The Bootstrapped Founder

Are you feeling burnt out or overwhelmed by societal expectations?

Today, I’m talking to Paul Millerd, author of “The Pathless Path.” We talk about hustle traps, the stories we tell ourselves about success, and our obsession with productivity. Learn how to connect with yourself, rediscover leisure as a positive force in your life, and find "the others."

Discover how to expand your horizons and find your own way in life, all while building and teaching in public.

Paul on Twitter:

The blog post:
The podcast episode:
The video:

You'll find my weekly article on my blog:

My book Zero to Sold:
My book The Embedded Entrepreneur:
My course Find Your Following:

  • (00:00) - Introduction.
  • (00:52) - Finding the pathless path.
  • (07:04) - Taking action will lead to more action.
  • (11:01) - Goals and aspirations.
  • (17:08) - Leisure and Laziness.
  • (24:09) - Generosity and not focusing on numbers.
  • (27:57) - Why money doesn’t matter
  • (33:44) - How writing helped me make sense of life.
  • (38:28) - How to avoid bullshitting yourself.
  • (43:08) - How to live your life.
  • (50:34) - Finding Paul

Creators & Guests

Arvid Kahl
Empowering founders with kindness. Building in Public. Sold my SaaS FeedbackPanda for life-changing $ in 2019, now sharing my journey & what I learned.
Paul Millerd
Helping people thrive on pathless paths 📘 The Pathless Path:… Find The Others:

What is The Bootstrapped Founder?

Arvid Kahl talks about starting and bootstrapping businesses, how to build an audience, and how to build in public.

Arvid Kahl: Hello everyone and
welcome to The Bootstrapped

Founder. Today, I'm talking to
Paul Millerd, author of The

Pathless Path. We are talking
about all things, choosing your

own path today, how to not go
for the default option that

everybody else wants you to
take. But forging your own

journey through your life using
entrepreneurship, maybe. Maybe

other things, you will find out
in this conversation with Paul

Millerd. Here's Paul.

I've been reading your book, The
Pathless Path. And it has been a

wonderful mind expanding read
for me. I think it's a great

metaphor, like the whole book
and every concept in it. And

it's likely one that my audience
of founders and creators who are

listening and people who are
generally are just ready to go

on their own journey, are ready
to learn about. So please tell

me, enlighten me and the
listeners, what is the pathless


Paul Millerd: So the pathless
path is a phrase and my book is

sort of taken on a life of its
own. And at this point, it's

sort of released into the world
and I let people tell me what it

means to them. I think for some
people, it is permission to bet

on themselves. For other people,
it's sort of a nice hug from a

friend on an uncertain journey
without much support. Other

people, it's like, oh, man,
maybe this is you. I wish I had

this 10 years ago. That's also
me. Like, I wish I had this. And

I think it's my own sense making
of what is life look like not

centered around work. And sort
of my accidental stumbling into,

oh, there's a different mode of
life you can exist in, in which

you actually like your work that
will make everything else seem

silly and nudge you to want to
build your whole life around

that. And that's sort of what I
discovered throughout my

journey. And it's still pretty,
not, I mean, it's still not a

widely held view of the world.
And it's just like, wow, I feel

like I have this secret
knowledge. Other people are

telling me the same thing. I
need to get it out there into

the world. And that's what I did
with the book.

Arvid Kahl: It definitely sounds
like the community that we are

in, the indie hacker or the
creator economy, whatever you

want to call it, is more
susceptible to the concept.

Honestly, before I read the
book, I thought, I'm living my

life in a way that is not
conventional. But after I read

the book and was presented with
the word, now I have a phrase

for it. Now I have the
vocabulary to actually express

it, right? Because I've been
trying to fight narratives that

other people try to instill in
me for most of my adult life.

And now that I see this in a
cohesive unit as the book, it

feels like yes, this is exactly
what I've been doing. I'm glad

there's another one. There's
something that you wrote in the

book that I really enjoyed, it's
like find the others as one of

the kind of the tenants of going
on that path, right? Generally,

you present the idea as the
default path that everybody is

supposed to take. And there's
the pathless path that people

take because they have chosen
not to go with the default

route. And in the default route,
everything is kind of

predetermined and people tell
you where to go. You know where

you need to go because you have
these goals already set for you.

And if you take a path that is
less like this, going at it

alone becomes complicated,
right? It's not as easy as

follow the career ladder that
somebody else is laid out for

you. So how do you find the
others? How did you do this?

Like you definitely you made the
choice at some point to quit and

get into this nomadic lifestyle
that you had at some point in

your life. How did you find the
others? Did you look for them?

Or did they just come to you?

Paul Millerd: You said it's
complicated to do it without

people. I think it's impossible
to do without finding the

others. I think this is probably
way more important than making

money. Though people don't
believe that in their bones. And

you need to work through your
fear and money relationship. But

basically, it took me forever to
leave the default path because I

had no people around me taking
unconventional or different

paths. I didn't have the
imagination because I didn't see

people around me and say, oh,
there's somebody like me doing

something different. And I could
be like that. Eventually, I just

got so fed up and I left. And I
felt really alone. Like I

couldn't communicate what I was
going through. It was like,

people are like, aren't you
worried about income? That's all

my default path friends would
say. And it's like, yes, of

course. But I'm more afraid of
having to go back and get a job.

And I sort like I think in my
first year I struggled but I

started sharing more. I was
actually living out what I was

claiming to care about instead
of complaining about my boss or

company and I started attracting
people. It was very slow at

first. 2017 was a much harder
time to find the others. Now,

it's way easier with communities
like indie hackers, Nomad list,

Twitter, especially. But it was
hard back then. I met some

people at a conference in New
York. One thing led to another

and one of those first people I
met actually led to the naming

of my book. So it sort of speaks
to the serendipity of how these

things happen. Somebody I met at
a conference said, you have to

meet this guy, Steven Mosley and
he had been doing a podcast for

years about an unconventional
path called Unstackable. This is

like 10 years ago. I met him.
Not only did he eventually take

over my lease in Boston as I
moved to Asia, he said you have

to go to World Domination
Summit. This is where the

unconventional people are. I
went there. I made like three or

four great friends. One of them
was Johnny Miller. And Jonny

Miller, the second day after I
met him, he walks up to me and

he goes here, you have to read
this book. It was David Whyte's

The Tree Marriages. And in that
book was the phrase, the

pathless path. And David Whyte
writes about this pathless path

is like, you're not supposed to
know what this phrase means. But

it sort of takes over everything
and becomes an explanation. And

that phrase, then when I met my
wife later, was the phrase we

kind of gravitated to together
to sort of describe our shared

journey. So it's kind of funny
how these things happen. But

without finding the others, none
of this happens. And none of it

is fun along the way. I would
have just been like building a

business. But really, I've
wanted to build a life and

that's what my book is really

Arvid Kahl: That's so cool. I
love this. This is the idea of

you going to a conference and
then just serendipity taking you

onto this journey, right? Or you
already being on the journey and

the winds of serendipity just
pushing you slightly, nudging

you into a different direction.
That is awesome to me. Honestly,

conferences, I think,
particularly conferences that

you've never been to before,
you're not a regular but new

ones, are quite powerful. I
think for me, when I went to

MicroConf, the first couple of
months after we sold our

business back in 2019, I didn't
expect this to be a like a

pivotal point in my life. And
it's not even that MicroConf was

a conference. It was way out of
where I was. I was a software

engineer building a software
business. MicroConf is exactly

for those people. But what I
learned there was like standing

on stage and telling people my
experience, sharing what I know,

helping other people find their
way, that's something I enjoy.

Because I didn't know that about
me before. I didn't know that I

wanted to write. I didn't know
that I wanted to, you know,

speak and teach. But just
getting the opportunity, being

invited onstage to give like an
attendee talk wasn't even

scheduled, right? If the idea
was, oh, yeah, sure. Talk about

what you just did. And I did and
I liked it. And ever since then,

that's what I've been doing. And
I met people that just like you

said, that have increased just
the whole the potential that I

have in the world by just
exposing me to other ideas and

other concepts. It's funny that
that is something that I can

resonate with, with my own
experience. It's really nice.

It's nice to see that if you
just choose to act, like the

impetus of action just pushes
you forward to explore these

things much more. I really like

Paul Millerd: I think people
underestimate this. And people

think, oh, I need to have my
income replaced before I leave

my job. I need to have a plan. I
need to know what I'm doing. But

literally just taking an action
will lead to more actions,

right? And Tobi Lutke has this
phrase I heard on a recent

podcast he did where it's like,
changes information. The problem

on my previous path is I was
tricking myself into believing I

was changing things up. I was
only changing jobs in the same

career narrative and trajectory
of my life, which was really

freaking boring and dumb and not
aligned with what I actually

cared about. And eventually,
over time you become cynical and

disconnected from what you care
about. So I think what happened

at those series of conferences,
it was multiple conferences is

that I got rid of that heavy
weight over me. And I would just

show up and say, I quit my job.
I'm freelancing, a.ka. I don't

really know what I'm doing. But
the magic of that was for the

first time I met people not
based on how much money I was

making or what status rung I was
in. I was meeting people on

shared vulnerability, right? And
this is the magic of meeting

other people on unconventional
paths is you can bond over your

shared, not knowing what the
hell you're doing this. And that

leads to some really powerful
friendships. And what I found is

basically I've bootstrapped a
life. And because of that the

people around me, they inspire
me to keep going bet on myself,

believe in myself to write
books, like models like you.

You've written multiple books.
It's like, oh, if Arvid could do

it, I could do it, right? And
it's so arbitrary but it's so

Arvid Kahl: Yeah, I think just
seeing people do stuff and being

powerful too.

around them, right? That's why
I'm so big on building in public

because not only is it a really
nice way of marketing whatever

you're doing and showing the
world what you have to offer,

that's great. But it has such an
inspirational power for

everybody else around you. Like
just by acting, even in your own

interest, right? Talking about
the things that you're doing to

make money you're already
lifting other people have who

just see you for the first time
and see that it's possible. I

think you're right about this,
like in your book, even at a

very early stage, when you were
still, like full time

consulting, like a business
consultant, you started seeing a

part time consultants like
freelance consultants that just

came in for particular projects
and then left again, who

sometimes worked for half a year
and then went half a year and

traveled or, you know, worked a
couple of days a week and did

other things as a side project.
And I think just being exposed

to this, sometimes can just
change the way you think about

work. I really, really
appreciated that about how you

wrote about your own journey. It
was very clear that you just you

leveled up your enlightenment
about what it means to make an

impact in the world, right? You
had all these goals that

somebody else set for you
because you were surrounded by

people who were following the
regular default track. And then

you just saw other people who
had different goals. And all of

a sudden, it became obvious that
oh, you don't have to follow

that singular set of goals. You
can have your own goals. It's

really nice. And I think the
phrase that I want to talk to

you about because I found it
quite the thought of it

invigorating in terms of what we
currently are experiencing in

the world of entrepreneurship.
You call people who go on the

default path, hoop jumpers, like
people who jump through hoops

that, you know, are set out for
them to jump through. And I was

wondering because you know as
bootstrappers, we are a small

indie community and we don't
really have much media

representation. Most media
representation around our field

is VC funded businesses. It's
like the big I need to be a

massively funded entrepreneur to
be an entrepreneur. And that to

me sounds again, like hoop
jumping, like you need to get

the credibility that an investor
gives you. Are we chasing the

wrong dreams? Or more or less is
the media attention, just

another hoop jumpers and that
makes us also want to jump these

hoops? What's your perspective
on this?

Paul Millerd: Yeah, I think so.
I think prestige is basically

what we pay attention to or what
we think other people pay

attention to, right? This is
common knowledge. Common

knowledge is knowing what other
people think. Everyone thinks

this, right? That is the default
path. And the truth is people

pay attention to starting a
company. That is a legible and

credible path in the world. If
you tell people, so I quit my

job almost six years ago. I was
becoming a freelancer. But that

story did not pass the boomers
sniff test. Like people were

like, what do you mean? What's
your plan? You know, but if I

had said I'm starting a company,
they probably would have been

like, oh, yeah, that's a thing
people should do, right? Just

because it is out there. It's a
known thing, maybe less so on

the east coast, where I'm from
in the US and more on the west

coast. But yeah, that's the
thing people do. And there's a

legible path. You raise money
then you raise more money. Then

you hire a team, you scale, you
go big, you exit, and then you

have your existential crisis and
then eventually reach out to us

and ask what the hell am I
doing? But, yeah, it's a legible

path. And I think I didn't write
about this in the book, but I

call these hustle traps. And the
core issue people are trying to

solve is that I feel like I need
to do something. I need to be

special. I am a worker in the
world. And where I come at it in

my book is starting from the
assumption that we are in fact

not workers. There are some
people that are possessed with

other worldly effort and like
enthusiasm toward extrinsic

goals. Most people are not those
people. I suspect you and me are

not those people. We don't have
that, right? We can only do

things we're actually interested
and excited by, right? So the

mistake is taking other people's
goals for your own. That's what

I call a hustle trap, right? You
actually need to start from

within. And the problem with
that is to go within in today's

world, which many people have
not done early in their life,

it's been undermined by school
and jobs, is that it usually

involves a season of wandering
and non doing. It involves

getting lost to a degree, trying
random things, taking time off.

And that does not fit the story
in people's head about what

you're supposed to be doing in
life, which is essentially

working all throughout
adulthood, right? So you need to

go within and figure out what
actually fires you up. If

starting a company is the path
for you, fantastic, but don't do

it in a very, like short sighted
way. I see a lot of people quit

their jobs thinking they want to
start a startup, but then they

have a taste of space and
looseness and lightness in their

life. And they're like, ah, not
for me.

Arvid Kahl: That makes sense.
You describe you just mentioned

non doing. That's something that
that really stood out to me.

Because, you know, there are
many different ways that we talk

about our life when we don't
work. And I think in the book,

you point out, there used to be
something we called leisure. And

it was a thing that we actually
wanted to do, right? That work

was the not at leisure part. So
you can be at leisure. That was

the general idea for most of
humanity's life, that you work

as much as you need to be able
to not have to work, which has

been completely perverted. And
now even the word leisure has a

negative connotation as if you
are avoiding work, which is this

glorious thing to do. So what is
the difference for you between

non work leisure and I guess
laziness? That would be like the

most negative version of that
that I could find. Are they the

same? Or do they differ?

Paul Millerd: Yeah, so I would
say like, there's doing, right?

Doing stuff, all of us not to do
that in today's world. It's like

programmed into us from birth,
you must do stuff, you can't

just not work. All these phrases
we have, right? People get so

nervous. I had a productive
Sunday. I get so much done. It's

like what does that mean, right?
But the opposite of doing is not

actually like non doing for most
people. It's something also a

older term called acedia, right?
Which means spiritual or mental

sloth, right? So I think when
people are talking about

laziness, it's really a
byproduct of building your life

around too much doing, right?
You've lost connection to what

matters with you internally.
Whereas, like leisure is a whole

nother axis. Like leisure can be
passive, that contemplative

mode. Maybe you don't do
anything actively for weeks or

leisure can be the active mode.
I find writing to be incredibly

leisurely. It's delightful. I
love it. And when I don't feel

like doing it, I just don't do
it. And I feel connected. I feel

energized while I'm doing it and
it doesn't feel hard. It's not

hard effort wise. It's hard in
like a skill wise. It's like,

oh, it's gonna take me a
lifetime to get good at this.

But it is not hard in terms of
like aligning with my natural

flow of life.

Arvid Kahl: Do you consider this
to be, I mean, the whole

conversation feels like it's a
privileged thing. That's kind of

where I'm going with this, like
having the choice even not to

force yourself to work to make
ends meet. That alone is a

privilege that not everybody
has. You describe this in the

early chapters of your book,
like when you describe where

you're coming from, right? That
you had these wonderful parents

that did everything. So you
could live a life of you know,

of optionality, of choice, of
not being like forced into

anything. But you say your dad
worked like 10-12 hours a day

for 47 years in the same company
just to empower you to do what

you're doing. Did he have a
choice? Or are there people like

him out there that should have
the choice but don't?

Paul Millerd: In his head, he
didn't have a choice.

Arvid Kahl: Okay

Paul Millerd: I think growing up
both my parents believed the

story that because they didn't
have degrees, they didn't have

choices. I don't fully believe
that. But given their worldview,

I think that was the case,
right? And increasingly more

people have options and
possibilities. I think at this

point in our world, more people
than ever have the possibility

of exploring different paths. I
think the weird thing about this

is that people say because my
parents suffered, I should

suffer. And that doesn't
perfectly make sense. Like we're

not trying to pass on suffering,
right? And the challenge, too,

is like, my father was working
in manufacturing, building

stuff, working on the factory
floor and he actually liked it.

The problem is, too many people
in today's world are actually

suffering doing absolutely
meaningless work, producing

reports that don't need to be re
produced for bosses that are

totally unsure why they're doing
what they're doing, but they're

just going along with it, right?
And a lot of people I call this

like self gaslighting is like,
don't you think it's wrong to

like actually pursue your own
path? And it's like, that's kind

of weird. Like, if you have the
possibility to potentially show

up in the world in a larger and
more loving way, like, why not

do it?

Arvid Kahl: Yeah, I've been
thinking about this earlier

today. And just there was
something in my mind was like,

is it selfish to be on the
default path? Or is it selfish

to be on the pathless path?
Because in some ways, you could

argue that people who go to
default route, the highly

competitive, everything's for me
and nothing for them. They're

the selfish ones. But you know,
you have this good egg, bad egg

metaphor in your book, where you
say as long as you're on the

default path, you're a good egg.
And the moment you go and you go

off the beaten path, you're a
bad egg. And you consider

yourself one because you think
other people think that of you.

But in a way, you are way more
selfless by being out there and

empowering and helping people
than the people who climb the

corporate ladder. Why do we
still perceive it so obviously,

wrongly, in the society?

Paul Millerd: It's very
powerful, right? It's hard to

unsee that once you realize
that. I think a lot of it was an

industrial era in which
countries really were grinding

collectively to build massive
industrial bases and needed tons

of bodies to actually do that,
right? So we needed to sort of

be like, programmed collectively
to believe in these scripts.

They no longer serve our world
as completely as they used to.

There are more options than
ever, there are more types of

work, there are more paths and
possibilities, right? And from

what I've seen, people that are
betting on themselves working on

their own, I'm talking like
indie consultants, solopreneurs,

self employed, they're owning
all the downside of their path

reputationally and financially
and that typically makes them

more vulnerable. And from what
I've seen, even though many of

them have less money, much more
generous. And I don't know if

there's a self selection thing
with that. But I sense it has

something to do with the
vulnerability of being on a

weird path. And so yeah, I
think, for me, I was incredibly

selfish on the default path
because really, I couldn't come

up with a point other than I
would make more money and that

would make some parts of my life
easier, right? But I'm honestly

a nicer person now. I think I'm
more generous. I think I've

grown much more in the last six
years than I did in the first

ten after graduating. And for
me, it's been just a beautiful

opening of my life and to meet
other people like you who are

embracing that open spirit
motivates me even further.

Arvid Kahl: Likewise. I think
your generosity and just showing

up here today is amazing. So
thanks for that. But also just

talking about these things in
public and making people aware

of that, that is by in itself a
generous act, right? Because you

could use your time to optimize
whatever KPI you come up with,

right? That could be the time
you spend, but you choose to

talk about things. And that
brings me to something. I was

just thinking about generosity
and not focusing on numbers. You

know because you could make more
but you're not. You are choosing

to do something else, but still
in our community, indie hackers,

creators, like MRR figures and
graphs that go up into the

right. They are all super
important still, but it's still

what we project outwards. Like
even in our solopreneur

community, we kind of act like
we're these huge businesses on

the growth trajectory to
wherever, you know. It's so

weird how we use these default
path mental models and kind of

try to cram them into our unique
own pathless path like life that

we have. Does that mean that
it's a continuum? Or does it

just mean that we are kind of
looking at the wrong side of


Paul Millerd: I think I did a
lot early on to share my journey

financially. My income went from
this to this. I went from 150


Arvid Kahl: Yeah, up into the

Paul Millerd: Yeah. And I tried
to share the overtime. I think

the challenge is, you don't get
a lot of attention until your

numbers start going up, right?
So less people paid attention. I

was sharing my income. I have
like, my total income generated

by year. I made 150,000 in my
last year of full time work,

then I made $47,000 US, $47,000,
$35,000. And then $77,000,

that's income generated. That
does not include expenses or

taxes, right? So I was making
much less than those numbers.

And if you look at that, like
nobody is like, I want that

Arvid Kahl: Right. Yeah, because
it's always more, more, more,



Paul Millerd: I had the time of
my life. Those years were so

fun. I was finding work I was
falling in love with. And at

that point in the journey, I was
pretty much like and I had met

my wife at that point. And she
was fully on board. I was like,

let's live a very minimalistic
life and like protect our time

and freedom. And she was on
board, right? We sort of figured

out like if we stay in Taiwan,
we can make about 30 to $40,000

a year US dollars and like live
the life we wanted. And that

just makes people unhappy.
Because, like, they'll look at

my recent income be like, well,
you can say this because of

this. And it's like, well just
go back. Like you can read all

my newsletters.

Arvid Kahl: Yeah, you did that
in public, too. Right?

Paul Millerd: Yeah, and I don't
really care if my income falls

again. Like I'm not actually
orienting my time to make my

income go up. For the last 11
weeks, I haven't worked more

than five hours a week because I
have a newborn daughter. And

like, that time is priceless.
And it's been amazing. I hung

out. I woke up at 8 today and
hung out with her until 30

minutes ago.

Arvid Kahl: Well, I'm kind of
sorry that I interrupted that

with this recording now.

Paul Millerd: It's okay. Mom was
getting, my wife was getting

jealous. She wanted baby time.

Arvid Kahl: Oh, good. That makes
me feel much better. I love

this. I love to hear that your
priorities are so obviously

oriented towards something
bigger than tracking a metric.

And in many ways, I've been
looking into the tweets that you

wrote and the tweets that were
written about you over the last

couple of days. And a lot of
people talk about how much money

you're making with the book.
Because you're starting to sell

more and more of this, which is
kind of it's almost ironic in a

way, right? Like, had they read
the book?

Paul Millerd: It's very weird.

Arvid Kahl: Yeah, it is. I mean,
it's great that this is now

generating a lot of attention,
which is compensated, you know,

in cash that comes back in from
Amazon and all the places that

you sell it. But it's bizarre
that people still focus on this,

that this is the impact that
they can tangibly relate to. I

wish it was different. I don't
know how you feel about this.

But I wish money wouldn't matter
that much.

Arvid Kahl: That's right

Paul Millerd: I think the cool
thing about my book is I did it.

Paul Millerd: Right? So it's
kind of a cool thing to make

From the start, I said if I'm
going to succeed, I want to do

it 100% on my own terms. And I
did the entire book my way and

self published. And if you
succeed with a self published

book, you make about five to
seven books a copy, which can be

very financially rewarding. And
the cool thing with that is, if

I inspire people to write a
book, that's amazing, right? If

the money will inspire them,
that's so cool. Because making a

money from a book is pretty
amazing. Like other stuff can

get super scammy like people can
hack together a course and put

together something pretty
scammy. You can't fake your way

through writing a book.

money on. Like that's the one
thing where I'm most excited to

make money is because I know
other books are gonna be written

because of it and I can't wait
to read them.

Arvid Kahl: Yeah, I can relate
to this. A couple of people have

come up to me and explain to me
that just my kind of writing in

public of the books that I
wrote, just inspired them to

write to begin with. Maybe not
books, some people did, but most

people just started newsletters
or blogs. And I'm thinking that

is equally awesome. Like the
fact that somebody periodically

reaches out to people they care
about that share the same goals

and same ideas and are on
similar yet different paths

altogether. That is one of the
best things that I think ever

happened to me is to see that I
actually gave somebody, it's

like what you said, you have
this wonderful phrase in the

book where you talks about
permission. You just have a line

in there, I give you permission
to do whatever you want. I

paraphrase, but you kind of say
if you need permission, I give

you permission. And sometimes
people just need this. They just

need this little push of you
know, you can write. Like you

literally write every day when
you're on social media. You

don't consider it writing, but
it is writing. You're trying to

teach people something, right?
Might just as well consolidate

that into a blog post or a
newsletter or a book. So do it,

you can. So I allow you to do
this. I love that part of the

book because I hope that this
particular part just kindles

this little reframing in
people's minds. And sometimes

that's all you need.

Paul Millerd: Yeah, you can just
do things. And this is the cool

thing about writing online, too,
especially newsletter format.

You can look back at my old
issues and see like my

uncertainty, my discomfort, my
small following, my meager

financial earnings, it's all
there. And the weird thing about

having some extrinsic success is
people start putting you on a

pedestal. Maybe this has
happened to you. They think I

know something or like I have
some special abilities. It's

like, no, I just stupidly did
something I enjoyed for years,

didn't expect anything from it.
And now I'm having some

serendipity and luck. I have no
idea how to do that. Like I

couldn't have come up with a
strategy. And that's why my book

has no how tos. There's like
some high level challenges at

the end. But there's no how tos
because the truth is the only

path is your path.

Arvid Kahl: Yeah, and I think
that makes the book even more

powerful and almost more
actionable. Because there is

nothing that you can try to
implement and then fail, you

know. Like these, it's like a
recipe where you don't have the

ingredients. It's not going to
help you. And if you try to use

different ingredients, it's not
going to be the thing that comes

out that you want it. So giving
people just the broad concept.

And that's the last chapter in
your book like these eight or

nine steps, just one of them is
reflect like, obviously, right?

That is something very basic.
But if you forget to actively

think about where you are and
where you want to go, if you

just follow whatever other
people give you, well, then

you'll never find your own way.
So they are actionable steps.

But there are unspecific enough
for people to find their own

version of it. I really like
that. And what I absolutely like

about your writing is you write
about writing, which is always

great. It's always great when
people write and then write

about how they learn to write or
how they found writing. And for

you, it was related to your
health issues that you had at a

certain point, right? It was
kind of cathartic. You were

dealing with pain. You were
dealing with struggle and you

wrote your way out of it and you
have this Quora post, example

where you wrote a lengthy Quora
post a reply to somebody's

question about these health
issues. And you notice that the

responses coming in where people
were like, extremely happy that

you gave them the opportunity to
learn from your experience. You

were empowering others by
writing. That is something that

I really appreciate, like, how
important is writing to you?

Paul Millerd: Yeah, the personal
side is the most meaningful.

That was such a relief to
publish that on Quora because it

helped me make sense of what I
went through. I went through a

really hard time with some
health crises and writing was

the only way I knew how to make
sense of it. And I think when I

shipped that essay, I was able
to let go of some of the

resentment I had toward what I
was seeing as lost years of my

life, the prime of my 20s. I'm
more or less lost two years to a

day to day suffering of physical
issues and the mental challenge

that went with that. And yeah,
but I didn't notice at the time

that a reading maybe could be
something that's part of my

life. It was always just like,
yeah, I'll do it here and there.

And then it snuck up on me over
the next three years when I

returned to work. I wrote on the
side and it was where the flood

of energy and sensemaking of
what was happening to me was

going and yeah, it's such an
amazing thing. I mean, so many

people have fallen in love with
writing. And when you do it,

there's really no choice. Like
you have to write. And for me

writing is easy because like
spending time with my daughter

writing was only thing I felt
like I had to do. And I just

missed it. I don't have a
complete life unless I'm

writing. I don't think all the
other work, ah I'm fine. I don't

need to do it. I rather go break
broke and be riding in the

middle of nowhere at a beautiful
mountain or something.

Arvid Kahl: Yeah, Walden Pond,
right? Yeah. I very much

resonate with this. Like, if I
may, like, give you an example

of how this exact same thing
happened to me. Like when we

were in the final year of
Feedback Panda, the software

business that we sold, I was
under like heavy burnouts. And

you've talked about burnout too.
And I really liked the way you

phrased it as like an alignment
problem between your individual

goals and the company goals and
internally between what you

think you want and what you
think you need. We could unravel

this. That alone was a wonderful
way of expressing burnout

because it exactly describes
what I went through. But it was

the end of an era for me because
we were selling this business

and I was mid burnout. And I
started writing. I needed some

cathartic way out of this. I was
like, constantly under stress,

permanently anxious, the only
technical person in the business

who could deal with whatever may
come and we had 1000s of

customers. So there was always
something going on. I had a lot

of, you know, I was overwhelmed.
And I was mid burnout, close to

burnout. I still don't know, I
never really diagnosed it. But I

was there. And I wrote this
10,000 word piece, the first

thing I ever wrote because
English is my second language.

And I never really wrote much in
terms of articles or anything,

but I just started writing
about, I think, like mental

health issues for bootstrap
CTOs. I think that was the

title. And I just pulled out
everything, like every single

thing that I felt went onto the
page and then never published

it. Like because we were mid
selling the business. I'm not

going to publish an article
about how hard it is to run a

business while you're trying to
negotiate a good price. That

doesn't make sense. But what it
helped me was to crystallize my

thinking and I think that's what
writing is, in its purest

essence is intentional thought.
It's not thought that just

happens. It's thought
crystallized into a shape, we

can retrieve it and mold it and
shape it, right? That's what

writing is, which is also why I
will never give up writing. It's

going to be just like you, the
last thing that I give up. I

will join you at that pond or
that mountain that you're

hanging out doing. I'm just
going to co write stuff together

because that will be like that
is why I live is because I can

do this at this point. And
later, a couple of months after

we sold, I revisited this
article and I thought I quite

enjoyed this not just for the
catharsis that it gave me. But

because I solve a couple
problems while writing the

article. I thought about a
couple of scalability solutions,

how to deal with certain, you
know, customer service problems

and automations that all came to
me while writing and I thought

oh, I'm gonna keep doing this.
This is fun, started my blog,

started writing, started
newsletter, wrote a couple

books. That's where my journey
came from, from a mental health

issue that I wrote my way out of
just wanted to share that with

you because it feels like you
very similarly found writing to

be the catalyst for a journey of
teaching, which is kind of cool.

Just wanted to share this.

Paul Millerd: Yeah, I think I
want to live an intentional

life. And one way to avoid
bullshitting yourself is to ship

out your intentions to 1000s of
people. It was hundreds at

first, but I felt like okay, if
I'm going to say these things, I

need to do these things. So I've
done all sorts of experiments

over the last six years and it's
been a really interesting way of

keeping myself accountable.
After a month of launching my

book, I think I sold like 300
copies or something. It was an

absolute success. Why? Because
in the final months of writing

it, I sort of like broke down in
tears and like, I've connected a

few pieces in the book and
pulled some pieces together,

wrote the introduction. And it
was just like an enormous

release of tension and
realizing, like how scared I was

to really admit that this shit
matters, like being like living

a life where you do what you
claim to care about. It matters.

And I was so scared to say that.
I had all these voices adults I

grew up around who would
cynically say oh, you're just

naive. You got to work, buddy.
Like I had all these voices in

my head and I was small and I
was scared. And what the book

enabled me to do is actually
show up in my own life and not

be afraid of what people would
say, like I was living as if it

mattered, but I was small and
scared, right?

Arvid Kahl: It reminds me of the
adage from a quote that you put

in there with the freedom from
freedom too, right? You're free

from oppression. You're free to
express yourself. And that is

something that, I studied
political science in Germany. So

that is a very strong theme
there as well.

Paul Millerd: How do you say his
name? I can improve my


Arvid Kahl: No. I mean, it's
just like my name. I think my

name in German is Arvid Kahl.
And in English, it's Arvid Kahl,

right? So you have these.

Paul Millerd: Yeah, I gotta
improve my German.

Arvid Kahl: Yeah, it's erechfrom
and erechfrom talks about the

two kinds of freedom, right? The
freedom from, or freedom from,

which means like, you're not
exposed to something. And the

other part is agency, which is
something that is the freedom to

do something that is allowed for
you to do. And I really resonate

with this because ever since I
left my last job as a software

engineer, I've been living the
freedom to life quite a bit,

then it's scary. It is a scary
thing. Yeah, that's kind of why

am I mentioning this year
because you kind of have to find

out. I think that's your Oprah
quote there. You have to find

out who you are and then do it
with purpose, right? The idea


Paul Millerd: Yeah, Dolly Parton

Arvid Kahl: Dolly Parton, yeah.
Sorry. Yeah, that's right. To

figure out who you are, who that
person is, that will go on the

journey. And most of us don't
really know this, like, you go

into a life and you have these
stories by your parents, by your

grandparents, that's my story
too. Like you had very

supportive grandparents. I also
had very supportive

grandparents. But they were
raised in an Eastern Germany.

They were raised in the German
Democratic Republic and to them

finding a job and not talking
about what you're doing because

otherwise people might get
jealous, that was the epitome of

a good life. And that was what
they instilled in their kids and

what their kids instilled in
their kids, which is me. So I

had to do a lot of unlearning
when I became an adult, of the

things that were taught to me as
this is how you live a stable,

safe and good life. And then
finding out that I'm actually a

different person that will
openly share a lot of things

that my grandmother, she already
passed away. But she would pass

away again, if she knew how much
I share about my life. That's

kind of how I feel. She would
probably like it still because I

could explain it to her and she
would see the resonance that I'm

getting. But that would freak
her out. Like whenever we talked

about money. And we rarely
talked about money in my family,

it was like never ever mentioned
what you have because somebody

else might take it because that
was the system that they came up

on, right? And unlearning this,
whew, quite the challenge and

probably a challenge for many
people today who come from,

like, you know, like, multi
generational immigrant families

that come from a different
culture and that kind of stuff.

Paul Millerd: Well, it's real,
too, right? To stand out in

Eastern Germany was extremely
risky, right? And that's not

serving us anymore, though,
right? And I think scripts about

how to live your life are always
changing. I just sense right now

that the scripts that emerged
after World War ll because they

were in response to these large
scale, massive national country,

industrial systems are even more
powerful than we've had before.

For most of humanity, adapting
to your conditions was the

natural way. For our generation,
living out your parents' idea of

how the world works is the
normal route, right? Because our

world is so safe. When the world
isn't safe, you're an idiot not

to adapt. When the world is
safe, if you don't adapt, you're

likely going to please your
parents and make them feel

comfortable. It's been
surprising to me how many people

get uncomfortable just based on
my life choices even if I'm not

talking about it. They'll
unprompted bring up like, don't

you think like people should
work in a job? And it's like, I

didn't say anything. What are
you talking about? I think

people should do what's best for
their life.

Arvid Kahl: Right. That sounds
like a lot of projection is

happening there. But

Paul Millerd: Of course, this
happens to all of us.

Arvid Kahl: In some ways, you
could argue. Yeah, exactly.

That's the problem, right? I was
gonna say like, you could

probably argue that they're at
least a little bit curious about

it because they're asking a
question. They're not telling

you that you're wrong. But it is
still the programming that comes

from society and from your
parents and from your school,

right? That gives you the
baseline, the default that you

then maybe question or at least
ask why the other person does

not live that life. Yeah, I love
what you wrote about with the

boomer generation and like the
how the life that they're

leading is the anomaly.

Arvid Kahl: I think that's what
you just said too, right? We're

Paul Millerd: Yeah

adapting is decentered. Like,
that's the thing like every

single sci fi movie, every
single fantasy story that we

read is about people living a
weird life that they always have

to adapt to. So if you look into
the narrative, like even Joseph

Campbell with, you know, the
Monomyth and all that, that is a

story of adapting, of
overcoming, of finding help,

finding guidance, having an
emesis, having an enemy, right?

It's always a struggle, like
every human story is a struggle.

And then there's these weird 50
years or so, where everything is

great. And we consider this to
be the new normal. I'm quite

frightened for the financial
systems of the future because I

think the systems we have right
now are built on our expectation

that this great phase is going
to keep on growing and going to

establish itself forever.

Paul Millerd: Yeah, and this is
the weird thing about like,

saying, people are privileged to
take an unconventional path

because when you take an
unconventional path, you pretty

much always face criticism, lack
of lack of support from family

members, you lose friendships.
And it can be pretty shitty. And

this comes back to what we were
talking about at the beginning,

which is that this is why
finding the others is so

important. And this is why I
share my work. And I'm out there

in public because it's a
generous act to share your work

because you might let the others
find you, right? And

Arvid Kahl: Yeah, that's right.

Paul Millerd: This is important.
We need more experiments in

living. There's this, I listened
to this podcast, The Align

podcast with Aaron Alexander and
he interviewed Boyd Vardy. Have

you listened to Boyd Vardy?

Arvid Kahl: No

Paul Millerd: He's a lion
tractor. He's gone through all

sorts of trauma in his life,
crazy life story. But he says,

to become someone who lives on
the track of your life is what

it means to be a modern
activist, right? We mistake

modern activism would like
having an impact, right? Working

in social responsibility,
nonsense, to become someone who

lives on the track of your life.
So you work out what it would

mean to go inward and find your
way to your gift, your purpose,

your essence. It's incredible
what happens around a person

that's found that. And at a
deeper level, when you're around

someone that's really in their
essence, really in their

mission, you can feel it in
them. There's something about

their life, that you look at it
and feel yourself lean forward

in your chair and you feel like
you can just feel the depth of

it and it starts to wake you up
to what's possible. I think

that's it. That's everything,
like live true to the track of

your own life.

Arvid Kahl: And honestly, that's
what I feel when I listen to you

because Ieven though it's just
been six years, you have found

something, right? And that is
something. That is incredibly

valuable because most people are
looking for that. But they

haven't found it yet. Because
they don't know how to look for

it. They don't know, like I was
thinking earlier when you were

saying like, you wanted to
change things in your life, but

the only thing you did was
changing jobs because that's the

only thing you could fathom
changing, right? That reminds me

so strongly of the overton
window that we have in society,

like the things that we are
allowed to discuss, right?

There's stuff that was taboo on
the left and taboo on the right

and everything in the middle.
You're allowed to talk about it

and you're allowed to discuss it
and criticize it. But anything

beyond it, beyond those barriers
to the side, that's off limits.

And I think there is a mental
overton window for how we live

our life. And we talk about a
lot like, oh, career progress

and I'm gonna go to work in that
firm. And then I'm going to find

that job. I'm going to go to
this school to get these kinds

of degrees. And you have a lot
of choice and a lot of option

and people min max all these
little things. But just in that

really narrow frame, what you do
and what you found is a way to

expand the window. And I think
that is incredibly powerful. And

I'm extremely grateful that
you're sharing this with me

today, obviously, but in the
book and in your newsletter, in

your work. I want more people to
be exposed to this, which is why

I'm talking to you, which is why
I'm highlighting your work

wherever I can. And I want
people to find their own way so

I can learn from them. So that's
kind of my selfless approach to

sharing. I think that's one of
the last things you say in the

book as well as like, yeah, I'm
doing this not just out of the

goodness of my heart, although
there is so much generosity, but

it's also something that gets
back to you. There's reciprocity

in this. There's an actual
relationship between the people

that are on the journey and
that, to me is sharing in

public, building in public,
teaching in public. That gives

you this reciprocity where you
get something out of it

eventually, it's the long game.
It's the infinite game that you

play. And sorry, you can
probably tell I'm excited by

this because I feel this is
something that just if more

people even just consider it for
little, that will massively

impact their life. So yeah,
thank you so much for being here

today. I cannot express how much
I enjoy this conversation with


Paul Millerd: You're a generous
human. I appreciate your

curiosity and sharing as well. I
think the core thing like I'd

leave people with is, there's
this state you can find in which

you are so connected and so
alive with a state of being, a

type of work, a way of showing
up in the world. That is so

powerful. It's worth finding.
Like, I don't know how to find

it. That's the thing. I don't
know how to find it. It's hard.

It's confusing, but it's worth
finding. And if you find it, I

can't promise you'll make money
from it. But you'll find a

different relationship to self
in the world in which you might

go places you can't even

Arvid Kahl: Absolutely. Well,
the next place people should go

is probably somewhere where they
can find you. So where do you

want people to go to learn more
about you and your work?

Paul Millerd: So I explore
people's stories like yours. You

should definitely come on the
podcast, The Pathless Path

podcast. I've been leaning more
into that. But yeah, my book is

basically my super raw,
vulnerable journey with all the

missteps and failures along the
way. So you can check that out.

Just search the Pathless Path,
Paul or

for my newsletter and yeah, I
write most weeks, some weeks I

take it off. And yeah, you can
find me.

Arvid Kahl: And you should find
Paul. Like he's worth every

minute you spend with him as
evidenced by this one hour long

conversation. Thank you so much,
Paul for joining me on the

podcast today. That was an
amazing and extremely

instructive conversation. Thank
you so much.

Paul Millerd: I appreciate your

Arvid Kahl: And that's it for
today. Thank you for listening

to The Bootstrapped Founder. You
can find me on Twitter

@arvidkahl. You'll find my books
and my twitter course as well.

If you want to support me and
the show, please subscribe to my

YouTube channel, get the podcast
in your podcast player of choice

and leave a rating and a review
by going to

Any of this will truly help the

show. So thank you very much for
listening and have a wonderful

day. Bye bye