Derek Sivers

Programmer, writer, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

Why you need your own company

It was early 2008. I had agreed to sell my company - my sole obsession of the last 10 years. The paperwork was processing.

I hated having 85 employees. It had become a little hell. I needed to get away and clear my mind.

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I went as far away as I could - to a hot-springs Shinto shrine on a volcano at the southern tip of Japan.

I sat silently. I steamed. I soaked. I slept to the sounds of the sea.

I could not have been more relaxed. My head was empty.

For the first time in ten years, I had nothing I needed to do. No responsibilities. No plans.

What a relief, right? Can you imagine?

I brought along the great book “Seeking Wisdom”, and read in my peaceful Japanese ocean-facing room.

The book was great. Charlie Munger’s thoughts on behavioral finance were brilliant and contrarian. This book was inspiring all kinds of entrepreneurial ideas that I wanted to try!

When I was at CD Baby, I’d be able to play with new ideas immediately. Any time I had an idea, I’d be able to test it out within days.

But now, for the first time in 10 years, since I had no company, I couldn’t test out these new ideas! All I could do was read, think, and maybe write about it. Damn!

Then I realized why I need to start a new company. Not for the money. Not because I’m “bored”. But because a company is a laboratory to try your ideas. The word “laboratory” is defined as a room for research, experimentation or analysis. I think of it as a sandbox or playpen.

Realizing this in my peaceful hot-springs, I caught a train back to Fukuoka, and jumped into action.

I started MuckWork so I could play with crowdsourcing while helping people get their boring work done.

I re-launched MusicThoughts to experiment with a fully multi-lingual site.

And this made me happier than doing nothing. This isn’t work, it’s play. It’s my place to try my ideas.

We all need some time off. A change of scene and pace. Silence and solace if we’re stressed. Reckless adrenaline if we’re in a rut.

But for those of us who think that an eternal escape from work would be paradise, don’t forget that we all need a playground, and your own company is one of the best playgrounds of all.

There's a great quote from Australian psychiatrist W. Béran Wolfe: “If you observe a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, or looking for dinosaur eggs in the Gobi Desert.”

And another from psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky: “Find a happy person, and you will find a project.”