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How Do You Keep Score?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

People keep score in different ways. Even different games keep score differently. Tennis isn’t like basketball. Rugby isn’t like Football. In business, most people look at the scoreboard in terms of money. Since I grew up in the trading world, it was all about the money. Traders made and lost money and that’s how we kept score. Making a bunch meant you were right. Losing money meant you were wrong. It was pretty simple.

Different traders did different things with their money. Some saved it. Some blew it on fancy cars. Some of it went up their nose. Wild trips, big houses…things. You get the picture. It’s easy to satirize the trader life. “Greed is good.”. However, as traders money wasn’t real. It was just a scoreboard. A golf score. You could always make more tomorrow.

Entrepreneurs sometimes are about the money. I am seeing more of it especially since the movie The Social Network came out. People build apps that they think they can flip for millions of dollars. That’s no different than trading. It’s why a lot of apps fail. The app isn’t built to satisfy a pain point, it’s built to make money for its founders.

No one wants to give you money.

There is sort of a fine line. Entrepreneurs find pain points. They create solutions to them. The market rewards them with money. But, do the entrepreneurs find more joy from the money, or solving the pain point? It’s a dangerous line to tread on mentally. Keeping score and finding joy in money has killed many of my friends. I know quite a few of them today that spend hours locked up in a dark room by themselves because they can’t make money anymore. I fear for them.

To center yourself, you have to reframe why you do what you do. My wife alerted me to this comment at the AVC blog, and I think a lot of it makes sense. I paraphrased it:

Why do we do anything? Who really knows?

This I know —

When I am alone in my own head with my hopes, dreams, fears and insecurities wrestling — three falls to each and then the winner and if I don’t like the winner, then a rematch — I cannot remember anything more joyous than floating in the ocean where the water is way over my head or body surfing.

The feel of the salt and sun on my skin is the same whether I am broke or flush.

I know, I have been both.

Do you think Bill Gates feels better than me? I don’t think so. It is not possible. Is there more joy available?

I am waiting to see what she accomplishes because it is going to be way more than I ever imagined and I have a wild, untamed imagination.

But I also see the impatience of both youthful exuberance and the insanity of entrepreneurship.

Money and stuff is stupid. I hate stupid. I hate stupid more than anything else I have ever encountered on that side of the ledger. It is a barter which does not involve your soul.

The currency with which you are really paid is your measure against yourself. I jumped out of airplanes because I wondered if I could do it. I could.

I started businesses to see if I could do it. I could.

Don’t let life buy you with lucre. Worse yet, don’t let it rent you.

Trade for more dear stuff — the satisfaction of having plotted and followed your own course, the thrill of having walked the high wire of life with no safety net, the mutual respect of good people, the love of a good mate and a full draught — not a shot glass — of all that life offers.

Go bite the ass off a bear every day of your life and then tell me you can keep score only with money.

If the gods favor you — as they will, my friends, I promise — and you get to the Pay Window, do good works with your money. Money is only useful for good works. How many freakin’ cheeseburgers can you really eat?

Don’t be afraid to be kind to yourself, you will deserve it.

In the end, you will be richer for it. I know.

People say that all the time. But do you really believe it? Does it really work? In fact, it does. When I was in college my senior year a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I took a class in Organizational Behavior. The professor was Greg Oldham. It turned out to be a great class for me not to understand how organizations work, but to understand what makes people tick.

Oldham co-developed a theory on motivation with Richard Hackman. In the class, Oldham presented his theory. After the class, I got into an extended argument with him. I didn’t believe the theory. I was adamant that it was money that drove people, not the touchy, feely, intrinsic psychobabbly things they talked about. We didn’t agree to disagree at the end, Professor Oldham flat told me I was wrong.

The theory was proven on beaver trappers in Oregon. Here is a rough outline of its basic principles.

Hackman and Oldham (1975) suggested that jobs differ in the extent to which they involve
five core dimensions:
1. Skill variety.
2. Task identity.
3. Task significance.
4. Autonomy.
5. Task feedback.
They suggest that if jobs are designed in a way that increases the presence of these
core characteristics three critical psychological states can occur in employees:
1. Experienced meaningfulness of work.
2. Experienced responsibility for work outcomes.
3. Knowledge of results of work activities.
According to Hackman and Oldham, when these critical psychological states are experienced,
work motivation and job satisfaction will be high.

Doesn’t that sound like entrepreneurship? Doesn’t that actually sound like the day to day life of a trader?

Flash forward twenty years. I made a phone call to my old Professor. After being self determined and on my own for practically my whole working career, I told him he was indeed correct. It wasn’t money that motivated me-but a byproduct. What really satisfied me was the autonomy and other things about the job I had chosen. Money was a nice byproduct of it. Ironically, he remembered our argument. He didn’t say I told you so, but he had indeed told me so and had the research to back it up.

As an entrepreneur, don’t make it about the money-unless it’s a revenue model for your firm! Concentrate on being satisfied building great things. Solve big problems. The money will follow. And after spending a life making and losing a lot of money, I guarantee you that while the money does bring you a little security, that ocean salt water rolling over your body feels the same on you as it does on Bill Gates.

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