Replacing Work/Life Balance with Work/Life Harmony.
My friend’s Jon Crawford and Matt Galligan both wrote about the topic of Work/Life balance this week and I thought I would continue their conversation with my perspective.
To call it a balance implies two sides of a scale where too much weight on one side, tips the other. To struggle for balance is to struggle for equal attention to things at odds with each other. How I choose to run my life is to strive not for balance, but for harmony. I embrace that my personal and work lives coexist in the same 24 hours of each day. My founder brain doesn’t shut off and neither does my personal brain. When two things vibrate at opposing frequencies, their forces can be devastating. When they vibrate together, it’s peaceful. When in harmony, both my personal and work lives are vibrating vigorously, but without fighting each other.
With mental perspectives in mind, I was struck most by this line from Jon’s post:
You’re figuratively giving birth to something that didn’t exist before you created it. Giving birth is a process that entails intense pain and suffering.
Jon also has an amazing wife, and now a happy and healthy daughter. But if you asked me to describe giving birth I would use exactly the opposite words. I believe you manifest your destiny. There are woo-woo names for this like the power of the universe, or “The Secret”, etc. But simply, what you imagine to be true, often is true. When you believe that there are opportunities out there for you, you’re more likely to see them when they present themselves. For my wife and I, birth was a peaceful, powerful, loving and elevating experience. Two people achieving the same thing (happy, healthy baby girls) in two very different ways.
And while I have a venture backed startup, 10+ employees, impending major product launches, an 8mo daughter, a wife, etc… I’m happy. I’m not stressed.
Change what you can change, and accept what you can’t change. Don’t worry. ~ Dalai Lama
Last year Mark Suster wrote a blog post that talked about the emotional rollercoaster that founders face. He had an image depicting the dramatic ups and downs we face over time. His image is below with my line added.
I too have ups and downs, just not nearly as dramatic as some. By freeing myself of worrying about things too much I can recover quicker. The trade off is that by not sinking so emotionally/mentally low, I might not experience the rebound as high… but my overall mental state remains high. But, I wasn’t born this way. I suffered a lot to find my way to this place.
At one point COLOURlovers’ servers were falling to their knees on a regular basis because of usage spikes, both my personal and my business checking account were overdrawn and I was waiting by the mailbox (literally) for a check from an advertiser to come so I could have some food money. I’d been consumed with work the weeks and months prior. Working as hard as I could to grow the community, develop partnerships, plan features, manage development… Every waking moment was spent working. And then I popped. After waiting at the mailbox on Friday and not having that check show up, I just got in my car and drove. I was going to drive a couple hundred miles anywhere else. I was quite literally trying to run away from my problems and then my check engine light came on. Even running from them wasn’t going to work.
So I went home, I turned off my phone and went to bed at 2pm. And then I slept and did nothing for the next 2 days. No email, no phone calls. I didn’t know if the servers were up or if I had important emails to respond to, I didn’t care. And when I felt recovered I turned the internet back on… And everything was fine. Even if this site had been down for 2 days… things still would have been fine. I realized after that breakdown, that holding on too tight to the reigns will only wear out your grip and you’ll fall off the horse.
I’ve also had some major events in my life that have shaped my perspective on the opportunities each day present us. I had cancer taken out of my face, I’ve spent 11 months living in disaster areas where thousands of people died with to-do lists full of things not yet done… And I married a woman who completes my circuit, and has given me a daughter that I adore. Having this deep appreciation for every moment of life I get doesn’t make me want to work less though, it inspires me to work harder, to achieve greater things in the time that I have to leave behind more for those that I love.
The life of a startup founder is a very busy one. Even without a family, you will never have all the time you need to answer every email, design every feature, build every application or close every deal. It’s the illusion that this is possible that I think breaks most founders.
The best CEO I can be for my company is to be the best Bubs I can be for myself. If I’m unhappy, tired or stressed, then the time I am giving to my company isn’t as valuable as it can be, so while I’m putting in more hours… the end result might not be any greater output.
To overly simplify this, let’s say that your mental, emotional, physical state is given a multiplier score. When you’re burnt out or stressed you might be operating at a 5. When you’re happy and energized, you’re firing at a 9.
If you log a 12 hour day at a level 4, you’re output for the day is 48 (12*4). But if you’re operating at a 9, you can put in only 8 hours and still get a better output of 72. (8*9). Now these numbers don’t really mean anything, but I think the concept holds true. Just cause you’re at a desk, doesn’t mean you’re doing yourself or your company any good. Don’t get misled by the hype of the hustler and mistake action for effectiveness.
From a practical side, the best thing you can do for yourself as a founder to reduce work stress is to surround yourself with supportive and positive people. I can’t possibly get everything done alone and I have cofounders that are immensely important. When you can put total trust into others to get things done, you free yourself from a huge burden.
What you can get done, work hard to make it great. What you can’t, let it go… Worrying about it won’t change anything.
And the conversation continues on Hacker News: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4646854