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When Work is Liberating

Research shows that we perform at our best when we have a sense of purpose

Dropbox went public, but that’s not the story

In 2007, Drew Houston — a young kid with an idea — applied to Y Combinator. His idea was called Dropbox.

Earlier today, Dropbox went public. Its price has so far jumped by 40%. At the time of this writing, its market cap is around $12 billion.

Before going public, Houston and his co-founder released a letter to the community. You can read it here.

One line, in particular, stood out and is worth mentioning:

“Research shows that we perform at our best when we can focus, when we’re well rested, and when we have a sense of purpose.”

The Capital team supports many entrepreneurs — established professionals and subject matter experts — who are looking for focus and purpose (rest is not assumed). For many of our partners, building a company is most exciting because it involves solving meaningful problems, and by doing so, finding a deep sense of purpose through work.

In this way, the startup world benefits from the widespread lack of corporate leadership, culture, and integrity. For a variety of reasons, many employers cannot or will not liberate their people.

If more people found their corporate jobs exciting and meaningful, they would be much less compelled to leave. But the “work of work” is terrible. It is petty, peripheral, and soul-crushing. Reasonable people avoid it.

Sports offer a nice counter-balance.

I don’t love sports because of the slam dunks or home runs. I love sports, mostly, because of coaches — their intensity, spirit, and labor of love. You cannot be a great coach without amazing focus and a contagious sense of purpose. We should all act more like our favorite coaches.

With a little planning and a lot of courage, you can trade a tedious job for focused, purposeful work. Like Houston’s dream, your idea can become a billion-dollar company.

But entrepreneurship is not your thing — if you do not want to build a billion-dollar company — become a coach or in some other way find liberating work.