Personal motivation and perseverance are essential ingredients of success and accomplishment. Each of us has different values and aims in life. We have separate ways of setting goals and striving for them. Every person sees the world in an individual way. But all enduring success comes from taking steps in a chosen direction.
No matter what the vessel or who the skipper, to get to the destination you dream of, you need a sail and a rudder. You need a force that pushes the ship forward and you need a mechanism to point the ship in the desired direction. It is that easy, and that difficult. Find your force and find your direction. One day, your dreams will come true.
When looking back at my own professional life, there were times when my boat was rudderless or without sail. I did things, but without meaning. Or I thought about meaning but did nothing about it. Progress was erratic and slow. As an example, it took me over a decade to conclude my university studies. I worked on business projects that didn’t do so well. After years of trial and error, there were friends and acquaintances who did not hold much belief in my ability to succeed.
Luckily, my thoughts about myself were not influenced by them. I had a solid trust in myself – an inner strength and a form of intellectual independence. What was essential to me was that at every step on my journey, my skill at hoisting the sail and holding the rudder grew better. Although I didn’t always know where I was sailing, I was determined to become an able captain.
MySQL was a dream-come-true. I will always be grateful to the smart and passionate people with whom I had the honor of sharing the journey. I learnt so much. We grew from a small Scandinavian startup into one of the most significant software businesses of the era and one of the early unicorns. First Yahoo, then Wikipedia, Google, Facebook and others became customers. There were few successful companies on the web that did not run on MySQL.
MySQL demonstrated that great software can spring from faraway places. Open source can challenge incumbent players and result in phenomenal businesses. MySQL showed that there is no limit to what a motivated team can accomplish. But if you look closely, you will also see that MySQL faced some near-death experiences on its path to success.
What got us there? The answer is motivation. Hoisting the sail and holding the rudder. Being a team.
Eucalyptus Systems, which I joined after MySQL, became a vivid example of how troubled a startup can become. From having been the early leader in our space, we became the hardest hit and nearly forgotten vendor. In the darkest of our moments, when we might have given up, we looked at each other and said: We refuse to lose! We cut our costs, re-architected our product, rewrote our strategy, focused on our few loyal customers, and reorganized the team. Slowly but surely, our ship took a new course and started heading towards more favorable waters. In 2014 we were winning deals again from our competitors. We had weathered the storm.
What can you learn from my story? All paths to success are littered with mistakes and failures. The balance will eventually – one day – tip to success. When you fall, stand up again. Learn. Once you succeed, set eyes on a higher goal.
If you do not desire success, you will not achieve it. But a desire for success will keep you going through hell and high water. I don’t mean just success for yourself. I mean success for the purpose of your business – success for customers, partners and the company itself.
When planning for a business, I set deadlines. When planning for my own development and progression, I don’t. I have a strong belief in the future, and worry that firm deadlines would play games with me. ONE DAY my dream will come true. That’s my credo. It may happen later than I thought or sooner than I think. But I must let the world play out as it is intended to. I can be impatient with regards to my actions but must be patient in regards to how the results manifest themselves. The only thing I must believe in is “one day”.
With that mindset, any complication is just a complication and any obstacle is just an obstacle. If you have a deeply rooted belief in the ultimate outcome, challenges are just temporary hindrances. Eventually you will reach the harbor you are sailing towards.
That is why I don’t set specific goals for myself. I think in concepts and visions, not in goals or timeframes. I make promises to myself, rarely to the world. I hold onto the people who remain by my side irrespective of my accomplishments or lack of such.
If you want to succeed, ask yourself these questions. How do you set your direction and purpose? How do you learn from failure and success? How do you create daily habits that point you in the right direction?