Earlier this year I read the book 'The 4 hour work week'. This is a book that I had heartily recommended to a lot of people, but had never read myself.
One of the exercises the book makes you do is to write down a list of things that you want to do/be/have within the next six months. You then pick the top three and try to action something immediately to make them happen.
These are what I chose:
- run a marathon
- eat at the best restaurant in the world
- work only 4 days a week
I had just trained for and run a half-marathon, and it didn't seem like much of a milestone compared to running a full. Old men run marathons, how hard could it be?
It was easy to find a list of marathons coming up within the next few months, (to give me enough time to train), that were reasonably priced, and I realise that this might sound horrible didn't require me to raise money for charity. The Lisbon Marathon met all of these requirements so I signed up immediately. The Lisbon Marathon is also called Rock n Roll, which sounded interesting.
I was pretty gutted when El Bulli closed down. For years this was considered the finest restaurant in the world, and I had missed out.
Noma have a very elaborate reservation policy that is akin to trying to get tickets to Glastonbury - on the first Monday of the month, you and 1000s of other people join a virtual queue to try and secure a booking.
The best reservation I managed to get was a Tuesday lunchtime in September for 4 people - and I had to find another couple that were willing to travel mid-week to Copenhagen to have a very expensive meal.
The 4 day week
The 4 day week thing was something I've wanted to do for a while (I mean, who wouldn't want to do that?) I didn't have any grand plans for what I wanted to do on that extra day off a week - I just wanted more time to muck around. To play video games - to go to the cinema - to cook - to read novels. I had decided that I wasn't going to make that extra day a time for doing worthy things, but instead a time for just living.
The best way of achieving this would be to quit my job at Forward Partners and go solo as a contractor.
"Hey Milly, I'm going to quit my job because of the 4 hour work week"
"At least finish the book first!"
It's an incredible time to be a developer - there are so few available talented devs around that you can basically name your price. Recruiters barely flinched when I mentioned that I only wanted to work 4 days a week.
I also started saying:
"Oh, and I want to pitch myself at the more expensive end of the market"
4 days a week.. and for more money - outrageous.
Forward Partners, they sat me down and asked:
"Hey Chris, if you're going contracting, why not contract with us?"
"But...are you ok with me working 4 days a week?"
"Well, sure..I guess!"
So bang - I carried on working for Forward Partners doing exactly what I did before, but this time only 4 days a week!
What a month that was. And then, without much warning, I suddenly found...
The thing I really wanted to do
One day while I was working my 4 day week as a contractor for Forward Partners, Daniel from Lexoo approached me. The Forward Partners office is shared with a bunch of companies that FP has invested in - and Lexoo was one of them. Lexoo is a legal marketplace that helps small businesses find lawyers.
So what will you do now you're a contractor Chris? Have you thought about joining a startup?" asked Daniel
"A startup? No way! I'm going to become a mercenary! I'm in it for the money now!"
Developers hear about all kinds of ridiculous startup ideas. I'd wanted to start my own startup one day - but hadn't had any useful ideas of my own, and hadn't been excited about any companies I had met.
Except for Lexoo.
I thought Lexoo was a great idea from the first time I'd talked to Daniel - but I didn't know he was looking for a new technical co-founder.
If I took a co-founder job at an early stage start-up I'd have to give up a decent proportion of my salary...and also probably give up the dream of working a 4 day week.
I ummmed and arred, and asked a bunch of people what I should do...and then I took the plunge. I joined Lexoo as Daniel's new technical partner.
It turns out that despite the list I had created for myself, the thing I wanted to do the most was this - working as a boss for a startup that I believed in.
Being an entreprenur brings its own challenges - but for me it was exactly the right thing at the right time. In future posts I'm going to discuss what it means to be a technical co-founder, so stay tuned.
PS: because I took a paycut I felt like I couldn't justify flying to Copenhagen to indulge in an expensive meal so I cancelled my reservation at Noma - there's always next year I guess.
PPS: I ran the Lisbon Marathon and got a time of 3 hours 53 minutes.
*when I was at primary school, we learned about programming on a BBC microcomputer using a form of the programming language logo.
In the program we had a turtle that had to move around a maze using the methods move forward, and move left. Because there's no turn right method you have to make your own by making the turtle turn left 3 times.