startup junkies just don’t know any better
“If a man is called a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and Earth will pause to say, Here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
As young kids my brothers and I were passionate about baseball. At our own request, my Dad would drive us to the local high school to run hills. We’d ask him how many he thought we should do. He’d advise, “Run until you can’t do anymore…then do 1 more.” That advice is how I approach a startup.
I’m consistently asked how we (at LockerDome) can stand working so much. I hate this question. As a passionate entrepreneur, the question doesn’t make any sense. If you’re working on a deal yourself, or have done one before, I’m sure you can relate.
Sure we can respond to such nonsense (and I sometimes do) with the normal cliches like, “It’s not work if you you like what you’re doing,” but that response is merely a brush-off to the question. If you want to know the truth, we work so hard because we simply don’t know any better. It’s what we do.
You see, startup junkies are extremists. Once we can taste a market all we want to do is start building. Moderation means nothing.
Just about now I can already hear someone responding with ‘work smarter, not harder’. When applied properly, there’s some truth here, but I’ll tell you why I don’t put much weight into this phrase:
- 95% of the people I hear preaching this sentiment are the laziest people I know; for many it’s simply a justification for them to underachieve
- There is always something that can be done at any moment in a startup. Products are never finished. Markets are never 100% saturated.
Putting in a few hours to build something, hitting the market on the head, and then making millions is an anomaly (see Plenty of Fish). Stop reading main stream media clippings. If you’re an entrepreneur-or thinking of becoming one-I’d suggest you look at the steps that Google took instead. While the odds of duplicating Google’s success are surely slim, Google’s path is nevertheless relevant. Notably, what few talk about is that the development on Google’s technology began in January of 1996. Google did not receive it’s first financing until August 1998, over 2 and a half years later.
At the end of the day it’s pretty simple: tech startups take a lot of work to get right (read Paul Buchheit’s blog post entitled “Overnight success takes a long time”); heck, they take a lot of your time even if you don’t get it right.
If working at 3am to iron out a random bug, getting out of bed at 5am to respond to a customer email, or skipping another night’s sleep to make requested updates on your financing docs for the millionth time doesn’t sound like your type of gig then a tech startup is probably not in your future. If that’s the case, it’s unlikely you’ll ever fully understand why it is that we can work so much.
Come to think of it, I guess I work so hard because a 9-5 sounds like torture.