Want and Must

Ample amount of free time gives me an ideal opportunity to read up on books (when I am not slacking off watching TV or browsing the web). However, I find myself always gravitated towards business and entrepreneurship books the most.

I am involved with a professional organization called “Bay Area K Group“, and while it mostly consists of 1st generation Koreans, there are few 1.5 generations. Most members speak Korean exclusively, so if you don’t you don’t feel fitting in. I actually had an interesting discussion with another 1.5-gen Korean American, and he said broad Korean community (including 1st gen and beyond) has been having problem uniting, because of sutble (or quite large) cultural and language differences. Language makes up huge proportion of a culture, so it is probably safe to say language-induced cultural difference.

Anyhow, one of 1.5 gen guy I met there was in exactly the same situation as I was two years ago, operating a startup by himself. He talked about his concerns, and I could totally understand because I had gone through the same before. It’s just too hard for one person to continue. That’s one of many things I had learned when I did my own stuff. He’s been doing it for two years, and I really command him for such effort. While talking, he suggested a book called “The Monk and the Riddle“. I just finished reading it – it was an easy read since it was short, and it’s another kind of book altogether (different from Founders at Work).

It gives a good overview of what VCs are typically looking for. There is no shortage of information about that, but this one stuck because it was told in a story. I could also relate to the main character – there are two main characters, a Virtual CEO and an entrepreneur, and I am talking about the entrepreneur, not the Virtual CEO. In the book, what struck me the most was about doing what you want to do instead of doing what you must do first and doing what you want to do later. The latter is how 99% of people operate. They feel that they must work, hold a steady job and support the family. After they retire, they feel like they could pursue what they want to do (Book continues on the subject and talks about how a company must have a mission other than making big bucks since the mission keeps the company going when things get tough). Another book called “4-hour Workweek” also talks about “Deferred Life Plan” where you do what you must to do so that you can pursue what you want to do later. The problem is, by the time you retire, you are either too old or too sick to enjoy what you want to do later. It’s not necessarily money, either, while there is nothing wrong with it. But, everyone says that more money brings in more worries. Make enough money to live nicely (how nicely would depend on your lifestyle), and do what you want to do.

It struck such a cord with me because another successful entrepreneur told me the same. I wrote about him before. He had founded and run successful start-ups in the past and he now lives in a property with more than one-acre land in a super-rich town called Atherton, CA. After the shutdown of previous company I was working for, he and I had a chance to talk privately before presenting our success with Korea market to a company that bought the assets and intellectual property. I was seeking some concrete idea or wisdom from him, but I didn’t get satisfactorial answer from him. Rather, he asked me why I want to start a company. I told him it was for wealth (money) and accomplishment (fame). He told me starting a company is a lousy way to make money (9 out of 10 fail) and there are different ways to seek fame (Hollywood for example). Then, he asked me what I would want to do if I had enough money. I told him I would like to make a difference in the world by setting a self-sustaining charitable organization. He said I should pursue that idea. However, I didn’t get it at the time. I think I get it now, but it still feels unreachable and undoable. Always in the back of my mind is how I could support my family. How can I support the family running a non-profit, charitable organization? Isn’t it something that social study graduates or millionaires or politician’s wives do? I still think it’s a very noble idea and I would definitely do it when I had “enough” money, but I am not sure if that’s something I would do while having to support my family. It’s just feels impossible….

But, there is also another thing I enjoy, and that is being a leader or being under the limelight. I’ve certainly enjoyed it in Korea, being a class president for three years in junior high school. I’ve also founded and ran a Anime (Japanase Animation) club at PENN. In my first job out of college, I assembled an Ultimate Frisbee team, which won the first place in recreation league in Washington D.C.

At any rate, I am about to start a job at a mobile application company, and I am quite excited about it. As I have mentioned before, I have been following mobile market and I am quite gung-ho about it. Even in downturn, I believe mobile market (in addition to gaming) will be way better than rest of the economy. I have been wanting to go into mobile market, and I am taking an opportunity to dive in head-first, as I do in many situations. I feel that this might be the place where I can get the best of “want” and “must”.

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