What is it about my job that makes it so damned enjoyable? I was discussing this earlier today with a friend and came to the conclusion, perhaps obvious, that it’s fun because running an indie software business feels like playing a game.
I imagine that other small business owners, and larger venture entrepreneurs feel the same way. What a luxury to be immersed in this environment where every decision ultimately rests upon my shoulders. Whether I win or lose depends entirely on how I choose to move the pieces.
Of course this freedom and autonomy comes with a few downsides. In particular, playing the game can be stressful, and the consequences of losing can be dire. The indie software business is a long, sometimes tedious game with no extra lives.
I believe that the best game players are those who acknowledge they might lose, but who really, really, really, really, really, really don’t want to.
By acknowledging a risk of failure, you implicitly acknowledge:
- You are willing to accept the consequences of losing.
- The choices you make in playing the game affect the outcome.
This is good. Somebody who is blindly assured of winning is liable to play games that they can’t afford to lose, and to play them with foolish ignorance of the rules. Knowing you can afford to lose liberates your thinking so that you can play the game for the game’s sake. And your strong desire to win encourages you to seek out the wisest moves at all stages of play.
I often hear the opposite mentality celebrated. “Failure is not an option.” “Nobody told me it was impossible, so I did it.” “If you build it, they will come.” These are fantastic rallying cries, but they don’t reflect the true attitudes of a wise game player. They make a romantic postscript to games that were, ultimately, won.
Running your own business isn’t the only way to treat your job as a game. I always found framing the expectations and achievements of work in a game context made the work more fun, even when I was working for other people. Whether that was racing to fix bugs in time for a deadline, or counting the number of envelopes I could stuff in 60 seconds.
But the game has never been as complex or enjoyable as it is now. Running Red Sweater is incredibly challenging. I make decisions every day that could be the foolish move that leads to my failure, or the stroke of genius that guarantees my success.
I know there is a chance of losing, but I really, really, really, really, really, really don’t want to.