By the age of 22, he was a multi-millionaire, drove a brand new red Ferarri and lived in a huge house in downtown Stockholm. His nights were spent ordering bottle service at the most exclusive night clubs, while being surrounded by Sweden’s hottest girls at every turn. He was living every young man’s dream.
Yet he was not really happy. The inner voice kept on telling him that all this was fake. His “friends” only wanted him for his money. Would they have really hung out with him if it weren’t for his millions? He had all this flash, but was he really living the life he wanted to live?
So one day he decided to call it quits. It was time for a reset.
The mind needed a period of reflection and rest in order for the spark to be reignited. He got rid of everything and retired to a log cabin to meditate and ponder on the future. It turns out, this was all that he required to refocus himself and to rekindle his drive.
He was pumped. For the first time, he could see things clearly. This was the start of something great: a new goal, a new challenge.
Ek is not a man to sit idly and watch as life passes him by. Instead, he views life as a series of missions. In an article in The New Yorker, he described his personal philosophy this way:
“I like to formulate 5-year missions for myself. That’s how I think about life. Five years is long enough for me to achieve something meaningful but short enough so I can change my mind every few years.“
His outlook on life practically guaranteed that this new mission would be a success. The short interlude in the cabin let him build up the energy to launch himself into a new project, one that could potentially revolutionize the world of music as we know it today.
The trends to him were obvious. People wanted a new experience and the old record companies weren’t delivering. More and more music was being pirated through torrents (Ek even briefly served as the CEO of uTorrent) and didn’t want to pay outrageous prices for whole records, when in fact they only liked one or two songs on them.
The old greedy record companies didn’t get it. They wanted to stop all this by class action lawsuits and trampling on people’s freedoms. Ek knew that the people were quite willing to pay up if someone delivered an experience for them that was better than piracy.
That was how the streaming service, Spotify, was born. Right from the get go, the service has managed to attract millions of users and is quickly becoming the go to site for music for the younger generation.
David Ek is all about the process. In his life, he follows the same type of philosophy that is behind the agile development of products. He sets out his goals and a plan to execute them, but if on the way he finds out that things aren’t working out the way they were supposed to, he changes things up. He is continuously improving himself.
The way Spotify is developed is a reflection of the way that Ek develops his missions. The founder is agile and his baby is agile too. The developers of Spotify use an agile method of development called SCRUM.
SCRUM is the name of an agile and iterative way of developing software and other products. The philosophy behind SCRUM is also about continuous improvement, of the product, but also of the method to develop the product.
The term and the process were first described by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka in an article in Harvard Business Review. They compared the approach to the sport of rugby, hence the term “scrum”:
“Under the rugby approach, the product development process emerges from the constant interaction of a hand-picked, multidisciplinary team whose members work together from start to finish. Rather than moving in defined, highly structured stages, the process is born out of the team members’ interplay. A group of engineers, for example, may start to design the product (phase three) before all the results of the feasibility tests (phase two) are in. Or the team may be forced to reconsider a decision as a result of later information. The team does not stop then, but engages in iterative experimentation. This goes on in even the latest phases of the development process.“
Principles from SCRUM can not only be applied to software development, but can also guide you in your process of self-development. After all, what is a more important product than your own self? Why not apply methods from SCRUM to organize your greatest project ever, that of your own self-improvement?