The Founder’s Paradox: How Do You Celebrate the Now When Your Job Is About the Future?
April 1, 2019

The Founder’s Paradox: How Do You Celebrate the Now When Your Job Is About the Future?

by Brian de Haaff

“Toot toot!” This has become a sort of virtual celebratory air horn sound at Aha! — it started with one teammate and has spread. Being a remote-first company, it is a simple message that is clear to all. “Hooray! We did it!” But for me, it has become a welcome reminder that it is important to stop and celebrate. This is different from my always-looking-ahead mindset and I appreciate it.

Slowing down to celebrate the now is not something I do easily — I am always focused on the next achievement.

It is not because I am unaware of or overlooking all that the team has accomplished. Every day, I am reminded of the explosive growth of our company and grateful for the dedicated group of folks I have the honor to work with.

And sometimes when we are together at our bi-annual company events, I get a bit choked up when I talk about my pride for the team. Even still, I am tough on myself to be better tomorrow than today. It makes me particularly demanding of myself and the team.

I have been thinking about this tension a lot lately as Aha! hits a new milestone today — six years of being in business.

In that time, we have achieved phenomenal growth. Inc. magazine named Aha! the 13th fastest-growing software company in the U.S. and we ranked in the top 50 on Deloitte’s Fast 500 list. And we have done it all without VC funding or salespeople. We are pioneering a refreshing new way to build a high-growth technology company. With all this in just six years, I cannot help but be eager to pursue what will come next.

But I do not think I am the only one who battles with this tendency to always look forward. Most highly intrinsically-motivated people I know do. Because most of us love setting the next big goal, digging into the next challenge. Never being entirely satisfied is what fuels you and you need that fuel to sustain meaningful growth over long periods of time.

It is especially tough for company founders because the job is — at its essence — about the future. Everything you do requires looking ahead. But the paradox is that you also need to be looking at where you are right now. It is not easy to value today in the same way that you stare at tomorrow. But you must. You must be present.

Start here: Acknowledge that today is a gift. Because tomorrow’s success stands on the shoulders of today.

Even though you may be someone who can keep pushing and gets charged up by always looking to the next big gain, you have to remember that work needs to be rewarding and rewarded. This is important for building a resilient team and also for you.

Holding true to this idea is something that takes discipline. But you like hard work, right? And if you have read this far, then you agree that being able to live in the future and celebrate today is a worthy goal — something we all should strive to become so very good at.

So, let’s get into the practicalities. You have to set big goals. And achieving those goals requires exceptional effort and high expectations for what is created. I am not sure how you can build anything great without taking that approach. But you also have to set celebrations at certain milestones too. That way, when you realize those outcomes you can honor the commitment you are making to yourself and others to appreciate the moment.

Being truly achievement-oriented means you do not just honor meeting goals, but that you honor the celebration commitments too.

Celebrations and rewards come in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes, a simple “toot toot” will do. Other times, you need something bigger to remind yourself that what you have done so far is uniquely yours and incredibly special.

In the end, all that really matters is that you pause to thank yourself and the team. It grounds everyone in today. You can celebrate and honor the significant effort that went into the accomplishment. And then you look to the future and set the next triumphant celebration.

Read more of The Founder’s Paradox.

Brian de Haaff

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

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