The Perils of a Successful Business

I went on the interwebs this morning to find that Mojang, independent developers of Minecraft (my son’s all-time favorite game), is selling out to Microsoft, longtime symbol of The Man. Of particular interest to me was this part of their blog post explaining why they’re selling:

As you might already know, Notch is the creator of Minecraft and the majority shareholder at Mojang. He’s decided that he doesn’t want the responsibility of owning a company of such global significance. Over the past few years he’s made attempts to work on smaller projects, but the pressure of owning Minecraft became too much for him to handle. The only option was to sell Mojang.

This is something Denisa and I have reflected on a fair bit: how a successful business venture can end up taking you places you never intended to go. There are problems with an unsuccessful business, of course–but there are also problems with a successful one. Of course, for Notch, this “problem” means that he got to sell his company for $2.5 billion. Sounds like a problem I wouldn’t mind having.

Except there are problems that come with large amounts of money, too. Just look at all the lottery winners and how many of them end up unhappy. Or professional athletes a few years after they’re doing playing.

Money doesn’t solve all your problems. It typically creates more than it solves. With all of this money, one would think Minecraft would be sitting pretty. Except it started as an independent movement, and this is very much taking it away from that. By its very success, it might end up failing.

This is one of the reasons Denisa has refrained from making her bread baking business any bigger than it already is. She’s had opportunities to expand and grow, and they’re opportunities that she’s let slip away on purpose. We enjoy having a fair bit of freedom–the ability to go on vacations when we want to, for example. Once you have a business that you depend on for money, a lot of that freedom goes away.

Of course, the big trick to it all is that it’s hard to not look ahead to success–or back at obscurity–and think how easy you’ll have it (or how easy you had it). For me, it’s a constant reminder that life doesn’t really have any winners or losers. Just people who are able to enjoy the moment while preparing for the future as best they can . . . and people who aren’t able to do that.

As I’ve thought about it, it seems a big part of being happy with a business (or side job like writing is for me at the moment) is deciding what you want out of it, and then constantly reevaluating that goal to make sure it’s still in line with your life and your priorities. Seems like it should be easy, but in practice it’s anything but.

And that’s my bit of zen advice for you this fine Monday.

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