If you were able to dodge that, then, salute!
EDIT: And, I will admit, there has been an amount of conflation of the term 'side-project', and 'startup' and 'mvp' and 'project' and 'product' over the (esp. last two) years that confuses me from time to time. I often lose the thread on context. My apologies if my comments reflect my lack of appropriate modern contextual understanding.
If you stay at the bank, or at a nice job, you're almost guaranteed to continue that gradient ascent. It's not the case with a startup; it's not as simple as deciding to do it, having to deal with a local minimum, and then continuing upwards.
Many want to be at the top of the hill. Few want to take the risk of actually climbing it.
Life is not so simple for all of us I guess. When your earning in a corporate job is supporting your family, you can't simply dropout and start chasing a startup lottery.
Only simple minded fools or rich kids who don't have any downside will play this game indiscriminately.