The Unbearable Lightness of Business


unbearable lightness of beingThe Unbearable Lightness of Being opens with a philosophical discussion of lightness versus heaviness. Kundera contrasts Nietzsche’s philosophy of eternal return, or of heaviness, with Parmenides’s understanding of life as light. Kundera wonders if any meaning or weight can be attributed to life, since there is no eternal return: if man only has the opportunity to try one path, to make one decision, he cannot return to take a different path, and then compare the two lives. Without the ability to compare lives, Kundera argues, we cannot find meaning; where meaning should exist we find only an unbearable weightlessness. – summary of The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Starting a business has changed my life.

It has opened the door to a new kind of happiness that I didn’t realize existed, yet I often worry it’s too good to be true. I feel so much purpose, so much euphoria from putting my all into my company – but would it have been possible if I hadn’t of experienced 25 years of feeling utterly out of place beforehand?

Vegas is hotter when you’ve experienced snow

Everyone says Vegas it “hot” but when you’ve spent a majority of your formative years there, you tend to lose touch with what “hot” really is. Is 90 degrees hot? Is 110? I could pretty much walk around at any time during the summer in my hometown and feel fine – I mean it was warm – but I didn’t get what everyone was bitching about.

Then I moved to Reno for school and experienced my first winter with snow actually accumulating on the ground. It was COLD. I hadn’t realized what “hot” was or what “cold” until that point… when I went back to Vegas the following summer I was drenched in sweat & bitching up a storm.

I had no perspective on temperature because I grew up in a place where every season was just another shade of freaking-hot. This random anecdote serves as an explanation for another random anecdote…

Is happiness happier when you’ve gotten used to being blue?

One of my first evenings out in San Francisco (I was 1/2 way through my course at the Founder Institute and actively looking for a place to live in the city) had a profound impact on my life.

I had randomly met an entrepreneur through an investor of theirs who I had randomly met at a party. I went to dinner with this entrepreneur and a bunch of his entrepreneurial-type friends. It was the first time in 25 years I had spent 3 hours with a group of strangers and honest-to-God felt understood, engaged & alas… happy.

I sat at dinner looking around at the group of strangers who were all laughing and talking about things that I actually found fascinating and for a moment felt like the luckiest girl in the world – I was actually stimulated by these people & their conversation. I wasn’t bored, playing along or dreaming of a different life – for once, I was content right where I was at that perfect place, at that perfect time in the Universe.

After I left I “came down” and assumed that this was a one time thing. People weren’t made to be this happy, it couldn’t be maintained – could it?

Happiness v. Unhappiness

I’ve found happiness & purpose in building a business. It sounds weird to say since most people find that in children, spouses, art, etc. but for me – industry, creating content & jobs is what gives me a deep feeling of well-being and contentment.

In The Unbearable Lightness of Being Kundera worried that we couldn’t truly experience happiness since we only have one life to live & one set of experiences as our reality. But what he overlooked was the good and bad of life – those are two very separate paths and everyone at some point has experienced both.

If you can feel, taste & vividly remember the times you were unhappy – and the things/people/situations that contributed – you will have a much deeper appreciation of the things/people/situations that bring you happiness.

Two lives, two paths

We do live two lives. One is the path before we come into our own – it’s filled with belief systems and ways of viewing the world that are made up in large part by our “nurture” versus our innate nature.

The second life is starts when we blossom into a truly autonomous adult (sadly something that never happens to many people – regardless of their age). But when you fight for it – when you want that freedom, that independence, that feeling of being self made – more than anything in the World, it will come.

I’ve found deep meaning, purpose & happiness in creating something from nothing (in my case Zirtual). But I still feel a sense of foreboding, as someone who has been raised on readings from Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God I often feel like I’m eternally waiting *pun* for the other shoe to drop.

It hasn’t happened yet, but if it does I will accept that unhappiness/anger/discomfort because I know it will make my next cycle of happiness all the more sweet.

I finally realized that I now know “happiness” because of the years and years I spent feeling misunderstood, sad & alone – feeling like a business man trapped inside a little girl’s body.

I always idolized the titans of industry on the television and movies. I watched movies like Sabrina and instead of envying the poor girl who experiences the whole “Cinderella treatment” I wanted to be Harrison Ford’s character – the powerful businessman. In retrospect my parent’s must have though I was insane.

There is a certain part of all of us that lives outside of time. Perhaps we become aware of our age only at exceptional moments and most of the time we are ageless. — Milan Kundera

  • Kelly

    Awesome post!  A quick question – when you were younger, what was everyone else aspiring to that made you feel out of place?  Did they just want a great 9 to 5 job?  Can’t believe what it must have felt like to find a group of like-minded entrepreneurs to talk to… would be awesome to find a tribe like that in my city.  I’m sure they’re here, I just have to be more persistent I guess!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Maren. A really interesting post. It reminds me of how in order to experience one thing we need to have experienced the opposite. I think that’s why life is the way it is. To experience ‘love’ we have to have experienced that which is not ‘love’ – otherwise how do we know what it is? It’s like if everything in our world (the Universe) was white – how would we know it was white – we only know that something is white because there are other colours. It’s a really interesting concept, and one that your post draws out.


  • Anonymous

    Ms. Kate,

    I can relate to your story about the second life starting upon adulthood.

    Recently I had been thinking over my time in high school. I realized
    that those years had been spent preparing for some imagined future,
    following what everyone said I should do; my happiest memory of high
    school is the last day.

    This is a terrible way to live life.

    Though I wonder, do we really live two lives, or do we just choose to either live or not; if one lives the life of a puppet, following the script another has written can that truly be called a life?

    This is perhaps merely semantics.

    It is interesting that Nietzsche is mentioned at the beginning of this post, as I think he is particularly relevant, although Mr. Kundera misunderstands seems to misunderstand his philosophy.

    (Honestly, I don’t think Mr. Kundera has actually read Nietzsche)

    First I must state that, contrary to Mr. Kundera’s misunderstanding of Nietzsche, what I find most admirable in his philosophy is his affirmation of life.

    Say a sacred Yes to life and affirm it, not stoicly, but with joy and
    laughter; the find joy even in the darkest places.

    Have the strength to dance in the thin air of the mountains’ heights.

    It is in this context that “eternal return” must be understood

    I think it is  better translated as “eternal recurrence;” this is NOT a belief in reincarnation, but a thought experiment; as I don’t think he was ever able to satisfactorily prove eternal recurrence.

    What if every single moment of your life, good and bad, you were to repeat forever; would you feel cursed, or are you strong enough to feel blessed?

    “What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your
    loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and
    have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times
    more’ … Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and
    curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a
    tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god and
    never have I heard anything more divine.'”(Nietzsche, The Gay Science)

    To affirm this curse as a blessing, to love your life, your fate, and willingly relive it ad infinitum Nietztsche calls “amor fati,” love of fate.

    “My formula for human greatness is amor fati: that one wants to
    have nothing different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity.
    Not merely to bear the necessary, still less to conceal it–all idealism
    is mendaciousness before the necessary–but to love it.” -Nietzsche

    Not just stoic tolerance of one’s lot in life, nor the utilitarian seeking to maximize pleasure, Nietzsche preaches total acceptance of fate.

    This love of fate is a hard; Nietzsche never
    took the easy path: Freud said of Nietzsche that Nietzsche represented a
    nobility that he (Freud) could never live up to.

    Radical love of life…

    lightness, weight, and everything in between.

    Aaron Fung

  • Nikoya Johnson

    I can really relate to the 2 main points you make in this post.  I find happiness in my productivity, my attempts, the fails and the successes of “creating”, and living the life that I choose.  I always felt kinda outta place and unstimulated by the monotony in the “real world”…

     I have yet to find that circle of technical and business oriented lovers in the physical, even though I had the opportunity to build my circle and it slipped away once upon a time – I know that this is the root of my “happiness” and I have no choice but to be in business for myself! Toast to that!!

  • Ascottee

    I absolutely love Sabrina. I think its an exquisite film. Its like a bed time story for me.  Maybe this is why I love it so much. Maybe I want to be a little like Linus ? Post made my early afternoon. Thanx Maren.

  • Chris C. Ducker

    Easily the best post you’ve written in a long, long time, Maren.

    Yes – I still read your blog!!!


  • Maren Kate

    Thanks Chris – it felt like an epic release when it was done :) I love those therapeutic type posts.

  • Maren Kate

    Isn’t it? Gosh it’s one of my favorite of all time. I watched it as a child and always was half way between being in love with Linus & wanting to be Linus.

    I’m going to watch that movie now when I take a break from work.

  • Maren Kate

    Toast for sure :)

  • Maren Kate

    Amazing comment – thank you Aaron :) I do agree that the author didn’t understand Nietzsche as much as he thought he did & that he probably had a negative view on life in general (post Nietzsche reading).

    Radical love of life – I love that sentence.

  • Maren Kate

    Absolutely – that’s how I finally came to terms with a lot of the horror that goes on in the World. Even though I wish that it could be completely stopped I realize that without the evil it’s hard to see and appreciate the good.

  • Maren Kate

    To be wives, to be mothers, to have a stable job, to get a house in a suburb in a mid size city. Things that have always sounded less than stellar to me.

  • Alex Barthe

    Where have I been? I’m so late to the conversation! This post is deep so I’m going to go back and read it over a cup of hot Honey & Vanilla Organic tea…BRB

  • Matt Ramos

    Oh man, you quoted The Unbearable Lightning of Being. Only one of my favorite books ever. And the same quote I used in a post before.

    All I want to add is that everyone has a right to live how they want. Everyone. Sometimes people must work harder than others but if you want it, if you breathe it, eat it, and sleep dreaming about making it happen, then you know it’s the only choice.

    Then it happens.

    Art doesn’t have to be on a canvas or heard on an mp3. Art is your passion, your life.

    Also, I hear that SF city is quite awesome! Talk to you more bout it soon :)

  • Maren Kate

    It’s amazing out here – I really love it SANS the freezing cold summers.

  • Maren Kate

    Yumm… let me know your thoughts post tea :)

  • Anonymous

    Here in San Francisco we quote Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) with masochistic glee:

    “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

    The cold builds character. :-)

  • Maren Kate

    I’m learning that! And if that cold & character correlate then I’ll be a woman of steel by the end of this thing.

  • Alex Barthe

    This post has taken a while for me to digest…it’s that good! I have to say Maren, it’s one of your best articles. It’s deep and extremely significant. I’m probably going to be thinking about it for the rest of the month. Really, I’m serious.

    At 31, I spent the majority of my 20’s helping three tech start-ups go from idea to getting investment money. I never really cared about the products – I’m being honest – but I deeply cared about the people I worked with. However, I was unhappy because I  devoted so much energy towards helping others fulfill their dreams while neglecting my own.  

    However on the flip side,  from all my years “unhappiness” in the tech industry, I learned how to become an excellent motivator and “an investor is raw talent”.  These skills have served me well as I now coach people to enter medical school (I’m applying myself!), counseling grad school, and how to build service businesses that inspire others. I’m helping a lot people who never considered themselves “smart” or “good enough”, do the things they’ve always wanted to do. I love working with people who don’t know just how good they are. 

    So even though I wasn’t living my life purpose full out in the past, I was slowly cultivating it in the background.  All those years of  being miserable and unhappy have actually served me well. I’m very thankful for all the people  I worked with and even though I’m out the tech industry, I still keep in contact with them today.

    And I can totally understand when you speak about “waiting for the shoe to drop”. I was raised Roman Catholic and was taught all the good stuff in life was too good to be true.  But I don’t believe that anymore. Instead, I the good times and when the tough times do come, I realize that something even better is waiting for me on the other side.   I look at it as an opportunity to do something bigger, better, and bolder. Maybe I needed a push and the Universe (God) gave it to me.

    And one more thing…you’ve accomplished so much! Many people double our age are still living in fear, waiting for someone to come and rescue them. Be it the government, their employer, or the people who handle their 401k. Life is too short to let other adults tell you what to do.

    I heard a great quote on Twitter the other day and it went like this:

    “It only takes one person to change your life – you” – Ruth Casey

    Alright, I need to stop talking and read your latest post! :)

  • Alex Barthe

    Hey Kelly, what city are you in? I’m surprised to know that there’s not a supportive group in your area. I live in Boston for now and will be relocating to NYC in the fall. I’ve found lots of virtual support groups that have been useful. But also in person groups via MeetUp.

    Actually, this could work for all of us and I’m only mentioning it because I personally use it and have found it very helpful.  I attend the weekly Think BIG Revolution meeting which are held via telephone with author & business consultant Michael Port.  It’s free too. I don’t know if I can post links using Disqus, but just Google “Think Big Revolution  Weekly Meeting” and you should find it. 

    Good luck!

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  • Tara Holling

    Truly excellent post, Maren!

  • Floricel

    Hello Ms. Maren,

    I’m Floricel, I’m a new comer here in your website and I found your blog really interesting, especially this post. 

    To be honest, there’s so much things you shared that’s really something worth pondering on. While reading this, I felt genuineness and passion for your works, and I’d like to commend you for that.

    But more importantly, I think, what really matters now, is you feeling NOT anymore out of place. I’m happy for you that you have finally found your purpose. And already felt that sense of belongingness.   

    In my humblest opinion, happiness can be achieved in so many ways. But there’s something more deeper to that, and it’s the feeling of joy that is rooted in our hearts.

    However, this I believe is an ongoing process. It may be noticeable  or it’s just deep within us that others may not notice. 

    I also find your statement a bit intriguing: “But I still feel a sense of foreboding, as someone who has been raised on readings from Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God I often feel like I’m eternally waiting *pun* for the other shoe to drop.”

    I’m not totally sure what you mean by that but if you want to elaborate more, I’d greatly appreciate it. But more so, I can definitely say the God wants all of us to feel that inner joy (happiness) and peace. Period. As long as we do not  degrade others, we do not cause ill towards other and we make business with good intentions, then I guess, there is nothing wrong with it. 

    Nonetheless, I’m happy to see where you are -happy and belonged. You may not know (YET ), that what you are all doing, has bless so many people. Although many would have different perspective when it comes to business, but for you, I’m pretty confident that you are on the right track. :) Hence, I do wish all the best for you!


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  • Maren Kate

    Hi :)

    Agreed – I believe He does too – but I think that too often religion and other man-made institutions champion fear & guilt versus love & joy when they talk about God – that’s what I meant.

  • Maren Kate

    “It only takes one person to change your life – you” – Ruth Casey << LOVE THIS. Also it's interesting to think of the exponential change curve that relates w/ this. If only 1 person can change your life then what can 100 or 1000 do?

  • Vic D

    For 18 years I watched  and listened to a young girl create and verbalize all she wanted to become and be.  She came up with the most unusual and creative ideas for products, car design, photos, paintings and various ideas and at the time I always thought “she is a different kind of person–a thinker, a visionary and an unbelievably beautiful mind”.  Then I would say to myself– “every dad thinks those same thoughts about his own child but she is really just a gifted person and I should keep my thoughts to myself”.  I complimented my daughter as much as I could without “gushing” my praise all over her and giving her a feeling of unease with her effusive Dad just going on and on”.

    Then at about 20 I started noticing that she really does have a phenomenal gift and a brilliant mind.  She also is of strong character and self confidence that can stand up to even  her constant self questioning.  

    Well now I read her blogs and continue to be amazed.  Of course she is my Maren and I could not be more proud but I also am very impressed with the person you have turned out to be.  Keep it up as you are on the right track and you will continue to do amazing things.