Startups Mess with Maslow

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a popular theory in psychology that describes human motivations. The hierarchy is commonly portrayed with a pyramid, with our most essential needs towards the base. Many live their lives in accordance to Maslow’s theory, especially when it comes to their job.

A typically ideal job comfortably helps you fulfill your physiological and safety needs. With the stability, you would be able to pursue love and belonging. You are motivated to stay on and seek a promotion, with an increased sense of achievement as you climb to the top. And finally, according to Maslow, you reach self-actualization after achieving the levels below it. In other words, only after many years on the job.

But when you go out on your own, you hit self-actualization immediately. A shortcut with sacrifices, if you will.

Friends and family get pushed up the hierarchy as they temporarily become lesser needs. You focus on the achievement at the expense of job security and certainty. You are driven by creativity, spontaneity and the desire of solving problems. Self-actualization becomes the fundamental level of motivation right above your physiological needs (some may argue otherwise).

Startups flip up Maslow’s hierarchy. It’s a beautiful thing. Give it a try.


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