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Adii Pienaar

Now working on Receiptful. Co-Founder & ex-CEO of WooThemes. Author of Brandiing. New Dad. Ex-Rockstar.

What Do You Want?

If all constraints and considerations were to be removed, of what would you want more?<...>

This is something that has popped into my thoughts often during the last couple of months (which I'll mostly label as being reflective) since taking some time out.

My answer to the question surprised me. It was like it had been lurking behind a corner and whilst I was navigating a maze, it just jumped out.

Only when the initial surprise subsided, I was liberated by the most obvious of answers.

Before I tell you what I learnt though, I have a story to share.


Last week, I was part of a discussion with a group of 7 other entrepreneurs.

These individuals had all founded and built businesses that were generating $1m+ in annual revenue.

The conversation turned to a question: "If you were to die tomorrow, which three things would you regret not having accomplished yet?

I listened intently as everyone shared a diverse set of goals (and potential regrets). I say diverse, because that's what they were: different levels of ambition, risk or potential regret that were to play out in different spheres of everyone's lives.

It had one shared theme though: out of the 24 accomplishments / regrests shared, only 3 of them related to business or a professional purpose. And even those were airy-fairy in the sense that it either had a philosophical or social focus.

That surprised me.

Here I had a group of successful people of various shapes and sizes, yet they shared one surprising attribute: If all constraints and considerations were to be removed, the things they wanted most (or more of) - and regret most if they never fot this - weren't related to being an entrepreneur or their businesses.


Rewind a couple of days before the above conversation happened.

Last Thursday, I announced publicly that I'm working on a reboot of PublicBeta.

This in itself was a difficult thing for me to do, because I had planned to keep it quiet for a while longer. Mostly because I didn't want to be accountable or admit the fear I have about fucking it up (again, like I did last year).

A certain amount of clarity and momentum helped get me to that (starting) point though.

And it felt good.

I went to bed feeling excited, ambitious, passionate and relieved.

In reliving the events of the day, I found myself veering towards the future. Where could I see PublicBeta go?

And that made me more ambitious, because I actually have an elaborate gameplan in mind that could create something significant. Plus, I held a few aces up my sleeve too.

But then the trajectory of my thoughts shifted and I suddenly experienced a kind of inner-peace that I hadn't experienced before.

I realized a couple of things about PublicBeta:

  • I was working on something that I'm passionate about and - importantly - something that meant I was creating value.
  • My strategy and roadmap had removed the need for me to make money immediately. Whilst I had a very clear revenue model, I didn't feel the urge to go to extremes to validate that.
  • I was taking it slow and I didn't have to change the pace. Importantly, I didn't have to rush into this like I did last year.
  • Whenever I told someone what I was working on, I never called it a startup; I just called it "something new". That "something" new had a very clear vision (to help early-stage entrepreneurs find their first X customers), but I didn't have to box and label it to fit with the Joneses' requirements.

This realization added momentum to the change in trajectory of my thoughts, where I was suddenly not even thinking about PublicBeta, but instead of the rest of my life.

And that's where I suddenly just had the answer to the question I posed right at the beginning of this post.

In that moment, I just knew that there was no way that I was ever going to regret not having worked more or worked faster. Neither was I ever gonna regret not trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Instead what I was going to regret was not pursuing more of the things that were really important to me.

Things like drinking copious amounts of fantastic red wine. And sharing that with significant and loved people in my life.

Or the ability to be infinitely flexible in every day so that I can stop writing this post right now if I wanted to instead play Lego with Adii Jr.

Or travelling with my family, taking too many photos and creating memories.

Or when I am working on "something new", I'm doing it for alternative reasons and not the same bullshit rhetoric about "this is what it means to be an entrepreneur starting up".

I'd work on that thing, because I enjoyed creating something that would be valuable to others.

These things are selfish, because they're all about me. Yet that's the whole point here: what would I really want if all constraints, considerations and other people's opinion or rhetoric were removed?

This realization hasn't made me less ambitious, less driven or less of an entrepreneur. I'd probably argue that I'm a better entrepreneur as a resulf of this.

What it's done though is to make me question every single thing that I do every day to the point that I feel super-free and unattached.


How do I decide what I spend time or money on?

Simple. I'm just brutally honest in answering the question: "Why do I REALLY want this thing I think I want?

Whenever that answer has been something like "...because I fear the alternative..." or "...because everybody wants this...", I'd immediately consider an alternative.

It's at that point where I've felt most free and felt like I can optimize my whole life in the pursuit of the things I really want.

I'll ask you again: If all constraints and considerations were to be removed, of what would you want more?

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