At my company, we’re on a mission to disrupt the education landscape. Our apps are challenging the way students learn by making difficult tasks a bit more fun. We’re already on our way: Our top app, Exam Elf, has been winning awards and is now used by thousands of students to help prepare for their stressful standardized tests
So how do we stay motivated as a small and dynamic team? How do we face the new challenges and opportunities that every day brings? It comes down to our culture of personal exploration, determination and persistence. We’re driven by a common set principles and values. These 6 key quotes help us keep those values top of mind as we do our work every day:
“Nothing is more addictive and dream destroying than a weekly paycheck” - Nassim Taleb
A comfort zone is, by definition, comfortable. Risks are small or managed, and our world can be static and safe. Lives can pass by very comfortably in a self made cocoon that allows us to be unchallenged.
However, this comfort zone leaves little room for dreaming and challenging yourself. Many people will go their whole lives in the comfort zone without ever stepping out or taking a risk. Everyone at ZumFun has already taken a big chance by joining our startup business, but the potential achievements are huge. We like to keep this spirit of risk alive by remembering that the risk of doing nothing is the biggest risk of all.
“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun” - Mary Poppins
In any startup business, there are the fun tasks and there are the painful tasks. For me, the painful tasks involve anything to do with accounting or finances! Of course, not addressing these tasks would cause big problems for my teammates. So how do these tasks get done?
We gamify those painful tasks by giving ourselves points for completing them. Our Chief Learning Officer, Vesna Gasperov, allocates points to daily and weekly tasks (fun tasks get low points, taxes get the highest points!) and keeps us accountable.
“We do not remember days, we remember moments” - Cesare Pavese
Days, weeks & years can all pass in a blur when you’re working to turn your vision into reality. But when you look back on a year in you life, it’s not necessarily those hours spent sweating that you recall. Instead, it’s those key moments that symbolize what the meaning of the work was. For me, it’s the joy in a child’s face when they succeed in a level in our App, or the satisfaction of winning a big award that represents years of work. In our culture, we maximize and celebrate the highlight moments in our lives because even if the work taken to get there is immense, it’s a key to success and contentment.
“Happiness is not the goal; contentment is the goal.” - Tim Wootton (My father)
Happiness is a term thrown around regularly, but happiness can be so fleeting. Just watch a child get a balloon, then accidently pop it and break down a few seconds later!
Contentment is more than happiness. It is a longer term feeling of achievement and satisfaction. The work we do can be challenging and sometimes even upsetting. It’s knowing we are working towards a common goal to make the world a better place that ensures we have long-term contentment.
“Spend as much time as you can around really smart people” - Highly Successful Entrepreneur
One of the most successful entrepreneurs that I know shared this one with me. He has enough money to retire and do whatever he wants for the rest of his life. Instead, he has chosen to work the crazy hours and ride the emotional rollercoaster of launching another startup. When I asked him why, he said his goal was to spend as much time around really smart people as he can. Launching a startup is his way of doing that. We don’t always know what the outcomes will be, but spending time in teams with really smart people is the best way to be challenged, to learn and to be inspired.
The Big Picture
“You want people you do business with to make money from you” – Rick Body (One of my Early Business Mentors)
As a young man, I had all the confidence that can only come from not knowing very much. Rick, an early business mentor who I am proud to call my friend, told me that in any business relationship, you need the person on the other side to be making money. If they are not, then the deal will always end up going badly. This rocked my world. I had always thought that getting the lowest price in any deal was the success measure, but if you get a price too low, then you will end up losing in other ways. Every deal you make need to be mutually beneficial or it will be mutually destructive. At ZumFun, we always try to think of the bigger picture and focus on mutually beneficial agreements.
Building a business and culture is hard work, one of the hardest things that you can do. But thanks to clear values exemplified by these quotes, we’ve been able to foster an environment at ZumFun where we can create products that impact the world. What quotes will guide you this year?