I'm just a common person, but I'll offer you my crude understanding.

Epicurean hedonism and startup life

…reflecting on the past year…

About a year ago my roommate introduced me to Epicurean Hedonism. It seemed very different from what my perception of the word ‘Hedonism’ was. I realized that for a fact only after I spent this last year working at a startup and inescapably becoming an Epicurean hedonist.

Before we go into the story, here are three Epicurian principles for happiness:

1) Friendship: “Of all the things which wisdom has contrived which contribute to a blessed life, none is more important, more fruitful, than friendship”

2) A thoughtful life: “It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly.”

3) Moderation/Subsistance: Epicurus advocated living in such a way as to derive the greatest amount of pleasure possible during one’s lifetime, yet doing so moderately in order to avoid the suffering incurred by overindulgence in such pleasure. The emphasis was placed on pleasures of the mind rather than on physical pleasures. Therefore, according to Epicurus, with whom one eats is of greater importance than what is eaten.

Now coming to the startup life:

Well, the third point on moderation is easy to understand, since you only make enough to live life in moderation ;). There is the expectation of the big exit, but till then you are working for what you can survie on and you make the best of it. Somehow it is in these resource scarce situations that I have had the most fun in life. (Those are the stories for later posts.)

Coming to the point of why I wrote this post-
Friendship and a thoughtful life are the two epicurean ideas that stuck with me as emblematic of a bay area startup. You live and die with 5-15 people you work with. You spend countless hours fighting over ideas and then implementing them. There is no escape from understanding each other at a level that you become best friends, if you want your startup to succeed. (In other words, if you are not in a dysfunctional startup, you will end up with lifelong friends :) ).

More importantly, with funding being constrained, your every decision has to be well thought through. You are in the game of making bets where the stakes are very high, you feel like Tom Cuise where others think you are writing checks that your startup can’t cash (literally and metaphorically). The only way this can work is if you think through every decision deep and hard. Oh and by the way, all the thinking needs to have been done yesterday.

Image source - pottery fan, Wikipedia

For a techie like me, this sense of pleasure, can only be had in the startup world of the valley.I have no shame in being such a hedonist.

The question is though, is this just a startup thing or just a frame of mind that will manifest in other ways in different life situations?

Umair Qayyum
Umair Qayyum

I find it hard to agree with the subsistence argument, but I do agree that in the context that you presented, being a hedonist might not be such a bad thing. Everything (feeling) is a state of mind, I think. :)