What is wrong with contentment?

As I usually do, I’m going to speak in huge generalities and without sourcing much of anything. Right now, that isn’t my style, I prefer to just type and let the words pour out of wherever my words pour out of. Sadly, no pop for the past three weeks so it isn’t going to be out of a caffeine-induced stupor. Sorry to disappoint.

What is wrong with being content? This question stems from some recent conversations flowing around the internet that have focused on startups, starting your own business, and what it means to be an entrepreneur. I’m a person who firmly falls into the bootstrapping camp (for companies building software with low overhead) and tend to think that shunning VC money is a quality that is to be desired.

That is part of the context. Recently, though, some discussions I’ve been having with my wife have focused on what priority money has taken, is taking and will take in the decisions we have/are/are going to make. It is a fascinating discussion about where our motivation comes from, what we are looking for in work and life and just who we are as people. Luckily, we’ve found out that we are much more similar than we might have thought.

What all of this talk does is focus my mind around that question: what is wrong with being content? It seems that in American society (and especially within the startup subculture), the idea is that you cannot be content with who you are, where you are, how much money you make, how large your company is … the list can just go on and on and on. That’s just the feeling I get. Somehow it just feels that if you are content, and doing good work, then you are less of a person.

But what is wrong with being content? What is wrong with being happy with what you are doing, and continuing to do good work? I’m not saying I’m there yet (definitely not doing good work … yet), but I’m hoping to get there some day. When I do, do I have to all of a sudden feel like I need to do more and burn myself out?

What happens if I start a company, grow it to the point where it can comfortably support our growing family, finish the upcoming bathroom project and replace the plumbing in the house and get a 2012 VW Beetle. Do I continue to try and grow the business so that I can get farther away from the things I LOVE to do?

What’s wrong with doing what you love, being content and then spending the rest of your time doing other good things in life. You can spend time with your family, culture relationships in your community and around the world, tutor new developers, get involved in your church and community and any number of other things. Being content allows you to start spreading yourself out into some other areas where your might be wanted/needed and be rewarded in other ways outside of just gaining some more geek cred within the startup community or wherever you are.

This post has no point, and I’m aware of that. However, I am also aware that maybe the greatest benefit of being content is the feeling of contentment itself.

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