Editor’s Note: Each week Maynard Webb, former CEO of LiveOps and the former COO of eBay, will offer candid, practical, and sometimes surprising advice to entrepreneurs and founders. To submit a question, write to Webb at email@example.com.
Q. I am very blessed that my company did well and was acquired for a great price. Now it’s time for me to go to my next thing but I’m not sure what that is. I enjoyed building but don’t think I want to go through the 12-year grind of going from nothing to greatness.
-Founder who had a great exit . . . and doesn’t know what to do now
Congrats on your success. You’ve achieved something incredible and you now find yourself in a very interesting place.
Knowing many founders, I believe that you will create something again—this entrepreneurial spirit is in your DNA, and that’s a good thing for providing you with purpose and for contributing new and meaningful things to the world. But I understand from your question that you are not yet ready to start over again. Another option is to help start things but have other people in the operating roles—that way you are creating but not as involved in the day-to-day, which can give you some space to find what you really want to invest all of yourself into.
You should determine what you want to do next based on what drives you—not how it is perceived. In reading the background you shared it’s obvious that you are an expert in what you do. I imagine this may have been soul food for you at some point, but it’s not anymore. The conundrum is that you are now world-class at it and it’s expected that you continue doing it.
But if what you’re doing is not fulfilling your purpose, you feel out of whack. Everyone does their best work when they are engaged and find passion in what they are doing. I believe you can find that. Experiment by adding things and then decide what you like and what you don’t. What will make you feel challenged or passionate? Find a quiet spot to reflect and write down things you think you’d be passionate about. Getting this clarity is important. Don’t let your “have-tos” get ahead of finding your purpose.
I encourage you to read a great book written by one of my mentors, Gay Hendricks. It’s called The Big Leap and it speaks to this whole issue far better than I can. It can help you find your passion and gain more energy as you gain clarity on what you are intended to do. You may or may not know whether you want to spend the next dozen years or so building another company, but you do know that you want to spend them in your genius zone—doing what you are uniquely good at and what makes you come alive. That answer is inside of you, you just have to unearth it.
It does take work. Every year I do a full assessment of everything going on in my life. I then think about what would make me really proud to achieve by the end of the year. I divide my life into categories (work life, home life, etc.) and then subcategories (relationships, family, health) and ask myself what wild success would look like in each of those areas. I prioritize the categories and over time I see that the priority order has changed. For example, working on maintaining my health has taken on more precedence in recent years (although I have more to do). Once I have the goals prioritized correctly, I review what success would look like in each category and then try to commit to that goal by detailing what I will start, stop, and continue doing to get there. I look at it every week so I can stay connected to it.
It’s great that you’ve had so much success that you can do almost anything. I am sure you will find that you will make another big impact in the world in your next journey.