Chapter 10: Balance
(Draft of John's new book: Your comments are welcome)
Balancing life is fundamental to the startup bicycle rider. In fact it spells the difference between winning and losing.
Life on Hold
“I solved that problem, I told my girl friend goodbye” said the founder. He was in Hong Kong when the Internet was nearing its peak. He had little financing and a lot of ambition. So to get more time at the startup, he tried to put his life on hold. Three years later he had neither a business nor girlfriend and suffered a hard lesson about why a startup is a marathon.
Serial entrepreneurs go on with their lives. First-timers try to put their lives on hold. The veterans continue the lifestyle that has given them satisfaction and reward, including the events and people that contributed to success. Others think they can pause in life, do the startup and after it is an established success, return to normal life. But life goes on while the startup is formed, launched and managed. The attempted pause with life turns into a new lifestyle that can change forever important stages in the life of a human: waited too long to have babies, never did the romantic trip to Paris, got a nice car but lost the nicer guy, skipped our anniversary and birthdays of parents, and so on.
When recruiting employees, think about what you want to brag about: Do you want to say how proud you are that you have put your life on hold to do a startup, or that you have a rewarding life at home as well as work, with family and friends that you delight in being with while you do the startup?
Employees are thinking about what sacrifices you will require of them. Other companies are competing for the same people. A brutal life-given-up style is not going to attract the best talent. But a complete lifestyle will. It is what humans look for in their job choices. By your example the candidates will make their decisions. They will look for the leader to set the lifestyle. If it is attractive, you have a good chance of their accepting your job offer.
One good test is to ask this question: “As I go to work each day, am I looking forward to it and to returning home in the evening?” If not, then it is time to rethink your lifestyle. Have you tried to put life on hold? Even if you have, you have time to change, to return to a quality lifestyle, one more attractive to both you and potential employees.
Startups are marathons. Life is not put on hold by successful entrepreneurs. The veterans continue with the lifestyle that has made them successful. Sprinters do not understand that and end up with a very empty basket at the end of the road.