The days are just packed
I’m going to start with another Starcraft analogy. I sucked at Starcraft, and more or less lost every multi-player game. But it wasn’t until a friend played with me at my house (and unfortunately for him, on the same team with me) that we realized why. See, after I got my drones harvesting resources, I would typically go downstairs, make myself a sandwich or some other snack, and come back up. At which point I’d usually find myself completely decimated.
The good players never stop clicking. There’s actually a metric: clicks per minute. For the longest time this didn’t “click” for me (pun intended). What do you do while you’re waiting for resources to accumulate?? Well, turns out you click around the map, perhaps send a drone to explore. You monitor your command center constantly so the millisecond that you have enough resources, you can create a drone. There is 0 time to waste, and gameplay is hectic.
I feel like this is startup life in the Bay Area. There is so much pressure to succeed, so much competition. They say that living in New York City is intense. In the last couple of years, San Francisco is rapidly catching up. As the tech boom continues and the city gentrifies further, it’s a noticeable paradigm shift that I find myself talking about with friends often. No longer are we so laid back. We constantly have our eyes on the next big opportunity, and when we meet someone who’s a “founder” in any sense of the word, we pounce like rabid dogs. What’s your idea? Do you have funding? How many users? Cool, can I have a job? Founders themselves play into the hype. They brag about all nighters, blood, sweat, and tears and all. No life, no vacation, no salary. That’s #startuplyfe, as they say.
Yes, I’m generalizing a bit, but the trend remains the same. When people ask me what I do, I try my hardest to avoid saying the words founder or entrepreneur. I prefer to talk about the project that I’m working on or the topic (reducing over-consumption) that I’m passionate about. I don’t want you to look at me and think with both pity and envy that I’m grinding myself to the bone trying to will my product or service into existence and be the next Steve Jobs. Because I’ve come to believe that nothing deserves the price of my youth (and one can be young at any age). I’m so privileged to have the opportunity to live off my savings and dabble… I can’t waste it. My time, my vitality, my spirit. Truly they are worth more to me than a bajillion dollar blow-out.
When founders talk about work-life balance (the less die-hard ones), they usually talk about making time to work out and have sit down dinners with friends, maybe the occasional weekend trip. I do all that and add: a slate of hobbies I’m pursuing (in some cases, with paid classes), time to be “intentionally lazy” (as a friend of mine coined wisely), always prioritizing my friends first (I almost never turn down a hang out, no matter how last minute). I don’t just want to work and be baseline healthy, I want to be happy, I want to explore all life has to offer and all my passions while I have the energy to do so. In the very likely scenario that I fail, I don’t want to look back and realize there’s not enough left in me to finish my bucket list.
Certainly, I don’t mean to suggest I take the exact same lackadaisical attitude to my project as I did with Starcraft. On the odd occasion when I do catch myself thinking, wow what am I going to do today? I always find an answer. But as a single person, there’s only so much I can do. And actually, for this reason I appreciate working solo so far — it’s really helped me slow down and learn to take things day by day because I can’t do it all.
I know some people are laughing right now — I’m such an idiot… I’ll never succeed. Maybe, maybe not. I guess I did never win at Starcraft. But at least I didn’t carpal tunnel before age 20.
Note: Initially, I wanted to write a lengthier post about work-life balance and finding personal meaning and passion in light of all the self-help articles that have emerged. I believe I have some unique perspectives to share. But alas, that post keeps landing me in writer’s block, so I’m trying the piecemeal approach.
Also I took the title for this piece from a Calvin & Hobbes anthology. Calvin & Hobbes is truly one of those things where the interpretation changes over time. I’ve read strips as an adult and found layers of messages about life and happiness. If you haven’t read it in awhile, go ahead and take another look!
This blarticle was written in the context of building a product that helps people borrow occasional-use items (e.g., sleeping bags, electric drills) from their friends & neighbors. Check out the prototype here.