Foundation 6: Ambition & Balance

If we achieve our goal but we've burnt ourselves out in the process, then we've failed.

This post was originally published internally in Twist for the Doist team. Over the past year we’ve done a lot of soul-searching as a company: What do we believe in? Why do we show up for work every day? What kind of company do we want to be? In the process, “Ambition & Balance” has become one of the core tenets of Doist. It’s how we want to operate as a team, and it’s the mentality we want to support with the products we make. We want to share that vision with you…

Hi everyone,

I have meant to write this post for a long time. And finally, I can formulate this in ink. This post is our Foundation #6 and will be one of the fundamentals of our company.

A few weeks ago I was on the Reboot podcast, and it was really insightful. It helped me formulate the overall company vision on the famed “work & life” balance.

Forces at play

We have two opposing forces at play:

  • Ambition: We want to create fantastic services that improve the lives of millions. This ambition requires a ton of dedication, hard work, and sacrifices. Our jobs aren’t easy, and only a small number of people in the world operate on a truly ambitious level.
  • Balance: We want to create the best workplace that does not burn us out, and that lets us live extraordinary lives — no matter where we are.

How do we juggle these two forces? Here are some thoughts:


Like Ying & Yang, these two forces are complements of each other. One isn’t more important than the other, and we need both to succeed.

If we only have ambition we end up in a sad state where we achieve our goals at the expense of our health and happiness, or our relationships with our loved ones.

If we only have a “balanced” life we end up in a place where we won’t create something of any significance.

In truth, these two forces need to complement each other to achieve our overall mission.

The journey is as important as the destination

We have failed if, ten years from now, we have built a significant company, but we have sacrificed everything and had an awful journey.

In ~500 BCE, Buddha formulated this very precisely: “Happiness is a journey and not a destination”.

What we are doing at Doist is a journey that we should enjoy while we are on it. If you wake up each morning hating your job, then stop and rethink what you are doing. It’s a fallacy to think that reaching a destination will fix things — in most cases it won’t.

Pushing our limits

The only way we can achieve extraordinary things is pushing ourselves and our skills to the absolute limits — and doing this on a daily basis for a prolonged time.

What I am very proud of is the advancement we have done in the last five years. For example, look at where Todoist started in 2011 and where we are right now in 2016! It has been an extraordinary journey — not only for the product, but also for all the people involved.


Your health (both physical and mental) is the most important thing.

I learned this the hard way by watching my dad die of cancer. Most other things become irrelevant once your health is ruined.

The sad part is that most of us take good health for granted. So please focus on living a healthy life (e.g. eating well, exercising, going on vacations, having a good social life, sleeping well, etc.). Of course, “living healthy” isn’t a guarantee, but at least you’ll improve the probability vastly in your favor.

A company-wide objective

Please know that “ambition & balance” is a company-wide goal and we must hold each other accountable.

Thanks for reading, would love to hear your opinions and feedback on this!