Malvolio

malvolio

I love to read as books are one of the things that provide some of the most insight, the most inspiration, and give me the most resolve to press forward. It’s not just “business” books though (most of them are absolute crap) but rather some of the so-called classics that get me fired up.

I have read most of Shakespeare’s writing and even played a significant role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a middle school play; I was Oberon, the King of the Fairies (I have to chuckle when I say this, I’ll be honest), and I loved preparing for the role and presenting it live. I have never memorized any piece of literature more than I did for that play.

As with most of Shakespeare’s writing we find an examination of the human condition. Through comedy and intrigue we are forced to encounter ourselves through the characters and the plot.

I love it most especially when the players are fooled, typically because their own pride and ego get in the way. Such an example is Malvolio from the play Twelfth Night, Countess Olivia’s steward, is tricked into believed that she has written him a love letter when it was actually Sir Toby, Andrew, Maria, and Feste who have created the counterfeit document.

In his pride, he states boldly:

Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.

He never questions the validity or authenticity of the love letter (nor the author) and continues to madly pursue her. Olivia later locks him up, believing he has gone clinically insane.

I have discovered that much of my life has been like that of Malvolio – eager to do good and achieve greatness while pursuing eventual dead-ends, sometimes for all the wrong reasons. Most entrepreneurs are like that, I suppose – we are on the hunt for incredible opportunity and some are destined to be destroyed by the hunt itself.

Unlike Malvolio, I have never gone to prison for my pursuit but the challenges that are often encountered on the pursuit of great things is riddled with self-imprisonment, the feeling of helplessness and despair and even ridicule. Startups are born in this crucible. Great products are too.

The problem with Malvolio is that he never got beyond himself – he never solved the much greater problem for a much greater and wider good. Again, many entrepreneurs and startups seek to only satisfy their own personal goals, like wealth, power, fame, and prestige. They are incredibly inward focused, like Malvolio, even stealing his notes.

Great startups, great products, great apps become and achieve greatness because they solve a problem that’s shared among many. That’s why I want to build Pressgram and that’s why I won’t quit. Although the idea was born out of a personal struggle it matured to see a much greater perspective and I realized that I wasn’t the only one who struggled with the same issue.

There’s no existing “business model” or financial motive – there wasn’t one when I first started and there still isn’t one now. This app wasn’t born great and nor was greatness thrust upon it and neither will it achieve greatness even if it’s used by millions; it’s greatness will be deeply personal – did I complete what I started and did it solve the problem that I discovered?

I want to be known by the problems that I solve. I want the products that I built to be the same.