The Horizon Never Gets Closer

Thoughts on chasing goals while building a company

This week, I read Alex West’s post about chasing goals when building a company. Here are some of my thoughts/anecdotes on chasing goals when building a company.

I started Healthie because I was bored.  The season for the sport I was playing ended, and I was suddenly faced with hours a day of new free time. I met an MBA candidate with an interesting idea, and figured “why not?”.

At first, it was all great. My only goal was to build an MVP. Each new piece of functionality added, and the time invested doing so, felt like a huge win. There was no status quo, no real plans, and no targets. I was just replacing my HBO-watching time with something a little more productive.

We launched that MVP, and the first few customers we got felt absolutely amazing. My co-founder and I were still in school, and had no expectations. Every dollar we brought in infinitely exceeded what I had planned.

Things got more serious and stressful when we raised some money, and started Techstars. Suddenly, there were expectations and growth goals. I had taken a leave of absence from Penn. We had employees who we had convinced to leave stable jobs to join our nascent company.

Initially, we consistently hit our monthly goals, and it felt good. Not amazing, but good, like we were doing what what was expected. Then, we didn’t, and it felt awful, bone-crushingly awful.

The pain and stress of missing a goal was ten times worse than the joy of achieving one. I had gotten addicted to the growth, and each new milestone quickly became the status quo. Each best month in company history became my new standard, and any performance below that was untenable.

I started (literally) dreaming about customer cancellation emails and product issues. I would physically vibrate at my desk at work from tensing up so much. On an academic level, I understood there would be swings in our business. Mentally, I couldn’t wrap my head around it.

It’s been five years since we started. I’d love to say that I feel like we’re closer than ever to achieving our end goals. I don’t. The more we grow, the more I see opportunities to take us even further. The horizon never gets closer.

When people ask me about Healthie, I say we’re bigger than I ever thought we’d be, and smaller than I want. That answer is never going to change. What has changed is that I now appreciate the journey.

Our company performance varies. We have good and bad quarters, achieved and missed goals. Throughout all that, I enjoy what we do and who I work with. That’s been a much more helpful, consistent, and happier motivation than a sole focus on chasing ever-moving goal posts.