Entrepreneurs are frequently admonished to “stay hungry.” These words are almost like scripture, having been cited by Steve Jobs himself in his legendary 2005 Stanford commencement speech.
Intuitively, these words seem to be true across a host of domains. Starving artists of all types feel the curse of the sophomore slump; going from hungry unknown to wealthy celebrity has tripped up any number of young athletes, child actors, standup comedians, and rock stars.
The artists who seem to avoid this curse appear to do so by following the “stay hungry” philosophy. Even when successful and wealthy beyond all imagining, they continue to find ways to feel dissatisfied and unhappy.
Basketball great Michael Jordan demonstrated this in his Basketball Hall of Fame speech, when he took the occasion of receiving his sport’s highest honor to get back at all the people who “doubted” him:
I think it’s a bunch of hogwash.
The implicit assumption behind “stay hungry” is that you need to fuel your drive with deprivation and anger. These can be powerful drivers, as modern American politics demonstrates.
Yet I refuse to believe that I do my best work when I’m miserable and irascible.
I’m far enough along in my career that it’s hard to describe me as hungry. I don’t eat ramen every night (too many carbs!) or live in a crappy apartment in East Palo Alto with a bunch of other entrepreneurs (though that is a cool way to live). Yet I feel like I’m accomplishing as much as I ever did in the past, and perhaps even more.
Rather than frantically pursuing “success” to relieve a self-inflicted sense of inadequacy, I try to do things that I love–specifically, helping interesting people do interesting things.
I want to do more, write more, and build more, but I do these things with a sense of enjoyment, not compulsion.
I try not to tell entrepreneurs what to do. But I will say this: Don’t stay hungry. Don’t motivate yourself with envy and avarice. Don’t start companies to escape who you are or become something you’re not; start them because of who you already are.