A few years back, I had the pleasure of speaking with Joe Gebbia. Joe is a designer, entrepreneur, and most notably, the co-founder of Airbnb. He was a partner at Y Combinator who provided seed funding for my startup at the time, so although the meeting was firstly about my business, I picked up on a few things from our conversation that I thought I'd share with you.
1. Life is still hard as a billionaire
Many people have this idea that once you achieve monetary success, you'll be free of all things that typically cause you stress. Problems will still be problems, they'll just be different ones. You may not have the stress of worrying about money (or the lack of it), but managing a global company and having over 3000 employees depending on you to steer it is no walk in the park.
One thing I've learned over the years from reading & listening to people who've achieved wild success (mostly through books & podcasts) is that it's crucial to make your happiness and state of mind independent of your income. No amount of success will improve your internal state.
2. There's no secret to making it big
Everyone wants to know the secret to success. People are always looking for shortcuts in life, and very few are willing to play the long game that successful entrepreneurs have endured. Success will come differently for everyone, but it's usually a lot of hard work, a lot of persistence, some good timing, and a little bit of luck. But the harder you work and the more persistent you are, the luckier you'll be.
Joe spoke about how Airbnb would never have grown to what it is today without the housing market crash in 2008. People were uncomfortable with the idea of letting strangers sleep on their couch, but after that event, people were more open to it as they needed the extra source of income it would provide.
On another note, when Joe and his partner Brian were running out of money and racked up $20,000 in credit card debt, they created a limited collection of breakfast cereals (Obama O's & Cap'n McCain's) based on the 2008 presidential elections. They sold them at $40 per box and made $30,000 after expenses. There were countless road blocks along the way for them, but with a bit of grit, luck, and persistence, they made it happen.
3. The best times are making it happen
You ever catch yourself having a huge smile on your face while thinking about a specific time in your life that once brought you joy? I caught Joe experiencing that when telling stories of the early days of Airbnb.
There's no doubt that anyone who got to the top is glad they got there, but that doesn't change the fact that when you're in the early days of building a company, it's just you, the work, the customer, and it's incredibly fulfilling. Seeing the direct impact your actions have on your customers isn't something you experience at all stages of the company. In most cases, the higher you climb up the entrepreneurial ladder, the further you get from your customer. Not to sound cliché, but remember to be present in your journey. Not everything should be done exclusively for the outcome, sometimes just doing it is the reward.
Some fun facts
-We held our meeting in the famous Airstream at the Airbnb HQ in San Francisco.
-Airbnb's original name was AirBed & Breakfast.
-There are Airbnb's in almost 98% of countries on earth.
-The business Joe was advising us on and Y Combinator invested in was called Spoil, and I'm currently writing a post about what it was & why it failed.