In love with the Theory, not Practice
Some of the coolest looking things from the outside aren’t so dreamlike upon close inspection. Like that shiny apple that’s dry after the second bite.
I had an idea years ago that resonated closely with my values. It was a service I wanted to use but couldn’t find… an online platform that connected people from around the world through common interests. Since I’ve always loved connecting with people from different cultures, it was my “dream” business.
It worked like so… say you’re a runner and traveling to Berlin. On my platform Motley Planet, you’d type in “running” and “Berlin” and it would connect you a local who runs in Berlin. It worked for all different interests: music, yoga, art, history, and so on.
Humans generally want to spend time around people with similar interests, so it made perfect sense to me. For the traveler, it was a great way to get more of a local feel of a place and make a friend over a mutual passion. For the local, it brought the world to them.
People always told me that the best part of their travels was making a local friend, getting local knowledge, and spending time in the local parts of a city. I saw the problem I was solving, and how my platform could enhance people’s lives.
And unlike so much of our digital world that keeps people away from each other, I loved the fact that Motley Planet took a non-existing relationship in the digital world, and turned it into a flesh and blood relationship in the physical world.
My journey started with savings and fire in my belly. I didn’t have a background in tech so I dove into its underbelly in San Francisco, attending events, reaching out to my connections, and researching extensively. I met a lot of interesting people, shared ideas, and learned a lot. The startup momentum coursed through my veins: logo, trademark, domain, colors, fonts, website, development team, user interest, testing, iteration… it was all coming together.
It took about two years to get into that second bite of the shiny apple before I realized that the core was dry. My life revolved around sitting in front of a computer for long periods of time; something I don’t enjoy. I had a foreign development team in a different time zone that I worked with late into the night six nights a week. I grinded.
I was in love with the theory of Motley Planet, but not the everyday practice of working in it. To be completely honest, I went about it wrong. Much of what I was doing didn’t tie in closely with my skillsets. I was never a tech guy. I had someone helping me with marketing but my outsourced development team turned into a nightmare scenario. Hoping the business model would work out was a poor strategy; I was in love with the idea too much to see how it would monetize.
My money got low and so did my drive towards sitting in front of a computer all day, I fizzled out.
But I don’t look at it as a failure; Motley Planet also taught me something bigger… so many things that get perceived from the outside as being awesome, aren’t so awesome when lived through.
Like the many business models that look sexy and cool might not bring a life that’s sexy and cool. Most people couldn’t hack out, or want to do what Elon Musk does every day.
Traveling extensively is something that’s often perceived as the ultimate life. But very few people want to give up on comfort and the known to take on the challenges the world unravels.
Or Facebook. How many times have you posted a great pic when smiling, but later that day had a negative thought that didn’t match that smile?
I’ve learned from experience that all shiny apples don’t always taste the best. Things that look amazing from the outside quite often aren’t great when living inside of them. My lesson and suggestion… cut into the apple first before biting into it with excitement. See what’s inside that world and closely explore that reality. Only then do you know if the journey inside is just as great as the external shiny appearance.