Why I Do What I Do

Forget website values; these are people values. 

On the first day of Venture for America‘s summer boot camp, we asked fellows to stand and speak for one minute on why they do what they do. This was before any proper introduction to staff or knowledge of what would take place during the 5 weeks of boot camp. Nonetheless, all 40 fellows boldly took a stab at their version of ‘why’.

Their responses were personal but mostly variations on a theme.  A large majority said they like to build. They’re here because they want their career to align with their values. Because they have been given opportunities and want to create opportunities for others.

This reflective exercise forced me to ponder my own answer. Instinctively, I do what I do because I am fascinated with startups and the people in that space. This notion of creating and building something from the ground up is deceivingly glamorous. Startup people are scrappy, creative, and could care less about cubicle politics. They’re going to change the world, and that’s pretty cool.

However, this incentive focuses strictly on the end product. It’s easy to forget that startup life in the here and now is tiring. While it’s good to keep the goal in mind, enjoying the process is equally, if not more, important. As Howard Roark in The Fountainhead said, “in order to get things done, you must love the doing, not the secondary consequences.” I first gravitated to Venture for America because I was excited by those consequences, the prospect of what Venture for America could and would become. I saw that it could be made into a force for good, an alternate option for college graduates who wanted to create something new, a powerful movement that would redefine success as more than just large paychecks and high status.

I do what I do because I know that my hard work today will enable the future I imagine. That future is a place where talent is channeled to worthwhile endeavors. But that’s not enough. The weight of the future only holds sway for however much of the present you can avoid.  In reality, I will only do what I do consistently if I love what I am doing NOW. There are so many obstacles that get in the way. If your primary motivation is some goal in the future, you won’t have the stamina to get over the present bumps. For me, these challenges involve setting a system where no system exists, working through application errors, responding to angry emails, troubleshooting technical mishaps, showing up at job fairs, talking to career services, and crafting VFA’s narrative – I must learn to love it all.

Thinking about the end goal keeps the motor running under stressful circumstances. But if you’re  going to be a person of consistent action, learning to love the process as much as the end goal is critical. You climb the mountain to see what awaits at the top, but also to embrace the challenge of getting there.

That is why I do what I do.


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