Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma–which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.–Steve Jobs
This personal life philosophy of pursuing one’s own dreams regardless of the opinions of others played a key role in why Jobs was able to imagine, create, and execute on such grand and market-shifting ideas. This philosophy, which guided the way Jobs lived his life, also shaped the way he approached business and played an important role in how Jobs built Apple into a Fortune 500 company and then revived it again after the company nosedived in his absence.
It is through unique and forward-thinking life philosophies that entrepreneurs like Asana’s Dustin Moskovitz, Coursera’s Daphne Koller, and Birchbox’s Katia Beauchamp have successfully led their companies to where they are today–creating new experiences, opening up untapped markets, and forging new paths.
The six entrepreneurs below shared their philosophies on life, work, and everything in between.
1. Dustin Moskovitz (Cofounder of Asana): Be mindful in your personal and professional life
Dustin Moskovitz, cofounder of organization software Asana and Facebook, said by being mindful and aware of his mental and physical state, he can guide his actions and thoughts with thoughtful intention. He said:
Mindfulness has helped me succeed in almost every dimension of my life. By stopping regularly to look inward and become aware of my mental state, I stay connected to the source of my actions and thoughts and can guide them with considerably more intention.
By bringing full presence to each interaction, I am able to avoid missteps and stay focused on my real purpose for every conversation. This guides both my personal and work life: we apply this principle at Asana by making sure there are regular forums and opportunities for reflection, from periodic peer feedback and self-reviews to punctuated episodes of work, in between which we re-evaluate every part of the company.
2. Daphne Koller (cofounder of Coursera): Look for opportunities to leave the world a better place.
Daphne Koller, cofounder of education site Coursera, said she is driven by a personal sense of responsibility to leave the world a better place than when she entered it and looks for opportunities where a relatively small effort will make a large impact. She said:
I’ve always felt that we should try to live our lives so as to leave the world a better place. Or, to quote Steve Jobs, we should ‘make a dent in the universe.’ I also believe that this obligation only increases for people who are more fortunate.
I try to seek out opportunities where a small amount of resources, time, or effort can make a disproportionately large contribution. I particularly value efforts with a ripple effect, where one action sets off an entire cascade of responses whose overall impact can be really huge. That’s a major reason I chose to enter the field of education and went on to found Coursera. Educating even a single person can have a profound effect not only on that person’s life, but also on the many people whose lives that person touches. By applying a relatively small amount of resources, we have the opportunity to transform the lives of millions of people, and indirectly of many more.
3. Zach Sims (cofounder of Codecademy): Learn by doing
Zach Sims, cofounder of education company Codecademy, said the best way to learn something is by actively doing it. He said:
Learn by doing. That’s been a core belief both in my life and throughout Codecademy–we think the best way for people to learn isn’t to do so by leaning back (by watching videos or sitting in class), but instead by figuring out what they want to learn and starting to build things that reflect that. We try to hire people who have the same initiative and approach both in life and work in the same way, not by just consuming the knowledge that’s around them, but by getting practical experience and trying new things.
4. Katia Beauchamp (cofounder of Birchbox): Realize that there are many different paths to success
Katia Beauchamp, cofounder of e-commerce beauty site Birchbox, said operating under the realization that there is no one right answer–whether personally or professionally–has shed her fear of failure and empowered her to move forward with confidence. She said:
There is no right answer, there is strategy, execution, and iteration. When we started Birchbox and when you start anything, the hardest thing to get over is this fear that you won’t have the right answers–because you don’t have the experience, the perspective, the time to perfectly organize a plan.
The reality is that there are many paths to success; there is no one path. Realizing that frees you to move fast and get things done in the best way that you can. Once you start executing and realizing that you can make reasonable decisions that lead to successful outcomes, you gain the confidence to keep going. For us, it is critical that we all keep that in mind, because every day brings new firsts.
5. Jeff Lawson (cofounder of Twilio): Recognize that your time is limited, so think big
Jeff Lawson, CEO and cofounder of cloud communication service Twilio, said thinking big and pushing yourself to solve big problems that impact multiple industries will help keep you motivated during the ups and downs that almost all startups face. He said:
The most finite resource we have on this planet is time–so think big. This philosophy has driven me more than anything else as an entrepreneur for the past 15 years. Going big doesn’t mean being ostentatious or puffing out your chest, it means thinking at scale. Are you spending your precious time on something that is truly worthwhile? Is the world a better place for having you and your work a part of it?
When people push themselves to solve big problems and take on behemoths in entrenched industries, that’s what pushes technology–and hopefully humanity–forward. Starting any company requires enormous effort–your blood, sweat and tears–so you might as well dedicate them to a purpose that will have the most impact.
Thinking big is what kept me motivated during the long nights and lean times when investors balked at the idea of a platform targeting developers.
6. Logan Green (cofounder of Lyft): Take action to improve your community
Logan Green, cofounder and CEO of virtual carpool app Lyft, said invest your time in things that really move the world forward in a meaningful way rather than in short-term fads. He said:
Take on giant problems that matter to people. Listening to all of the chatter in the press, it is easy to come away with the impression that investors are always chasing the latest fad. But in our experience the best investors care most about putting their money into solving gigantic problems that improve the world in a meaningful way.
People develop and shape their personal philosophy during the whole life. Some circumstances may radically change our views, depending on our age, social status and personal qualities. As for me, at this stage of my life I canât say it for sure that my personal philosophy is complete and well-shaped. In my research paper I want to express my views on several sides of human life. Iâd like to attract attention to such concepts as sense of life and happiness, good and evil, morality and faith in God, love and death, eternal life values, karma and religion. Iâll answer the questions what love and happiness mean for me personally. I understand that the concept of life philosophy is really versatile and itâs hard to express personal views on so many aspects. Thatâs why my research deals with only those things which are important for me at this stage of my life.
If you look at life from different sides for some period of time, and then gather all your thoughts into one picture â that would be your life philosophy.
Humans strive to find out and clearly define the sense of their living, and feel unhappy and desperate without it. Each person has his own sense of life and discovers it for himself only. There are people who live their lives without asking what they are living for. Personally I have always been concerned with this question and I think it is important to have at least some slightest peace of sense in life. Sometimes I feel myself broken and empty. It happens when I donât see what I am living for. But I remember wise words that âlife is too short to regretâ. From time to time I feel lonely and dissatisfied with my life, but then unexpectedly I meet a nice person or find an interesting activity, and feel happy again. Thatâs why I think that everything depends on how we see life, and even in the most desperate situation one may find the way out.
People explore the world around and gradually get acquainted with it. People get knowledge as a moving factor of human development. Life philosophy in general means understanding of personal inner world and world around. I presume that there are certain variants of life, which people choose according to their life circumstances. âThe variant of lifeâ is a psychological characteristic of individual existence, which is defined by the attitude of people to life. Such variants form human personality and make it more typical. Life of people is many-sided and Iâm still trying to find my own way in it. No matter whether someone is a writer or a reader, his aim is to live his own life, without prescribed or forced stereotypes. Creative work and desire for self-improvement are two things which are important for me in my present life. Creative people have an opportunity to ignore senseless existence. We live and work because of necessity and social duty. On the contrary creative work is inspired by our inner state. Creative people are left to their own devices. Everything depends only on personal initiative. My deep interest and curiosity to explore the world around make me move forward. On the other hand I think that one more sense in my life in desire to improve present state of things. I strive to achieve goals in life and accomplish success. But I also understand that it canât last forever. My life is not a constant pursuit of happiness; as I take into account my abilities and chances. I understand that one person canât achieve great results without much effort. Life of a person who always moves forward is full of worries and strain. People always want something and in order to get it, they solve problems and overcome life calamities. If I strive to achieve goals, it means Iâm not satisfied with my present life and surrounding world. On the other hand I canât hope for anything if I donât believe in future success. Iâm optimistic and always hope for better future. A wise phrase of Salvador Dali slipped through my mind:
Donât be afraid of perfection, as youâll never achieve it. The more so, that there is nothing good in it.
But even though I consider Salvador Dali is right, I still try to achieve what Iâm able to. Itâs like in âAlchemistâ by Paulo Coelho: If you have a strong desire, the whole Universe will help you to make your dreams come true. Spiritual growth is a constant widening of our knowledge and experience.
Life sense helps people to survive. If we loose it, we start thinking of suicide and each of us finds own reasons for it. Despair and crucial life events make people think there is nothing worth living for and no opportunities to realize. But sense in life shows us the way to overcome difficulties and move forward.
Speaking about such important philosophic problems, I canât help mentioning the role of fate and karma. These concepts are often mixed up, as the majority of people consider that karma means fate, but I think it is far from truth. According to a widely spread opinion, fate is an unchangeable predetermination of life obstacles (usually negative ones). As for me, I reject such views. No doubt that people are able to change karma, as everything depends on their personal strength and choice. Many people think that together with their belief in karma, they should accept the idea of reincarnation. But I think that one should not necessarily believe in reincarnation in order to understand karma. The concept âkarmaâ means âreason and consequenceâ, depending on our thoughts and actions. In other words, one builds his life on his own. I believe in it and feel myself responsible for everything that happens in my life. But on the other hand I understand that certain events in life are caused by outer force â God, obstacles, luck or occasion. We meet new people, move to a new place, get interested in new activities â all these changes in our life were not decided in advance; they happened because of our choice. The concept of karma implies that people have wide choices in life. I create my karma, rule my own life, and can change everything for the better. In other words I can explain karma as following: if you act well, the results will be good and vice versa. Pleasure and pain are caused by our virtuous and evil actions.
Iâm not a religious person to full extent. Having read much about different religions, I understood that the faith in its true meaning should be inside us. No matter whether a person visits church or not, he should choose either to believe in God or not on his own. I respect all religious streams and accept certain ideas from all of them. For example, in spite the fact that Christianity is closer to me than Eastern religions, Iâm more likely to believe in reincarnation. I just canât accept Christian views that after death people would find themselves either in the heaven or in the hell, according to their righteousness in terrestrial life. The belief in constant return to this world is somehow closer to me. Thatâs why I canât say firmly what religion is better for me. In every religion one may find something close to his outlook. Christians believe that humans have two specific peculiarities. First of all, as they are created in the likeness of God, it is right to consider that they reflect his characterã(Evans, 1986). God is considered to be good; it means that people are also good-natured. Second aspect is that we live to enjoy spiritual relationship with God, through praying and visiting church. Personally I donât visit church and know only a few prayers, but I have inner belief and I think thatâs enough. Religion is something personal. I think that each person needs God, but canât truly be happy without Him. Human beings tend to widen their life philosophy and experience, and learn more about this world. As a result among the representatives of humanity, there is a great variety of life understanding. This understanding is our religion. Thatâs why I think that each person has his own religion, which is a system of ideas and beliefs concerning our world. Some people see the Universe as something chaotic and senseless. Others think that humanity lives in the world with numerous laws and if we break those laws, it would bring us misfortune and destruction. No matter what views people have, I consider it to be religion.
I want to draw attention to another aspect of my philosophy â love. I understand that an attempt to investigate love is connected with a great mystery. Love is too deep and immeasurable, and we canât wholly explore it. I think that for the majority of people love defines happiness. When I do not love and donât feel care from the side of close people, I canât be happy to full extent, no matter how successful my career is. Speaking about love, I canât help saying that it is closely connected with death. I think that if people didnât know they were mortal, they wouldnât be able to love so passionately. They wouldnât be able to experience so powerful emotions and feelings. Love means being open to everything positive in this world (care, attention, joy), and negative either (grieve, gloom and disappointment). When people fall in love, they see world around from a new side. Anxiety and gladness are directly related to love. I mean that at first a person is anxious about whether his beloved shares his feelings or not. But in fact these fear and anxiety donât vanish when a person wins somebodyâs affection. When a person deals with unrequited love, he is at least able to continue his usual everyday existence.
Love reminds us of death. When one of our friends or close relatives dies, we understand how fleeting, ephemeral and irretrievable our life is. Past years will never return. What is not said or done will remain in the past forever and there is nothing to do with it. May be for this reason people try to take all chances and opportunities, provided by fate. Many people feel the value of love, friendship, loyalty and faithfulness only at the moment of someoneâs death. I doubt we would be able to love, if we knew that we would never die.
Love is the complete addiction to another person. When I fell in love, I began to look at this world through the eyes of my beloved. Love acts like a drug. It occupies thoughts, reason and time. Being away from beloved is extremely crucial for a person in love. Faithful love is happiness; happiness is sense of life. Even though, being apart from beloved may be dreadful and unbearable, it would strengthen feelings and remind of past happy days. Itâs better to try but fail, than not to try, fearing to fail. People, who fear to live and love sincerely, would never feel happy and satisfied.
What is happiness? One can talk for hours, answering this question. In fact happiness is to see that close people, parents, beloved and friends are happy. True happiness is when you are able to help other people and make them happy. Someone would say that they feel happy when their personal desires and wishes are fulfilled. I canât completely agree here. Our personal satisfaction is temporary happiness. This feeling is likely to vanish very soon and weâll forget about it. People think they would be happy if they earn much money or achieve higher position in life. But still they wonât be pleased forever. One should value each moment if he really wants to be happy. Nobody cares how much money you have. The thing that matters is happiness of people around. We often painfully react on other peopleâs sorrows and misfortunes. By helping other people, fulfilling their needs and dreams, we would become happier ourselves. Iâd like to repeat a widely known saying: treat other people in the way you want to be treated by them.
What does moral mean? Moral is a system of views and norms, which occupy the concepts of good and evil, justice, conscience and sense of life. Moral helps people to move forward on the way to self-improvement. Moral defines certain values, which regulate human behavior. Each person is free to decide whether to follow this system of norms or not. Those, who donât accept social rules, become either criminals or outsiders. According to good or evil actions people would be later judged by society and God. On the other hand people shouldnât be forced to act virtuously; it should be a free-willed and unselfish choice. For example, according to moral norms one should help weak people. Originally it shows human kindness and readiness to sacrifice certain things for the sake of other people. But different people have different motives of virtuous actions. Some people help others because they want to be altruistic in public eyes. Other people follow the Commandments of God. Still others help weak people hoping for approval in society. We canât say for sure that each virtuous deed is moral because we donât know what made people do it. Each of us has own understanding of what is right and what is wrong.
What is good and evil? Evil is lack of good. It doesnât exist in reality; it is just a possible condition of life, because people always have a right to choose between good and evil. For example, a usual knife is not an evil as it is, but it turns into an evil in the hands of a criminal. The same knife can be used by a doctor to rescue human life. God gives people a chance to decide what to do with this knife. There have been lots of battles in the long human history. But probably the greatest of all is the battle between evil and good, decency and immorality, altruism and egoism, love and hatred. We face this battle in our everyday life, and try to distinguish evil from good. People choose certain system of values, and follow it in life. Kindness is important for our spiritual health; evil is like a venom. Kindness is not simply a moral duty; it is nutrition for our soul in the first place. Good can exist in various forms and conditions: books, attitude to people, technical progress and justice. All of these things have common positive meaning for human life; all of them fulfill social and spiritual needs of people. Good means peace, love, respect, attention and mutual care. In this way it represents everything positive in the sphere of morality. On the contrary, evil contradicts with moral ideals, and hampers people on their way to happiness and joy.
Why do good and evil exist? We try to understand why our impartial God let violence, aggression and pain penetrate the world. To answer this question, I still should admit that people were given freedom of choice. Without it human life would be senseless. God wants us to act in a virtuous way. It is for people to decide whether to follow His will or not. There are philosophers who think that evil and good are two equal forces. But I think that people are kind beings, because they were created in the likeliness with our kind God. In our hearts we approve virtue and reject immorality. Nevertheless discussion of this topic would hardly be able to eliminate pain and sorrow from our world, penetrated with tears of history. Everybody knows consequences of evil. Nevertheless I keep to the point that life calamities strengthen human spirit and inner force. And I hope that new generations wonât repeat mistakes of their ancestors. Iâm an optimist and I think that it is important to concentrate on those virtuous deeds which we are able to do now, because thereâs no sense in thinking about past negative events all the time.
In conclusion Iâd like to say that our personal philosophy may change due to the conditions we live in and people we meet. In my research paper I expressed my opinion on common human values, which are important for me.
- Fromm, Erich. The Art of Loving. Harper & Row, 1956.
- Williams, Mary. Constructing a Life Philosophy, 2005.
- Evans, Stephen. The Quest for Faith. The Mystery of persons and Belief in God. Inter Varsity Press, 1986.
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