Last night an entrepreneur was explaining why he left his old, high-paying job at Barclays and started an adtech company.
He had no technical experience, just an idea on a napkin and two best friends who were willing to quit their jobs to help him. They lived in the same apartment, in bunk beds, while they bootstrapped. Now investors like David Tisch and ff Venture Capital back their startup.
I asked the founder if he missed corporate America, and why he wanted to be an entrepreneur. His answer was something to the effect of:
“I didn’t like feeling like the world could go on without me. If I didn’t show up to work, or I got fired, someone else would seamlessly take over my job and my company would be just fine. At a startup, you can see the impact your making in everything you do. Everything I do matters.”
Essentially, he felt life was too short to be replaceable. And while some people are harder to replace than others, everyone who works for someone else is replaceable.
(Founders, by the way, can be replaceable/fired too. It happened multiple times at Twitter.)
That doesn’t mean your job isn’t awesome, you aren’t talented, or the work you do isn’t worth-while. It just means companies can always go out and find another you. Learning that lesson is a great motivator. It makes you work harder to earn your keep, for both your company and yourself.
One early Facebooker, Noah Kagan, learned he was replaceable the hard way. When he got fired for slacking off, it cost him about $100 million in stock options.
“EVERYONE is replaceable,” Kagan reflected a few years ago. “You are NOT special and there is guaranteed someone better than you on this planet. To make yourself irreplaceable, all you can do is keep showing your worth to your employer. Grow with your company, bring new ideas to the table, and never take your job for granted.”
Or, you can do what the adtech founder did and start a company. When a company is that young, it actually does need you to survive.