There is an ancient Chinese story of an old master potter who attempted to develop a new glaze for his porcelain vases. It became the central focus of his life. Everyday he tended the flames of his kilns to a white heat, controlling the temperature to an exact degree. Every day he experimented with the chemistry of the glazes he applied, but still he could not achieve the beauty he desired and imagined was possible in a glaze. Finally, having tried everything he decided his meaningful life was over and walked into the molten heat of the fully fired kiln. When his assistants opened up the kiln and took out the vases, they found the glaze on the vases the most exquisite they had ever encountered. The master himself had disappeared into his creations.
Working within a company so long, it’s easy to see how your blood and bone can become part of the product and ultimately make something truly unique. Giving a company your all, walking into the fire is both painful and pretty romantic. The poet, David Whyte talks about this proverb, saying:
Work is the very fire where we are baked to perfection, and like the master of the fire itself, we add the essential ingredient and fulfillment when we walk into the flames ourselves and fuel the transformation of ordinary, everyday forms into the exquisite and the rare.
It’s an interesting analogy because in you can see that the potter, in disappearing into the kiln, he created something he loved and something truly special, but he also dies. In doing his work he ceases to be a person that the rest of the world can interact with and relate to.
Such is the life of working on a startup