There is only one way I can imagine running a startup, obsessively giving it everything you’ve got. In my opinion its what separates the winners from everyone else, and it’s the only way I’d ever be able to look back on this experience without regret. But that kind of dedication comes with a price. And anyone who has chosen a path of starting a business can tell you the unintended consequences of startups.
For the past 2 years I’ve neglected my health, family, and friends. For most of my adult life, I was about 165 pounds. I’m almost 210 pounds these days, and trust me when I say my body’s not meant to carry this much weight. 2 years ago I was running 6 miles a day 3 times a week, and playing competitive basketball and tennis.
After we raised our first round of capital I regularly started staying in the office until 2am. I found myself so physically and mentally spent by the weekend that I typically slept most the day on Saturday, before I went back to work on Sundays. I was so inactive, I’m convinced now my muscles started to atrophy and I tore the ligament in my right foot, trying to finally exercise one day. Compensating for that injury I tore my left calf, and it’s been 5 months since I’ve been able to run or jog.
It took me a while to admit that I was stressed out, and even longer to realize I would turn to food to compensate for that stress. Over the past year, I’ve become a more solitary person with my thoughts and emotions than I’ve ever been, while increasingly becoming a public figure who’s known as an outgoing social networker and showman. It’s a strange dichotomy.
My family has been both incredibly supportive but also upset that I’ve seemingly disappeared. I have three (quite) older siblings, and we’re undeniably close. But while they’re all proud of me, they disapprove of my unbalanced lifestyle. My brother and I share opposing sides of duplex, he’s literally a wall away from me. But I can often go 2 weeks without seeing or talking to him. My sisters are busy raising their kids, so they can relate a bit more. But like so many others, our conversation often come back to them asking me “why don’t you ever want to talk about what’s going on in your life”.
My father who I love dearly, isn’t only from another generation/country, he might as well be from another planet. He struggles the most to be supportive; I know he’s at least a little disappointed I didn’t practice law and take over the family real estate business. A lot of what I do is to make him proud and prove to him that all his hard work for his children was not in vain. If it were up to my father, we’d spend everyday together going to lunch and “working” side by side. I get to see him about once a week. He’s almost 80 and every time I see him I try and cherish the interactions, because I don’t know how many will be left.
When it comes to my family though, my lack of time affects me most in relation to my mom. My mother has been severely ill for the last 6 years. Due to mental illness that set in later in life, and a very early onset of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, she can’t hold a conversation, stand, eat, or function at all without full time caregivers. She is the person that has done more for me than anyone else, and was always my biggest cheerleader. She lives about 5 minutes away from my home. She doesn’t always remember my name, but every time I see her she lights up, and when I say “I love you”, she always says it back. I could leave the office every night at 8:00pm and give her a hug and kiss, spend a half hour with her, but I don’t. Our first office was across the street from her (not accidentally), and I’d walk over during the day to check on her. Since we moved further away, I typically go by to see her once every two weeks. It’s a choice I’m not very proud of.
Friends are a little bit easier to handle, I’ve have the same ones since I was 5, and you build up a little bit of “friendship equity” after 20+ years. But for a long time they did stop calling me, knowing I always turned down plans for work. It was a little disconcerting to see my closest friends just write me off for the time being as someone who was never free to hang out. But there were also cases of severe strains with some of my close friends. I pulled back from engaging and interacting with them, and felt that if someone wasn’t at that startup with me on a daily basis, that it took too much effort to try and explain the intricacies and emotions of the experience.
Dating has been a totally surreal experience. I went from being a hopeless romantic “when harry met sally” type, to literally not even thinking about relationships in the least bit. The extent of my effort with girls for a long time consisted of texting them on a Friday/Saturday night at 11pm to meet up when I had finished my work.
I think I’ve reached my breaking point, at least for now, and mostly in regards to my health. Somehow I know my relationships will work out, but I often find myself feeling like I’m working at 40% of my capacity and energy, and I think its due in large part to poor physical habits. So I’m going to drop 30lbs in the next 60 days, and will take a bet against anybody that thinks I can’t do it. As you can see even that I have to do obsessively.
In the last year I’ve probably met close to a thousand entrepreneurs. And the ones I’ve consistently bonded with the most, were those folks willing to do whatever it took, and make any sacrifices to be successful. Starting and running a company is the joy of my life right now, and gives me a greater sense of purpose than anything I’ve done before. Its come with a price though, and I know a lot of other folks like me are thinking through and struggling with issues of balance and the unintended consequences of pouring yourself into that which you love and defines you.