Before embarking on this startup journey, I had already reached the conclusion that “work-life balance” is a misnomer. I’m the kind of person who believes that if you lean in to your passions and find something you love to do, the rest will work itself out. Don’t get me wrong – I understand that there are bills to pay, and I have absolutely taken jobs just to pay said bills, but I buy in to the whole “follow your bliss” idea. It follows, then, that there would be no need to “balance” work with life if you’re living your passion… right?
Turns out, that’s not exactly the case.
The thing is, I want to emerge from this adventure with both a business AND a husband. Maybe not completely broke. And preferably with my health intact, too. This means that I’m trying to find time to build the right product; establish a company; meet people and nurture new relationships; dedicate solid time to my existing relationships; maintain a side hustle for a little income and psychic value; and exercise/eat right consistently. Oh, and sleep. (As my previous career was ALL about sleep, I’m a firm believer that you can’t negotiate with ZZZs.)
Contrast this with the typical startup story, which seems to involve a few guys in their twenties who have nothing to lose and spend 20 hours a day balls-to-the-wall, 100% dedicated to their startup, eating ramen noodles if/when they remember to eat, and skimping on sleep. The crazy thing is this… sometimes I envy these hypothetical founders.
For me, the biggest challenge (other than the fact that there are only 24 hours in the day, I mean) lies in figuring out how to “turn off” the part of my brain that is obsessed with my startup when it’s crowding out other important things. A key realization has been that if I actually go through the process of characterizing tasks as “Important but not Urgent,” “Urgent but not Important,” “Important and Urgent,” and “not Important or Urgent” – not just for business-related things, but for ALL areas of my life – I’m more likely to make better decisions and not find myself wrapped up in a work thing that can totally wait rather than having a glass of wine on the porch with my hubby at the end of a long day. It’s not super sweet to have to admit that I put “spend time with my husband” on my mental to-do list or else risk acting like I’ve forgotten he exists, but for me – it works. (I’m afraid it took a few swift kicks in the rear, metaphorically speaking, to reach this place of relative balance.)
I know, from my time at the iLab, that I’m not the only “grown-up” who has left a career behind in order to pursue some crazy startup idea. I also know that I’m not the only one who has felt this tension between what my priorities are and what the world seems to say my priorities should be. I’d like to see a new startup narrative emerge, one which recognizes that taking (or trying to take, at least) a more mature, balanced approach to founding a company doesn’t mean you aren’t truly dedicated. But I guess the only way to make that happen is not to fail… at least not completely… at any of it.