6 Sacrifices Founders Shouldn't (But Do) Make

And why your startup isn't the only thing you should prioritize

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It’s 4am on Friday night. This newsletter goes out in 3 hours.

It’s been done for hours, but I stayed up to keep working on other things even though I plan to go to the gym in the morning, and have a nice afternoon date planned with my wife.

For most people that would seem odd… at a minimum. Why not just leave work til Monday (or at least tomorrow)? But founders are different.

Often this means making tradeoffs. No, not the kinds I talked about last week that can help you build a more resilient startup. Founders also make sacrifices outside of work that most people wouldn’t.

And we shouldn’t in some cases, but we do it because we’re driven by a mission we feel compelled to see through. Here’s what those tradeoffs are and how I recommend handling them 👇

6 Sacrifices Founders Shouldn’t (But Do) Make

Financial Stability

Ownership is the key to building wealth, but a startup’s chances of success are so low that it’d be foolish to become a founder if your goal is to make money.

In fact most founders could almost certainly make more money, more reliably, by getting a job.

After working at Uber and Airbnb for 4 years in roles of increasing responsibility it would’ve been easy for me to sit comfortably and coast through the next 20+ years.

Some people do this. This post on Hacker News is particularly wild. The poster says he’s “on a $1.5 million run rate” for the year by holding up to 10 software engineer jobs at a time.

Instead founders do the opposite.

When I started my last company I put $25,000 on my credit card before I even knew it’d be a business. Then my co-founders and I put over $200,000 into it when we had a big early expense before we were in a position to fundraise at attractive terms yet.

Crazy? Definitely (and 100% not recommended). Thankfully it worked.

Even if you’re not doing anything quite that crazy, you’re probably making some form of financial sacrifice to invest in building your startup.

The good news is that if your startup works out you’ll end up in a better position than you would have, and if it doesn’t then you’ll have learned the skills to be worth more on the hiring market anyway.

Mental Health

Let’s be honest.

Running a startup is stressful. When things are good, you’re balancing a ton to grow faster. When they’re bad… well, it can be tough to manage.

My best advice for managing mental health as a founder? Experiment and find a system that works for you.

For some people that’s working with a founder coaching or traditional therapist. For others (like me) it’s prioritizing unproductive solo time, going on long walks, and taking time off when I need it for a change of scenery.

When my last startup didn’t work out it was tough to process. I had high hopes for it, and it had tons of momentum. Once I realized it wasn’t going to make it I knew I needed to unplug.

I ended up taking 3 months off and spending the winter in Cape Town with my wife. My biggest worry was which winery we’d visit each weekend. The point was to be unproductive.

As a result I’ve been able to be all-in on now growing this newsletter business from $0 to $600,000 in annualized revenue in 5 months.

I’ve lived with other founders who haven’t done this — they’ve just tried to grind through it and ignored their own signs of deteriorating mentally.

It always leads to burnout eventually. A founder once screamed in my face in a walk-in closet for 15 minutes because they were upset at other people. Don’t let it get to that point.

Partner & Family Time

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