Having a purpose

I don’t know how to operate without the thing that I’m doing having a reason to be done. This way of thinking served me well over the years to help my career remain on track towards an always improving goal.

I think giving people a purpose and meaning it helps them be more productive and achieve more. It gives them a sense of belonging and that the effort they are doing is for a bigger cause. The effect is often that they get significantly better at everything.

The purpose has to be sincere. Smart people know when you are faking it and you have to really want them to succeed even if that means they may leave you someday to go pursue greater opportunities.

One of the hardest jobs I have as the CEO of Toky is to keep people motivated and wanting to continue fighting for our cause. I can’t fake enthusiasm so the only way I can convey it to the team is by finding a way of never running out of it. This, of course, hasn’t been an easy task as I felt let down, doubted myself, and got tired on numerous occasions over the years but the practice of remembering what’s our purpose helped me continue fighting.

The awesome team that made Toky successful that Oscar (my co-founder) and I were able to assemble stayed with us because we all genuinely believe in the cause. We all have the same purpose and it’s 100% sincere.

We oftentimes talk about the future and what’s next and how the things we do and learn today by solving the hard problems of building Toky will make us better professionals.

We want Toky to be the platform our team uses to succeed in life and although that means we may have to say goodbye to one of us eventually, we realize this is part of the natural cycle of life and that is my job to make Toky continuously motivating and challenging to keep our team happy so that we can compete for their talent.

Compounding effort

A tiny improvement you do today that you are able to sustain continuously over a long period of time will have an effect so big in size that it will be hard to recognize it started so small.

Writing is one of those things I’m trying to compound. Each post you read here in five minutes took me, on average, two hours to write. It really is hard for me but the potential benefits of being able to share ideas in an easy to digest way are very well worth it even if I need to do this for ten years until I am able to see results.

I know the effect is real and that it works.

Twenty years ago it was my interest in science and computers, ten years ago it was telephony, and ten years from now I’m still not sure but I’m working on it. I’m probably not going to become a writer but writing is a tool I will need for sure so here I am trying to make it work.

If you are unsure about that thing you did ten years ago that put you where you are today, be that in a good place or otherwise, I recommend you give a read to a book called Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s a great book that helped me find an explanation about why some things happen the way they do.

The idea of making these tiny efforts today is to put yourself in the position to be lucky in the future. We can’t predict it but we have a fair level of control over how prepared we are going to arrive at it. That’s the single biggest reason to do the effort today.

We may fail at the end, but it won’t be for lack of trying.

On rejection

The right attitude towards rejection is a character builder and despite all of its negative connotations, it’s not always a bad thing. You have to go through it to understand it.

As part of Toky, I felt it numerous timesβ€”more than 10 timesβ€”and I know this because I used to count them. Some of them hurt a lot that incapacitated me for a few days and some passed quickly.

The ones that hurt the most came from YCombinator. We applied four times between 2015 and 2017 and got rejected immediately the first two, and in the last two, we were invited to the in-person interview in Mountain View but with the same result at the end.

A few minutes before the interview

Despite the outcome, every single thing that came after these events were unquestionably good because we didn’t see rejection as a failure and we learned to understand that getting rejected was an unavoidable part of being a founder.

The last time it happened was in November 2017. The interview was at around 4 pm and it lasted 10 minutes as usual, but while waiting for the acceptance call we walked over 10 kilometers because our minds couldn’t think of anything else.

At around 8 pm PDT we received the rejection email. It was a nightmare. We spent the rest of the night lamenting ourselves for having failed once again.

Part of the rejection email Jonathan Levy wrote to us

We talked about it and tried to rationalize the reasons behind this decision with us and with the team. We went to bed early and we mourned privately the rest of the night because we knew that the next day was a new day and that we owed to our team and to ourselves to get back on our feet and go back to making Toky get to the next level.

This night was almost three years ago and it triggered a much bigger and important event for Toky that was not going to happen if it wasn’t for our exposure to challenges, failure, and even suffering.

I hope my perspective makes you change yours for the better and makes you start seeing rejection as something that is not always bad. Sometimes, it’s just the previous step to something great coming your way.

During this time was when I also realized that not being in Silicon Valley was not necessarily a death sentence as long as you accepted this as a fact. This realization inspired this blog post.