Startup Therapy Podcast

Episode #227

Ryan Rutan: Welcome back to the episode of the start up therapy podcast. This is Ryan Rotan joined as always by Will Schroder, my friend, the founder and CEO of start ups dot com. Well, one of the things that we talk about a lot in the start up world is competition. We seem to be competing against a nearly unending set of bosses that we have to battle over and over and over again. What the heck are they? And when do we finally win? And when can we just sit back and contemplate our victories?

Wil Schroter: They were only that easy truth is, is we'll talk about today. We don't beat these bosses largely because we invent them largely because, yeah, I know who we're competing against are people that we make up. And by way of that, we never seem to beat them. I don't know about you, Ryan, I'm 30 years into my career. And if you look at my progress bar in my mind of how things have gone, it literally hasn't moved past like 10% since like freshman year of college because every single time I think that, you know, I'm winning, all I do is just reset the stakes and start over again. And what I've come to learn in, in my ancient wisdom of these past 30 years is that I'm not really competing against any of the things that I think I'm competing against like actual competitors, et cetera. I'm competing with a bunch of ideas in my mind of what I should be beating. And every time I beat them, I reset the stakes and I do it all over again and I never really feel like I've won anything. So let's put some therapy on you. And I say, hey, you picture how the hell's been happening for the past 30 years.

Ryan Rutan: Well, apparently all of my imaginary friends from childhood who were super sweet, fun, engaging, adventurous and just love to do all the things I do and encourage me to do things I probably shouldn't have, have turned out to be real jerks as they've grown up, right? What happened? I used to invent such lovely characters in my mind where all of the uh my I imagine friends now uh just pushing back and, and causing me to question myself, doubt myself and be dissatisfied with everything that I'm accomplishing what

Wil Schroter: happened, things like this, right? We hang out with founders all day long, right? Both personally and professionally. These are, these tend to be some of the most optimistic, hard-working, ambitious people that you can possibly meet, right? Like the fabric of the kind of the creation of everything around us. Right. Why is it that consistently when we talk to all of them, they all feel like they could have been better part of. You can say, well, that's why they're so ambitious, sort of, sort of. Right. There's another side of it, which is, we all have this almost like tortured ability that no matter how well we do, we can't seem to enjoy it or we can't, to take the w we just look at it and go, oh, I guess I have to show up tomorrow and work harder no matter what I've done in my career, it was never enough. And I want to know why, what the hell's going on here. It blows my mind. Yeah. It's

Ryan Rutan: funny too because we talked to a lot of founders, right? And so often there's this crazy twofold narrative one where they're like, you know, I set out to do this thing and it's some relatively small thing and, like, I just got curious about this problem and then, you know, I, I started to explore it and then that led to, you know, some sort of a solution and then that blew up into this other thing and it got even bigger. And on one hand, they're like, you know, what start up is, this tiny idea has clearly blossomed into something amazing and then they'll turn around and in the next breath you're like, and, you know, we're just not really satisfied with where we've gotten from a product standpoint, you know, the market hasn't matured. We're like, wait a 2nd, 22 minutes ago, you were telling me how this was, like some weird hobby that you spent, you know, your weeks, your evenings and weekends on and now it's a, a burgeoning blossoming and growing business, but it's not great. It's like, at what point do we just arbitrarily shift the bar to something that's just out of like, is it just our nature? It's like, well, I guess I've gotten here time to move it forward again into somewhere that I can't quite reach

Wil Schroter: yet. Here's what's crazy. I meet so few founders and I wanna, I wanna isolate the founders here. I meet so few founders actually can't think of any. I, I'm, I'm using that, you know, euphemistically, but I actually can't think of any that are like, I'm good, everything is good. I'm so much further ahead that I thought I would be. I'm doing so well. I'm, I'm, I'm happy I'm safe. I'm all these things. How is it out of the most successful people? I know none of them seem to say that right. In fact, it's so polar opposite. It's so consistently polar opposite. Where is all this coming from? Like, like why are we so beaten or dissatisfied if we're the most successful people out there?

Ryan Rutan: You know, it's interesting, you just, you brought something really interesting to mind right now, which is that I do know some people like that and all of a sudden I realize that everybody that's falling on that side of the fence there, distinction that we've made in some cases between entrepreneurs and start up founders or entrepreneurs. And, and, and so they are founders in a, right? They started a business, they grew something. But for example, one of those was this, this guy that I knew who had a fence rental company, right? He's pretty happy. He spends all of his day on a boat at this point and somebody else runs this business, right? But there wasn't anything very innovative about it. It was just like he bought a bunch of fences and he rents them to the government, makes a lot of money. But I think it goes back to like what you're doing somehow purpose driven because I feel like it's the purpose that we feel like we set out to really do something, make a dent in the world. If we still don't fully see that dent realized we're not going to be fully satisfied. So I think that it's one more of those subtle illustrations around what we mean when we talk about the difference between like a small business and a start up or an entrepreneur and a founder. And it occurred to me that as you did that I was running through this laundry list of founders, man. I'm like, I know some happy people. I'm like, ah, ha. But there's a common characteristic amongst all of them in that I wouldn't couch any of them specifically as a start up founder. Sure.

Wil Schroter: Let's categorize specifically who or what we think we're competing with. So we can start to isolate, where is it that it's breaking? Right. Like, who are we competing with? And, and where are we falling short? It's

Ryan Rutan: that start up, that just launched their landing page eight minutes ago. That has a product ID. That's vaguely like mine, right?

Wil Schroter: It's unbelievable to me. Like I, I look at it and I say to myself, OK, I know that categorically, this is their peers, right? Almost logically as a benchmark. So that could be everything from family. You know, the, the two brothers that are, that are super competitive, right? Two people I work with two friends. I grew up with, you name it or it doesn't matter where it comes from. Hell, all of Facebook. Like I'm scrolling through Facebook and I'm just comparing everything to everything, right? So let's start with our peers categorically, like, like how we're competing with our peers and why and all this stuff, I'll explain kind of like what my version is of competing with my peers. OK. So when I grew up, I grew up in a tough childhood, a tough household and we were basically, you know, welfare poor. And so in my mind, my baseline was if I could just eat and I'm not even, like, kidding. Like, if I was, if I could just eat, I'm golden. Right. That was my baseline. That was what I was competing against. Right. And so, and, and, and my friends were all way further ahead because they had food and, like, and so they were in a much different place. Right. And I, and I wanted to be, like, them just be able to come home and always have food anyway. So I thought if someday I could get past that hurdle, I'd be gold and guess what, lo and behold, like, I got a job making $5 an hour and I accomplished that I could pay for food. Right. Golden. Right. Didn't change a thing. You didn't stop there. Yeah. Yeah. Right. Right. Right. But I had never thought about, like, competing with my peers beyond that level. That, that was the first time where I had like, a, a specific benchmark that I was trying to get past that competing with and I beat it in the moment I beat it, like, three seconds later. I was like, yeah, but what's next? And that's where it started for me. Right. The first time I realized that it wasn't going to be enough and then just continued an entire life of no matter, no matter who I be and I mean, beat relatively, I'm not trying to beat anybody. Right. I'm just saying for whatever reason, felt like I did something beyond what they did. I just found someone else that had more than I did. I felt just as scrappy. It's amazing. What's the journey that been like for you? It's

Ryan Rutan: similar piers. You know, if I think I'm, I'm gonna go back to an example from childhood, right? Which was, uh, not nearly as stark as yours. Um, you know, I it is athletic competition, right? So going back to like being a soccer player as a kid, I remember walking out on the field the first day, literally having never seen the game played, right. This is the early eighties in the US. It was a bad word. Like you weren't allowed to say it at school. So, you know, going to play soccer was this weird thing. And so I went to try it. My dad signed me up for the league and we went and show up and I had no idea I'm wearing like sweatpants and a T shirt and I had no idea what's going on and I felt so out of place, right? Because the other kids have been playing for a couple of years. They like, they knew that, like, you couldn't pick it up with your hands and stuff. I'm like, it is called soccer, not football. But now that I think about football you use, ok, so whatever, I'm confused, I'm a kid. It's fine. I eventually get over that. Right? And I, I come up through the rec league systems and I was, I was a good player and I was a dedicated kid. My father had been a, like a semi pro athlete and a collegiate athlete and, you know, it pushed me to excel in my sport and I'd done that right. And I started to feel really good about all that. I was, you know, I was the kid who could dribble around anybody and go score goals kind of on demand in our rec league. And so my dad was like, you know what, this probably isn't enough competition for you. So he dropped me into a new group of peers. I went from being king shit to shoveling shit in about eight seconds. I show up at a tryout and it looked like I had never played the game again. And I remember this feeling that like I had fooled myself this entire time that I must not have known anything, right? And I didn't, I wasn't able to compare myself historically to everybody that I was still a better competitor than all I could see now was what was in front of me. And I went, I don't know anything. I can't do this, right. And it was, it was such a stark contrast to what I had just come from. And I think about all the times that has replayed itself throughout the start up journey, right. Any time you, you accomplish something, it's kind of like you, you're always heads down on whatever goal you're trying to accomplish whatever boss you're trying to be. The minute you look up from that, you see this whole new landscape that exists on the other side of that. And that's where things get interesting in all the wrong ways. When it comes to comparison, you're just like, wow, I thought this was the thing that needed to happen. Everything would be Shangri La after turns out it's another field of barb and landmines. Cool. Here we go. Again,

Wil Schroter: it starts over the cycle repeats, right? But you know, again, it's easy to use your, your peers as a benchmark, right? Like again, when you're playing soccer, that's also a highly specific situation. Very easy

Ryan Rutan: to benchmark

Wil Schroter: quite specifically better at you. They're scoring goals where you're not scoring goals and vice versa. When we look at our peer group, either our immediate peer group, people, we actually know or what I'm gonna call our perceived peer group, people who we think we were kind of in the same space on. Right. I'll give you an example there where just like I, I realized that I was just gonna forever lose in like the mid two thousands. I had moved to Los Angeles from Columbus and in Columbus at the time, I was like one of the few guys that had ever sold a company. And so like, I, I was feeling good about myself and, and I had nothing but success up until that point, right? I was like maybe 27 or something like that. And so I moved to Los Angeles, it would start a new company out there and, and got settled in and I'll never forget like I was there for a minute. And then Sarah, now my now wife and I decided to move in together. That's kind of when we started dating and we moved to Santa Monica and we moved into this building right on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. And it was this beautiful building. Like we basically signed the lease within one day of finding this place that we did zero diligence, right? Anyway, I ended up flying one of my cars from Columbus out to uh at Santa Monica. It shows up that they, they pull it off the transport or whatever and uh I bring it up to the valet, the building had valet and I said to the valet guy, I'm like, hey, this is a, a Lamborghini, right? I'm like, you know, what kind of special parking do I get? Right. This is, this was such a movie moment, right? I was like, well, I didn't say it that way. Not that big of a jerk, but like I basically wanted to figure out where this car was gonna go. He's like, sir, let me show you right? And I'll never forget this. He takes me down and this is, this is like me like realizing who I am and who the rest of the world is. He takes me out into the parking lot. He said it's under the building. He said on this floor we keep, you know, a lot of the decent cars, right? And they're all like Mercedes and BMW si was like, ok. All right, like, like where are you gonna park me? Here is like, oh no, sir, we wouldn't park, park your car here, we park it downstairs like, oh, ok. I'm feeling VIP right. So he takes me downstairs. He's like this is where we park your car. I shit you not. There's my Lamborghini and 18 Lamborghinis right next to it and then 18 Ferraris next to that whatever. We have a very easy sorting system. He's like, but we park the nice cars downstairs. I'm like, wait what?

Ryan Rutan: But the nice ones go downstairs, the nice ones go downstairs

Wil Schroter: downstairs and it's like nothing but rolls Royce Bugatti like, I'm like, holy cow, I'm the poorest person in this building by orders of magnitude. And that would prove to be incredibly true. And the reason I'm saying this is because I was a total rube. I like I had no idea that this world actually existed and I felt great about myself for having been able to like, you know, move into this place or it wasn't that crazy to be fair but to even be able to move in this place until I realized who I was compared to the people that relative to everybody else there. Yeah, it got way worse as I would meet the people in the building and everybody was super nice. Right. They were like, well, where do you actually live? And I'm like here. Right. And they're like, oh, no, this is like our fourth house.

Ryan Rutan: We just stop here on our drive between our two other mansions. Oh,

Wil Schroter: my God. No, I'm serious. Like, there's people there, like, would I need somebody young? They're like, oh, yeah, I'm just here because I, I'm at us c or something like that. And when my parents got me this place, I'm like, huh? Right. And my point is I ended up meeting this other peer group that were so far beyond what I would ever accomplish. I felt like a total loser. And isn't that sad because

Ryan Rutan: you were happy the day

Wil Schroter: before? Oh my God. Happier than, and

Ryan Rutan: nothing about your life actually changed absolutely zero about your situation. That's my question. Other than the measuring stick you were using. Right. This is why you never switch from Imperial to metric. It just throws you off.

Wil Schroter: But it was my point and this was just such in dramatic fashion, right? In dramatic fashion that all of a sudden I go within 10 minutes. Right. Or in the valet of all people being my shepherd into who I'm not. Right. And allow

Ryan Rutan: me to lead you to your station in life.

Wil Schroter: So that's exactly what it was, it. Was the ghost of Christmas future. And so all of a sudden I come back up to our place and, and I'm talking to Sarah who would be my wife. I'm like, man, I feel shitty. She's like, what are you talking about? This place is amazing because she doesn't care about any of this stuff. Right. Yeah. But you haven't seen the

Ryan Rutan: garage yet, like,

Wil Schroter: yeah, a P Gotti guy and, but take it a step further, man, compare that to what I just said like 10 minutes ago, which was like my baseline initially was people who eat. So think of how many of these like hops that we're talking about. And I feel just as shitty on the last hop, right? As I did on the first one and I, you know, it all of a sudden you start to realize, hey, I did everything I was supposed to do do, right? I went out and I built company and I did start up and I did start up. Well, why do I feel exactly the same way because you can't win, you can't win. And that's, you know, it's yet another milestone that appears that no matter how well you do, there's always somebody that's done better.

Ryan Rutan: Always, always let's tie this back to ourselves a little bit because this, this kind of goes back to a har come accent, you said earlier, which was this the notion of like just you wanting to eat, right? Yeah, pretty high up there in terms of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, right? But it kind of to the point each time we, we surpass one of those things, a new one crops up. But let's talk about how all of this relates to our personal safety, right? And how that factors into, into the the competitive

Wil Schroter: set here. Something that we don't think about, we don't quantify, we don't put it in front of us to say, oh, I want my started to do better. I want to make more money, I want to do these things, right? But what we're often often talking about is we're competing for our own sense of safety, right? Again, if you talk about some of the most basic fundamental things that we're saying like Ryan, when you and I are building this business, we want to do well, but we also want to be safe, right? Said differently. We don't want it to do more bad, right? And I don't think that that we as founders have chosen a really good line of work that involves safety. Not, not

Ryan Rutan: particularly, let's just say OSHA hasn't written guidelines for us just yet. You know, it's interesting though because I think that as in as much as we're trying to achieve, you know, safety, I think that we also do a really horrible job of defining it. It's kind of like saying like I want to grow like a start up why? To feel safe or to feel happy or, you know, I, I wanted to do better, right. Those are really hard to wrap your arms around. We talked about this in a couple of other episodes where it's like if we can get specific about these things, I think this is where safety is important because safety is something that can be to some degree quantified because what we typically mean there is like we have enough money to overcome, you know, typical obstacles or maybe to pay off debts or things that are hanging over us that make us feel unsafe.

Wil Schroter: It's typically financial,

Ryan Rutan: right? And those, those have a finite quantity to them, right? So if you can say like I want my start up to do better, so I can feel secure, right? Instead of saying I want $288,000 557 or 52 cents, whatever, right? Like just, you know, some actual number of money, I just don't know quantities anymore. I've forgotten. So this is the kind of thing where then all of a sudden you can say now that that will actually make me feel safe. That is, that's something I can also achieve. I think a big part of this kind of to our, our point around this, the the entire competitive thing is we're comparing to things that we can't even achieve, right? I wanna feel happy. Well, what the hell does that actually mean? How do we get there? How do we know when we've gotten there and how long will that actually last? Right. Because it's so non quantifiable. So I think that there's this notion within all of this that says, let's be specific about some of this stuff because when you do all of a sudden, it becomes far more achievable,

Wil Schroter: right? You know, something that's really funny about everything we talk about here is that none of it is new. Everything you're dealing with right now has been done 1000 times before you, which means the answer already exists. You may just not know it, but that's ok. That's kind of what we're here to do. We talk about this stuff on the show, but we actually solve these problems all day long at groups dot start ups dot com. So if any of this sounds familiar, stop guessing about what to do. Let us just give you the answers to the test and be done with it. What if I were to say that it's been compounded by the fact that the lack of safety that we picked the most unsafe job you could possibly pursue, right. We were like, hey, I want to build my own safety and my own security. Oh, cool. You went and took a job where you don't get paid most of the time where you burn through all your financial savings where you have no idea with whether what you're doing is actually a step ahead or two steps back. How again, we've said this a million times, you're running naked into the abyss building a company that's never existed with a product that's never existed toward a market that's never existed with a team that's never, it's just that. And you're doing that for safety. Come on. That's like, literally, that's like literally the opposite. And so not only, you know, are we competing in safety in life, et cetera? And everybody is, to some extent what I'm saying is founders do it while lighting themselves on fire.

Ryan Rutan: What's the safest way I can do that? It's not, that's what I'm saying.

Wil Schroter: It's like, dude, you picked the wrong profession. If your idea was I'm looking for safety, this is the dumbest way to get it. Go be an attorney or a doctor or literally a job like this. And so we've got this strange notion that I wanna build something because I want to create a life of safety and I'm going to do it in the most unsafe way possible. There has to be a version of us that rationally steps back and says, wait a minute, these suits of things really don't align. Like, yes, I like that outcome. But the reason I'm emotionally drained, financially drained, physically drained is because I chose the dumbest way to get there and I use dumb in like quotes, right? Like, I mean, nothing relative to this is something that you and I are passionate about, but this isn't the most logical

Ryan Rutan: that rational version of ourselves does exist, right? And it tends to pop about somewhere in like you five or six, not at the beginning where it might have made sense to consider all this stuff. But at some point where you're like, you're so squeezed that you and this alter ego that would have thought differently about this, it can no longer occupy the same physical space and it pops out and it starts to talk to you going like, hey, what the hell were we thinking when we decided to do this? And why did we think safety would even be a consideration within all of this? You know, now knowing what we know, do you see the safety aspect of it as one of the true like things that we're competing against or do you see it more as one of those factors that keeps us competing? Right? Even well beyond the point of necessity, I guess

Wil Schroter: in this particular case, I think everybody universally start up or no start up is competing for safety, right? And it's, it's one of our fundamental needs, right? I'm saying that as founders, we create a much more unsafe environment. Here's an example up until we were, we were running our start up, right? We were probably working at a company and we were worried about getting a paycheck. Now we're worried about getting everyone else's paycheck paid, right. Like we've created exponentially more problems than we had yesterday right before we were wondering whether our, our co-payment on our insurance or something like that, you know, was, was reasonable enough at, at our job. Now, we're wondering whether we can give anybody insurance at all at all. Right. Like we've created exponentially more checks on our safety and yet then we're surprised why we feel so unsafe. It's like, dude, you know what you just got yourself into? This is a real perception, you know, to the extent that if you can't pay your bills, et cetera, you are unsafe in a very deliberate way. I would argue that our perception of safety in our reality of safety are often seriously divorced, right? When I think, hey, we could lose it. All right. I think of being homeless and not being able to feed my Children, right? That is not very realistic, right? But I feel that way. Yeah. No, of

Ryan Rutan: course, we've talked about this before. We, we live in a world of extremes, right? Founders love nuts more than a good dose of hyperbole, right? So we assume that if this goes right, it's going to go all the way, right? And we're going to own a piece of the moon and if it goes poorly, you know, we'll, we'll be crashing cans and, and turning those into the local recycling center to buy food for you, right? It's, it's all enough.

Wil Schroter: And when I think about like again how this extends out further when I think, let's say start ups dot com, when I think of us growing and quote beating our competition, which I always think is funny for us because our competition is helping other founders. So, so well, I guess I would love to beat them selfishly. I also want to make sure they also help other founders that there. But when I think about, you know, us growing or shrinking, I think about our safety. If, if I talk about what I'm really competing against, if you were to say, whatever one of our competitors gets 10 x bigger, our compensation doesn't change whatsoever. Ergo our safety, then I guess it doesn't really bother me. So it's not really my competitor that I'm worried about, it's my competitors ability to affect my safety, right? If safety were held constant, I don't know that I'd care about what my competitors were doing, but because they affect my safety, that's really where it's coming from. Yeah.

Ryan Rutan: And I think that there's such a fallacy around how much they actually impact your safety. We've talked about this until you, until you're in a market that's like fully saturated where there's like the incumbents have, have gobbled up every bit of the market share. You're not really competing against that. You're competing against your own ability to sell your product into a market that much larger than what you're currently servicing. Right? I love the idea that like people think, yeah, we and our competitors are outperforming us. Ok? Cool. But their performance is relative to yours, but it's not impacting yours, right? They might be selling at two X the rate you are into a market that's only 2% served. So, guess what? It wasn't a zero sum game? They didn't take shit off your plate. You just forgot to clear what was on your plate. That's it. Right. You just didn't do what you need to do with the leads you had or whatever. But there's, there's something else to this which I think is interesting and kind of like everything else we've talked about so far today as we clear a new hurdle, we, we construct a new one, right? As you said, like we get to the point where we're no longer worrying about, you know, making our mortgage payment. Now, we're working about making payroll right now. Maybe we take on funds now. We're worrying about getting a return for the investors. Maybe we go IP O and it's all of this, the stakeholders, right? And it's the quarterly reports, that's whatever we just constantly keep moving those change and sometimes quite to the detriment of this notion of safety. And so there's, there's this really interesting thing where once we achieve it and we've talked about this before, the value of it completely dissipates, right? The car is everything you want until you get the car and then it's valueless and you want to move on to something else. Safety of any given rung on that safety ladder is the thing that you want until you get there and then it's valueless. It's

Wil Schroter: fascinating. It is,

Ryan Rutan: it's fascinating at some point. Like we have to lean back and look and say, like, are we still chasing the, the right thing here or is this just progress for progress sake, growth for growth's sake. And we've done well, I don't need to go on about this. We've done an entire podcast on that exact topic. Well,

Wil Schroter: there's another side of it too, which is every time you go up a rung, the next rung becomes exponentially harder and there are some rungs that actually go the other direction which either it's not worth getting there. In other words, yes, maybe I could. But at what cost, you know, it's kind of sell my soul type thing. And the other side of it is, yes, maybe I could make more money. But could it be at the cost of spending less time with my family? Right. Or impacting my health or again, you know, other things, I'm selling my soul that would have actual cost. There's also another part where it doesn't matter what you do, you're never gonna get there. Right? I'll give you an example. You and I both know numerous founders who've done exponentially. Well, right, I can think of four founders off top of my head. Within the last five years that have become billionaires. Friends of mine. No, actually, I don't know if they've all become billionaires. It doesn't really matter. The point is the same. Um, they sold for a billion dollars. Very,

Ryan Rutan: very large exits. Yeah,

Wil Schroter: very large exits. And they're all my peers, meaning they're all my same age. They're all people that I've probably known minimum of 10 years, probably 20 years. Meaning I just didn't just meet them. I've grown up with them long since before their previous, their businesses, they exited,

Ryan Rutan: watch their trials, their tribulations. Yep.

Wil Schroter: And they made way more money than I have right now with all that said, I can't replicate what they've done right now. Now, let me be real specific. We have the same DNA. Right. In other words, you know, we, we've got the same capabilities that the same backgrounds, et cetera. Oh,

Ryan Rutan: shit. How did you mean they were actual clones for a minute? There? I was like, this is, this is fascinating. It's

Wil Schroter: genius. Let's start a new podcast. We've come through the same path, the same gauntlet, but there is a threshold, particularly among start-ups where, what happens to the next guy? You actually don't have any control of them by the way, neither do they. Right. In fact, all of them now that I think about it are all working on their next business and none of those businesses are 10% of what their last business was. Right. Again, because this, there's a lot of non controls here. The

Ryan Rutan: probability of that is so small. Right. And it's like, it's not like they discovered the magic formula for alchemy where they can turn anything into gold or it's just

Wil Schroter: not how it works. Sure. Absolutely. And so, so I'm at a threshold in life where I can't get any further. I don't mean in my personal life I can, you know, do my own things. But if I were to look at it and go, oh, I wanna get further ahead than them, it might happen. It probably won't, by the way, statistically, like it's about as far as I'm gonna go now. Now, here's why I bring that up. I should look at that. I should look at that rationally and I should say damn, what a cool spot to be, right? What an awesome spot to be where the only way that I could level up from here is to sell something like a billion dollars, which it wouldn't, you know, like that's something that I'm probably gonna do. Wouldn't that make me super Zen? Wouldn't that make me like, oh well, damn, dude. You know, I, I can chill out for a minute, right. I'm OK. No, that much more frustrating because when you know, you can't get to that next level right there, there's nothing you can wake up today and do. It's way worse when I knew I could just work harder to try to get to the next thing or at least try. I was in my glory. The moment I realized that damn, those next levels, that guy with the Bugatti type thing, right? It takes

Ryan Rutan: some, some fortune, maybe even some actual luck, right? A whole lot of circumstances and things that are well outside your control for that to come together.

Wil Schroter: Inheritance also helps. Yes, I heard you not fortunate or lucky help either

Ryan Rutan: of us. But yes, we've

Wil Schroter: heard. Exactly. But my point is, it's fascinating to me when I look at, you know, this, this journey of what we're competing against, right? And, and I think about how many times like most of what I, I'm just speaking personally, what I've competed against was made up. I literally made it up, those baselines were made up, the next steps were made up, all of it was made up, right? And then I kind of take it back to we're going by categories, you know, we talked about a category around our, our safety around our peers, our ego. Yeah, our made up perception of who we are, what we deserve, what we're capable of, right? And how incredibly tied to that we are, right? And how much of our life it controls. That's what blows me away. What are your thoughts on that? No,

Ryan Rutan: for sure. It's, it's exactly what I was thinking about as you were talking about. You know, when you realize you can't accomplish this or you can't achieve that. I was thinking, oh no, there's a way to go back into believing that all you have to do is turn around and ask your ego and it will probably walk tapping in the show and be like, don't worry, man, we got this. So, yeah, I mean, unfortunately it's become uh it seems to be as society progresses in the way that it is a stronger and stronger lens through which we interpret things, right? This empowerment of the individual, I don't want to go off on too much of a philosophical diatribe here. But we've it a lot more power. We've given it a lot more power and we've given it a lot more of all the wrong kinds of food so that it can bloat in all the wrong ways, right? Things like those comparisons that we want to draw based on the Instagram version of other people's lives that we talk about based on those five start ups that we know exited that you can look at and go. Here's those people that I know that had a billion dollar outcome, right? What about the other 2995 that didn't. Right. Do we also know to the same degree? It didn't get the same. Well, we can completely ignore those. Why? Because of ego, ego tells us what we need and want to hear in the moment based on how it's been coached and cajoled. And I'd say that we're, we're, we're nearing an ego crisis in the world at this point. And in terms of the, the founder space, it's one where ego is often on display. And I don't necessarily mean that in a negative way, we've talked about this, there are times where like you're the only one who can believe in yourself because nothing else exists. And sometimes that is kind of the ego talking. But I think that we have to be really careful there, how far we go down that path and how much we allow those reactive ego type scenarios to play out versus really thinking through, you know, what the reality situation is? What am I actually competing against? What's really gonna make me happy versus kind of those what feel almost instinctive at this level? But really aren't because, you know, it's a manufactured

Wil Schroter: thing. It is. And that's the paradox, right? The paradox is our ego. We can't beat it, right? Because we're the ones that keep reinventing it, but we can easily beat it because we're the ones that keep reinventing it, right? And it's, it's this amazing thing. And when I, when I talked to founders, here's what I don't hear, I don't hear from founders, you know, I'm good, you know, two years ago we did what they said we were going to do when we set out, we're good. And uh if, if things just keep going this direction, I've got no other issues and, and you made this distinction? I hear a small business owners say that I've mentioned this before. All of my neighbors. Which i, it's weird. I say this, I only have like four neighbors but like, but they all happen to own businesses. Right. Not like crazy successful, just like regular businesses. Right. And they are all your small business owners. They did what they needed to do, like 30 years ago and they're just good, right? I envy them. I envy them. Right. They don't understand me at all. Right. We compare notes, right? We don't

Ryan Rutan: either. So it's ok. Like if we can't understand we, we can't expect them to either. It's fair.

Wil Schroter: That is fair. But like, but I, I think about it and I'm like, man, at some point, their own ego told them, right? Or they came to terms with the fact that they did well, right. They don't deserve more, deserve being relative, right? Like, you know I'm saying your own version of what you deserve, they don't deserve more, they don't need more and therefore they're satisfied, they're happy. They're at the Shangri La moment that for many founders, I'll, I'll throw myself into that can only exist at some amorphous future date which by the way never comes. Right. And, and you're, you're constantly constantly chasing again, amuse myself no matter how many milestones I hit, I just invent new milestones and you know, right over the past couple of years. I know I've been talking to you about this and I've been talking to my wife, Sarah about this. I'm like, I never thought I'd get this far in life and not because I'm fabulously successful. I just mean, like, literally in any capacity. Right. Like, I never thought I'd have such a cool wife. I never thought that I had such cool kids. I never thought that I'd have, like, you know, be running a business and all this stuff. Right? And now that I'm here, I have no plan from here. Like this is the first time in my life where I'm like scratching my head going. Which, well, damn, now, what, it's a weird spot to

Ryan Rutan: be in uncharted waters and yet your ego will still tell you, we must search more. We, we must seek out the next island, right? You've achieved more than you ever dreamed. So, why stop now? Well, because we're probably good. Damn it. Right.

Wil Schroter: Was this the whole point? Wasn't this the whole point to get to this point? Like, ok, I'm good. Just like my, my neighbors are like, again, I envy them. I'm like, how can you be good? There's so many other things to do. They're like, isn't that funny?

Ryan Rutan: I often will find myself doing that. It's like, you know, the person who I, I recently met a guy, really, really nice fellow and just the older guy retired now for quite a while I believe, you know, had a very kind of normal blue collar ish job, saved all his pennies. Never had a family. Has a couple of like, really interesting properties now that he enjoys bopping around and just having a good time with, I thought, man, I don't envy all of the path. But one of the things that I did find myself envying about it was the specificity and the security of it all, there was a clear goal and a clear way to get there. And that basically by just continuing to do the same thing, how often in the life of a founder is just continuing to do the same thing, produce anything other than disastrous results, right? Just like, man, if I just wake up every day and do the same thing, there's some peace in that now, I also think I probably would have gotten hellaciously bored with that. But it is really funny what we end up comparing ourselves. So again, like it's not always the case that we're comparing ourselves to some like exponentially larger outcome. This is not even like if we were just to like compare dimes to dimes, I probably have more than this fellow does. There was just something really peaceful about the way he got there that I appreciated. It's like, you know, man, that, that, that doesn't sound too bad and yet, you know, here I am flinging myself off of that safety net and back into the fire because this is what I like to do.

Wil Schroter: So let it be. That's the funny thing, man. We can't seem to find the finish line, right. We can't seem to find the finish line. And if you and I were doing this podcast, like 25 years ago at the beginning of our careers, we could have painted a pretty easy picture to be able to say. Yeah. Well, maybe that'll change, you know, you and I were very fortunate. We met amazing wives. We had amazing kids. Like, you know, life's been very good to us. But prior to any of that happening, we could have easily said, well, if that just happens, everything will be ok. The reason the timing of this particular episode is interesting to me is because we're already there like, you know, we hit this fast forward button, right. And now we're the old grizzled versions of those 20 something and we're looking at it now, going wait. Wasn't that supposed to like clear everything up? And the whole point is we're saying, yes, kind of not. Right. And again, it's not a, it's not a whole disaster and we don't lack for gratitude. We don't lack for gratitude, but we're still those same people waking up in the morning charging to like knock things over. We're just running out of some of the reasons why we're doing it. Whereas before we had very specific reasons, it's changed. Yeah. You

Ryan Rutan: know, it's funny though, I mean, like the very specific reasons like they were, they were very specific but they were flexible, right? It wasn't very specific with a defined outcome where once that was achieved, then there was like some highly like outcome driven milestones like OK, once that happens, then X, right? And I knew people like that growing up, I'm sure you did too where it was like they wanted the job with the paycheck, they wanted the house of the pick defense, the kid, whatever. Not that I didn't want those things, but I didn't specifically set all of my efforts towards achieving that. And I've seen plenty of people who did and then did achieve some level of satisfaction there or if not satisfaction, at least they stopped their, their trajectory like they were like, ok, now I've gotten that I don't need to keep pushing as hard as I did to get to this. I said from the beginning, this was what I want. I was clear on what I wanted, I got it and now I've stopped them in coast mode or whatever or just defense mode. Right? I'm just gonna make sure that I maintain what I have. I don't think I ever had that. I would imagine that's probably a characteristic that's, that's pretty common to, to most founders, which is that there wasn't that specific thing that we were chasing, it was more creation, it was more curiosity, it was more just making stuff out of nothing, making things happen, changing people's minds, changing how people did things and that never ends. And so, you know, to some degree, I guess we can pity all of ourselves a little bit saying there's no end to this. But if we go back to a podcast from, gosh, probably almost a year ago now where we talked about, you know, what happens if we can just keep doing this until seven 80 90 100 100 and 10, 100 and 20 whatever. I'm pretty happy about that because this does satisfy me and I do enjoy what we do. It comes with all of the baggage and challenges that we talked about today. But like if I have to keep doing this for a long time, I won't be mad about it.

Wil Schroter: I agree with that. I agree with that. I, I think ultimately, man, I think we're all competing with ourselves and I think that's the hardest thing to wrap our heads around. We wake up this morning and say, you know what? Yes, I want to make payroll. Yes, I want to have a, you know, a better life. Yes, I want to do all these things, but hold on a sec. But I'm not really competing with my peers. I'm not really competing with my competitors. I'm competing with my own vision of what I'm supposed to have. And incidentally, I'm the only person that can do anything about this. The only, the only way to win this game against myself is to come to terms with myself, which is actually one of the hardest things to do. So. In addition to all the stuff related to founder groups, you've also got full access to everything on start ups dot com that includes all of our education tracks, which will be funding customer acquisition, even how to manage your monthly finances. They're so so much stuff in there. All of our software including BIZ plan for putting together detailed business plans and financials launch rock for attracting early customers and of course, fundable for attracting investment capital. When you log into the start ups dot com site, you'll find all of these resources available.

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