I’m 28 and making $450,000 a year at Google. I love my job and everything I’ve been told indicates I’m on the fast track career wise. Will it ever make sense for me to leave for a startup?

Most people would say you’re stupid to even think about leaving that deal for a startup.

But you’re 28 and making $450k/year. At Google. So you’re not stupid.

Since you’re not stupid and you’re still asking this question, I’m guessing your brain is under the influence of the Silicon Valley reality distortion field (RDF).

The RDF makes you think that “winners” are company founders and worth hundreds of millions of dollars. And everybody wants to be a “winner” because winners are respected and get the girls (or boys, as the case may be). And we all have strong evolutionary reasons for wanting that.

Take a hundred big steps backward.

What are your goals in life? Not the goals that the people around you have. Your goals.

Is it about making money?
Outside the RDF, anybody making $150k (not $450k)/year is already a “winner”. Most people could work 3 or 4 years at the salary you’re making, and save up enough to retire for life. Comfortably. That’s in the US. In most other countries, a few months would suffice.

So why do you need a lot of money? What are you going to spend it on?
Is the money is just for keeping score? If that’s it, good for you –
you already won the game . Step outside the RDF and have a look around. Try Milwaukee. Or Phoenix. Or a small town in rural Japan. Anyplace outside the RDF.
Maybe it’s not about money. If so, maybe you have a rational reason to leave Google.

Many people want to “do a startup” without having any idea of what they want to do with it. Other than “make money” and “be a winner”. Those are bad reasons – those people are usually not successful.

Successful startups are built by people with a vision. They want to change the world, prove a point, be their own boss, do things their own way – whatever. But it’s not about a bank balance. Or about the jet plane, or the race car. (Unless the startup makes jet planes or race cars.)

If you have a vision that can only be fulfilled by a startup, go for it.
But it’ll be a lot easier if you don’t have to go begging hat-in-hand to the VCs who will own and dispose of your company as they see fit.

So hang around Google for a bit more. With that salary you ought to be able to save $200k/year easily. (Yes, even after taxes and in the Bay Area, as long as you don’t live as if you were in a RDF.)

After a few years of that, you’ll have the capital to do a startup without needing any VC money at all.

Finally, if the reason you ask is because, for whatever reason, you hate your job – quit. Now. Today.

Anybody who got to where you are can always find another job and make a good living. You don’t need to spend life doing things that make you miserable.

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