This feels like an appropriate post to be writing coming off a long weekend…
Startups are male-dominated. Goto any VC/ startup event and its 90%+ male. Tackling that is not the aim of this post (though as an aside, I will share that I am involved in a project that is addressing this head on – more on that later…).
Whether it’s this male domination or the fact that most startups have short half lives or whether there’s just more competition so that speed becomes more important than ever, or all of the above – most startups have an intense, always on culture and ethos.
That’s all well and good, but is it sustainable? Both during the life of any given startup and over the career path of the people living it?
I am a veteran of many startups now. I have lived through lax cultures (with mediocre results) and intense, competitive, pressure-filled cultures (with great results) and everything in between. The CEO of my 3rd startup (who had no kids) liked to do strategy sessions over cocktails after work. We did these frequently. Let’s just say I did not see much of our 2nd child in his first year.
Perhaps it was that experience or maybe I’m just getting older, but I won’t make those sacrifices now. I won’t get a 2nd chance to experience my kids growing up! And I have already missed milestones that I will never see again.
I’m still obviously very involved in startups and want the CEOs that we back to be aggressive. And I do firmly believe in Mike Cassidy’s maxim that speed is the best strategy.
So, how do I reconcile my desire for balance with my desire that our CEOs be as aggressive and fast as possible? I actually don’t think these paths are mutually exclusive.
While some people do genuinely thrive on (some) stress, it is a biological fact that sustained, long term stress is very harmful to us. If we are always on, we will inevitably drain our productive capabilities.
Some of my best insights have come while walking the dogs or mowing the lawn or just sitting quietly. And since I have made family a top priority my head has become clearer and more focused.
Successful startups often have one core market or technical insight that forms the nucleus of their entire company. I would argue that you’ll find that insight faster and be able to focus on it more if you’re not totally stressed out and feeling like you’re running a rat race.
I’m clearly not alone in thinking about family and balance. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook recently shared that she leaves work at 5:30pm to have dinner with her kids. For the #2 in a company known for it’s male-dominated all night hackathons, this is a strong and brave statement. I love it!
Bryce from OATV shared his take on how he balances work and family last week too. Like Sheryl, he makes it home for dinner with his family every night.
What about me? Well, I don’t have the pressures of running one of the most successful internet companies around and I am fortunate to be part of a great and understanding partnership. So, I have the autonomy to craft a work-life balance that is truly sustainable. I take the kids to school most days. I help out in the morning routine. I don’t get to eat dinner with them most nights, but I am there for stories, bath, shut down.
I also work from home on Fridays. My partners like to joke that I work 4 days/ week. But I find it’s a great way to end the week. I end Fridays organized, thoughtful and ready for the following week. Yes, like you, I am checking in on weekends. But I try and turn email off entirely on Sundays.
My recipe won’t necessarily work for you. But nothing is more important than family and health. So I strongly encourage you to craft a personal routine that enables you to deliver your best in every aspect of your life not just for a short term sprint but for the whole marathon of life!