Cédric Waldburger, an Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) member based in Zurich, Switzerland, is the founder and CEO of Tomahawk VC, which provides the resources and tools early-stage entrepreneurs need to shape the future of FinTech and DeFi. He lived without a home with just 64 things in his backpack for over three years. We asked Cédric how he leveraged the principles of essentialism to focus on his company. Here’s what he shared:
I vividly remember the morning I canceled the lease to my apartment. It was September of 2016, and I was on a train on the way back to the airport after a 10-hour stopover in Zurich. I had returned to Zurich the evening before for the sole purpose of spending the night in my apartment. Since I was paying rent, I thought I should at least sleep there a few times a month.
As I sat on the train, frustrated and having barely slept, I knew my productivity would be down with no good reason for it. In that moment, I realized my home and possessions were holding me back–I was serving my things, rather than my things serving me. The solution to being a better entrepreneur became obvious. As the train arrived at the terminal, I hung up with my landlord. I had given up yet another distraction: the place I called home.
When I reflect on my early twenties, I had already begun to notice that the things I thought would make me happy weren’t as satisfying as I hoped. Although I enjoyed going out to dinner or movies with friends (and still do), I started to understand that my true passion lay in taking ideas–truly groundbreaking ideas–from “just an idea” to “sustainable business.”
Knowing where my passion lay made that memorable train ride the major tipping point that it was. Only because I knew what mattered to me was I able to identify which distractions were hindering my goals.
When was the last time you honestly asked yourself, “What makes me happy?“
The best part about having fewer things is how it frees up your decision-making capacity. I never have to worry about what to wear (and frankly, I never cared anyway), what to buy next, or how to organize my things. Fewer decisions surrounding things that don’t matter to me equals more decision-making energy and cognitive capacity for business and ideas that do.
Another way to think about it is the well-known negative effect multitasking has on our work. More tabs open means a decreased ability and likelihood to attend to each of those tabs. For some, these tabs might literally be browser tabs, social notifications, or inefficient emailing habits. For me, having a home and more than 64 belongings was an inefficient use of my energy.
What distractions and tabs could you close to prioritize your focus?
In the years that followed giving up my home, I found that not being based in any one location made it easy to make better decisions that truly served the needs of companies I was involved with. Rather than having a two-hour Zoom call, I had the flexibility to jump on a train or plane for an in-person–and consequently far more productive–meeting. This is especially valuable working in early-stage companies where solutions require creative thinking and deep dives instead of a playbook that’s been executed 100 times. Simply put, not having a home got me in more rooms and opened doors for longer, late-night brainstorms that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
Much like not having a home made me more flexible, getting rid of most of my possessions, excluding the 64 things I have today, makes me more agile. When it comes to travel, I don’t have to worry about packing my bag because it’s always ready and always with me. If a founder has a problem and needs me by their side, I don’t need to ask myself, “Do I have enough time to pack? What do I need to pack?” I simply walk out the door and get to work. It’s a shift from “How can we try to solve this problem?” to rolling up our sleeves and solving it.
What actions might increase your entrepreneurial agility?
Less Means More
People ask me about my 64 things often, thinking that they couldn’t get by with “so little.” The funny thing is, essentialism is more about having more–by way of resources, time, energy, and focus–than about having less.
Rather than counting and eliminating possessions, essentialism is about being aware of and eliminating distractions. It’s about freedom from things that trap your attention, and ultimately, it’s about following your passion.