Balance A Startup’s Extreme Ups and Downs With a Boring Family-Centered Life

At yesterday’s breakfast one of the entrepreneurs who was doing his first venture and making good progress remarked that he hadn’t anticipated how much of an emotional roller coaster doing a startup was. It had “higher highs and lower lows” than his earlier jobs. In January 2007 Hugh MacLeod included a point about this in “Random Thoughts on Being an Entrepreneur:”

23. Running a startup is full of extreme ups and downs. Which is why so many successful and happy entrepreneurs I know lead such normal, stable, unglamorous, “boring”, family-centered lives. Somehow they need the latter in order to balance out the former. Extra-curricular drama looks great in the tabloids, but that’s all it’s ultimately good for.

The emotional roller coaster that is almost unavoidable when you are bootstrapping means you need to be connected to planet Earth, and that’s through friends and family who will keep you grounded. Larry Niven, in the short story Flash Crowd, observed that

“For each human being there is an optimum ratio between change and stasis. Too little change, he grows bored. Too little stability, he panics and loses his ability to adapt. One who marries six times in ten years won’t change jobs. One who moves often to serve his company will maintain a stable marriage. A woman chained to one home and family may redecorate frantically or take a lover or go to many costume parties.”

A startup injects enough chaos into your life on a regular, and irregular, basis that you need a strong support system to be able to survive it.

For another approach see “Maintaining Your Perspective On the Entrepreneurial Roller Coaster.”  For two analyses at different times of the Hugh MacLeod “Random Thoughts” post see:

1 thought on “Balance A Startup’s Extreme Ups and Downs With a Boring Family-Centered Life”

  1. Sean,

    Great points. I would also like to add the importance of a stable “advisor environment” as well. Too often, startups have high hopes and a lack of experienced advisors around them.

    As advisors can be the Bootstrapper Breakfast audience or a formal board, a collaborative business team and or partnership is also ideal to increase the “stability” of the venture.


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