All I Needed to Know I Learned at a Startup
June 16, 2013

All I Needed to Know I Learned at a Startup

by Brian de Haaff

I have been thinking a lot recently about how fortunate I am to have good health, a great family, and to be thrilled with where I live and work (Menlo Park, Calif.) My joy is further enriched by having the freedom to labor at what I think matters with a tremendous team.

This retrospection was initiated as Father’s Day approached this year and I was scrambling to send out the ritual set of cards to family members. I wanted to pause to consider all that I am grateful for and what — if any — advice I could pass along to my kids.

I was motivated by the following thought…

What will my kids write in their cards to me in the following years? What will I really teach them? What is my manifesto?

I started with a very long and verbose list which violated my “goal first” and “this one focus, that one free” sensibility. Pondering the list early this morning while cycling through the Woodside and Portola Valley foothills, I had a revelation. My most important life lessons over the last 15 years have come from building startups into sustainable businesses. (And maybe that makes sense since I have spent most of my awake-time building companies).

I distilled the list based on that insight.

  • Goal first

  • Be courageous

  • Share your dreams

  • Respect everyone

  • Integrity is binary

  • Do, do, do

  • Grow people

  • Impatient patience

  • Own problems

  • Be thankful

  • It is ok to give up

Ultimately, a happy life is one where you have achieved your goals and are satisfied with what you have done.

I guess that is what I hope they write.

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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