David Heinemeier Hansson

November 17, 2021

It must be worth it even if it doesn't work

The way to work without regrets is to pursue projects that'll have been worth your time even if they don't pan out. Projects that'll tickle your curiosity, flex your competency, and teach you something new regardless of where they ultimately end up. Projects that leave you better off, as a person, despite not being a commercial or critical success. If you work on projects like this, it's impossible to waste your time.

My personal nightmare is investing years of my life into something that ends up going nowhere, and then feeling like it was all for nothing. That's how life slips through your fingers. That's how you cross over from your 20s to your 30s and curse what you missed along the way because the bet didn't pay out.

When you look for projects that'll be worth it even if they don't work, you know you'll engage the fires of intrinsic motivation. Tap into the magic of flow. Look with satisfaction at a good day's work, well before you're done.

That's a work of meaning.

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.