To Start or not to Start Your Own Business

By Chris Andre

To live in the modern age like today is truly a blessing. Most people don’t realize that, as civilizations get older, our human life does get easier and easier. Just twenty years ago, the cell phones were rather bleak in colors and designs. Today, we have everything in one small, rectangular screen. Along with that is the democratization of work, too. Thirty years ago people had to come to the office no matter what, but these days you can literally work anytime, anywhere (hello Starbucks?) and still seal the deal. Even better, you can kick-start your own business in a matter of seconds: Create your Instagram account and promote it now. Then the question is, if the old wisdom tells us that it’s better to work for your own sake than for somebody else’s, why aren’t we all creating our own money-making empire?

I have been juggling with both my own thing and 9-to-5-ish work for more than seven years now. I have also been keen on picking up what many people think about venturing solo, off the corporate ladder. Some say that they don’t have the asset to jumpstart any trade. Some admit that they haven’t found what they’re passionate for. A few willingly reveal that it’s kind of daunting to tread down the path to success alone.

However, it is more amusing to hear what people think about when they think about being the boss of their own company: You make more money, you don’t have to do what people say, and you won’t find yourself asking why when the alarm goes off every morning. Not sure how much of those ideas are based on research and reality, but if you’re in your 30s or pushing 30, you know that you have no more time to waste.

So, more money? That I can’t say for a fact. It’s really hard to quantify because hardly anyone shares their annual income here in Indonesia. Then again, the range of salaries between one post to another can be as wide as the gap between the rich and the poor.

What I find interesting is how Instagram (sorry, social media) often complicates things. I got a number of friends who have finally made themselves the CEO of their own companies, and they seem to travel a lot more and take pictures like crazy, quite the opposite to what they were doing before. Does that mean they’re happier now? It seems like it. Does that mean they have more money to spend? It seems like it. Then again, who tells (or shows) the truth on the social media? Unless … they’re trying so hard to look like part of the #RKOI (Rich Kids of Instagram).

When I do approach them individually, they would instantly admit that some weren’t that happy venturing out on their own. Yes, some did make more money than before. But they seemed to shop more or even gamble away their fortune through unnecessary expenditures. I wonder when they say that they work (on their own) to be happy, is the happiness sitting at the end of the road or is it never the work itself? If we’re only getting more money just to spend more to buy happiness, what’s the point? Yes, money does buy happiness to some extent, I admit. What I find unsettling is that the discordant truth with the wise phrase: It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.

Some do succeed because they work hard. They spend weekends and public holidays just to cram themselves in front of digital screens, just like what bloggers do after they snap a great picture at a much-hyped event. Despite the practicality of modern things, it seems that we do more and more to create the perfect version of our work. And only few can really fare well in managing between time for business and for a personal life.

Yes, you need the latter. I cannot tell you how many people out there bragging to sardonically say “What personal life?” when I touch this subject. I was like that, too, at some point in the past. I understand how easy we can forget that we, at the very heart of our being, are a social creature. I read in an article a few days ago that no one can be great in business for long if he or she doesn’t have a good personal life. Scientists have found after a thorough research spanning over 75 years in the U.S. (forgot the name of this unique research project, but it’s there in the TED Talks), that the happier people are those who could hold good relationships for a long time (this includes with neighbors, people at work, family, all sorts of things).

So, what’s the point of doing your own thing if you only work harder and harder in the end, and not the other way around? Life was, and is, never about hard work, anyway.

One of the last and most unlikely important things when I think about any decision related to work is regrets. Like in any relationship, you don’t want to miss any opportunity that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. But sometimes we’re just too damn self-obsessed, super-selfish in stubbornly defending the meaning of our work, while there were friends, families and significant others waiting for us not to take them for granted. When that happens, no money or success can really alter the damage. And such regret lives in you, not just in your past.

At the end of the day, I believe that happiness does count. People can take great selfies and tag whatever brands they wear, but the most suitable work for you will add depth to your meaningful life beyond labels and labels. Do research before you make any decision. Because, you really don’t want to end up like Dr. Frankenstein, creating your own monster only to have him haunt for your life. Once again, great jobs are never solely about the work. It’s about you being a happier person while you’re at it, for the benefit of yourself and for others. Go and start your own business if that suits you. If not, take it easy; only those insecure people will judge you.