Monday, March 04, 2013

reasons for working obsessively

James, Milli, and I have been debating whether it's helpful for startup founders to work obsessively, i.e. more than 65 hours per week.

Milli's stance is that people with no balance in their lives will be less inspiring as leaders, and also lack the perspective to make the best decisions.  He thinks founders should get a hobby, and do something at least one evening per week besides work.

I think there are a few reasons why people might work obsessively:

1. They find it fulfilling
2. They read an article or listened to a luminary talk about working all the time
3. They feel obligated to do it, to encourage others on the team to do it
4. They feel that it's a necessary sprint to prevent the company from failing

Of these, I only support #1 and #4.

To expand on #1, "fulfilling" is different from "enjoyable" or "pleasant".  If you set out to climb Mount Everest, there will be times when it is extremely unenjoyable.  You will hate your life at that moment, and wonder what possessed you to embark on such a stupid quest.  You will be angry at all the people around you.  But you press on because you have a tiny core deep-down that remembers this is a fulfilling activity.

When you summit, you are filled with a sense of awe-struck achievement, and it's all worthwhile.

Most of work is like that.  If your work is ambitious, there are moments that are grueling.  But there is a tiny core that keeps you putting one foot in front of the other, because you remember the mission was worthwhile.

The #4 reason is self-explanatory.

I think #2 and #3 are not good reasons.  Doing things because someone else said so will end in resentment and regret, no matter how well-known that person is.  At the end of the day, they're not going to be the ones reflecting on whether your time was well-spent.

We all have a voice of inner truth, deep down.  When we are quiet, we can hear the voice.  Sometimes the voice has been visited by a muse and wants to capture every minute of inspiration by working, before the muse flits off and we are mortals again.  Other times, the voice needs to go in search of the muse by absorbing new inputs or taking a break from the problems we've mentally rehashed endlessly. Listen to the voice.

1 comment:

ArC said...

I just came across this ( ) and it made me think of your recent post here, specifically in the conclusion when he indicates that your #4 might also not be a good reason: "If your start-up can only succeed by being a sweatshop, your idea is
simply not good enough. Go back to the drawing board and come up with
something better that can be implemented by whole people, not cogs."