Write a letter to the future you

Photo of the author from 2009, working at my laptop in the offices of a startup called 3eep, in Surry Hills, Australia.
Me in 2009, working on my own startup in the offices of 3eep. Photo Pierre Sauvignon © 2009

Choosing to become a startup founder is hard. The disincentives are so many — and the rewards so few and unlikely—that many startup founders I know tell me they consider it ‘a calling’ rather than a career choice, to make it seem more like a decision that was made for them, or hard-wired into them; that they were motivated by some higher purpose rather than material or creative rewards.

Looking back on the startup founder part of my career, what strikes me most about those 15 years was how rapidly it flashed past; how little of it I remember in detail.

There are many moments I remember — the whole gamut from satisfaction, laughter and elation to fear, anger and sorrow — but there are many more I can’t remember at all. Days, weeks, months and years have flown by while I’ve had my eyes focused on the screen in front of me, hands furiously typing or placing phone calls, all the while making progress towards goals that I can barely remember now.

I look at photos of me from that time and barely recognise who I see. I wonder who that verison of me was, and what I was really aiming to achieve, much less how it felt to be doing it.

Before your new founder journey gets too crazy, consider taking a little time to write to your future self. Write it so the future you can remember the decisions you made, the priorities you had, the things that scared you and the things that excited you about your future as a startup founder.

How to write a letter to your future self

Write about:

  • Why you’ve decided to be a tech startup founder;
  • Whether there was a moment that the decision was final, or a tipping point beyond which the decision was inevitable;
  • Whether you discussed this with any friends or family beforehand, and what their opinions were;
  • Whether you’re doing this alone or with others, and why. If you’re doing it with others, who is on the team, and why are you a team?
  • Whether there are any aspects of your startup founder journey that you’re confident about, and whether there are any aspects that worry you or scare you;
  • What will success look like for you? What do you hope to achieve? What problem do you hope to solve? At what scale will you solve the problem? How do you plan to solve the problem?
  • What do you want your future self to remember about who you are today, and why you’re doing this?

I recommend you store a copy of this letter to yourself in the cloud service of your choice, save another on a simple, reliable storage medium (such as a clearly-labelled USB memory stick, or in (shock!) print, and save another copy in https://www.futureme.org which will automatically email you a copy at some point in the future (assuming you still have that email address).

I’m Alan Jones, an EiR for startup accelerators, GP at M8 Ventures. Previously investor, founder, and early Yahoo PM. Opinions mine (but should also be yours).

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