Happiness Doesn't Scale

Happiness Doesn’t Scale

Exponential growth is one of the concepts hammered into the psyches of tech founders, alongside KPIs and quick iterations. A startup's growth is modest at first, but then skyrockets after hitting an inflection point. Uber booked 1 billion trips during its first 5 years. By its 7th year, that number exploded to 10 billion—10x growth in 2 years.

The implication for founders is to defer value. Opt out of the salary at your job, start a company, keep it alive long enough to hit an inflection point, and cash a big check after IPO or acquisition. Invest your time, money, and energy now, and get a big payoff later. That's a proven (and risky) way to maximize your net worth.

Yet deferring your happiness along the way is silly, because happiness doesn't grow exponentially. (Have you ever 10x'd your happiness in two years?**) It has a set point and usually only changes modestly. Happiness can't grow or be passed down after you die. If you want to maintain happiness over the long term, don't build a habit of deferring it.

And if you want to be rich and happy, then get good at discerning which elements of life scale and which don't.

Easier Said Than Done

I haven’t followed my own advice recently. I fell into the trap of making my health, relationships, and finances contingent on my app’s success.

“I can’t take time off when I haven’t even launched yet.” “I’ll replace my old shirts once my app is profitable.” “I’ll spend more time with family once I have employees to delegate operations to.”

It felt rational at first. And maybe if those things would’ve come quicker, it would’ve been fine. Slowly but surely, though, my quality of life eroded over the last 20 months since I quit my FT job. After a fit of physical ailments, I finally gave in, deciding to prioritize my wellbeing again. I took time off to be with friends & family. I’m rock climbing again. I bought new t-shirts. And I’m doing creative work that isn’t related to my app (like this newsletter 😊). Surprise surprise, I feel much happier.

Here’s to giving ourselves permission to be happy,


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