Neil Young Was Wrong

Neil Young is a great artist, but he was wrong when he said it’s better to burn out than fade away.  At least he was wrong as far as building business while staying grounded is concerned – the “go big or go home” mentality is flawed thinking.

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During the Internet boom, no one talked about building profitable businesses. You didn’t need to build real businesses because the false economy of venture investments, paper gains and virtual pyramid schemes at the time, made real businesses irrelevant. Back then people turned their noses at businesses that generated 6 figure incomes – decent fortunes at any other time, but not exciting enough for most people during the tech boom.

When the bubble burst, it took years for everyone to come back down to earth and just when it looked like profitable business had become vogue again, entrepreneurs are once again talking about building companies they can flip for a quick windfall.

If you dream of becoming the next Google, Facebook, or MySpace, as many entrepreneurs do, you have to realize the odds are astronomically high that you WON’T pull it off. Even if you pour all your heart and soul into your goal, and will success with all of your might, odds say you will fail. Why kill yourself for a high chance of having your dreams dashed?

If I sound like a Debbie Downer, I don’t mean to. I love audacious goals, and I don’t have a problem with people aiming high, but I don’t believe there are any shortcuts. People hoping for a quick get rich scheme are playing the lottery with their own time and money. There is an old saying that “it takes many years to become an overnight success.” This is absolutely true in business.

Along the way to your dream, what’s wrong with building a great company, that solves real problems and makes many customers happy? Here’s a radical concept. Just build a great company and keep it. Pace yourself. Get rest, work smart and work hard, but don’t burn out.

David Heinemeier Hansson, creator of the Ruby on Rails framework and Partner at 37Signals also believes in balance and the value of building a sustainable business. Here is a video of a presentation he recently delivered talking about a variety of topics including business models, customers, work hours and great companies.

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