The overwhelmingly popular top answer to the Quora question: "What does it feel like to be the CEO of a start-up?" has received a whopping 931 upvotes and at least one down vote - from me! (Anyone else down voted that? Let me know :) )
Read the answer and a sad-sad picture of a victim with extremely unhealthy dependencies emerges. As a startup CEO, you can’t sleep! You don’t have weekends! You live with endless guilt (assuming that you spend any minute of the day on anything other than work). You can only relate to people through business opportunities and you can’t enjoy vacations. Sure, there are some nice upsides and you may learn to have fun or enjoy working with people, but the general sentiment is that you’re quite a hero and you work oh-so-hard for your startup that you don’t really have a life.
Sleepless nights, endless worrying, perpetual dissatisfaction, always searching for more and better, no time for anything outside of work. The startup CEO is glorified as a victim. This is a position of weakness and I want to have nothing to do with that.
MY TAKE ON WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A STARTUP CEO
It’s incredibly fun. You’re passionate about a problem and an opportunity and you don’t need any reasons to pursue it other than intrinsic enjoyment of building something you love. You’re usually up to some great challenge, but, guess what? - you’ve chosen to have these challenges because if you didn’t have them, you’d be bored to death on a daily basis.
You get to work with amazing people who, like you, love building huge, amazing things. How incredible is that?! It is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world.
You get to question everything, and, in doing so, you get to express yourself and be creative in unique ways. You creativity is in how you choose to communicate, what you share, what company culture you create, what ideas you pursue, how you empower others and so on. It really is wonderful and endless and it becomes an organic extension of who you are.
Your startup is your territory for endless personal growth. You get to push your comfort zone literally every day and that is an incredible opportunity. The challenges you overcome, the things you learn about yourself, the value you create, the people you get to know give you a sense of freedom, play and empowerment.
You get to decide on a moment by moment basis what to do with your time, how to spend it in a way that is aligned with your goals and your startup journey and you get to make bold choices.
MAKE YOUR CHOICES AND STOP COMPLAINING
Let’s stop perpetuating the notion and the glorification of startup CEOs as victims. Yes, we deal with challenges. Yes, we fail. And, yes, it can be really hard. But what’s the point? We are building startups because they offer us incredible opportunity to live amazing lives.
So let’s take an empowering point of view on the challenges we choose for ourselves. Let’s make choices and commit to living the lives we want. Let’s not be victims to startups or foster an illusion that we need success for happiness (all evidence is against that idea anyway). Do you want to sleep well at night? If yes, commit to solving this the same way that you solve problems in your startup. Do you want to be healthy and not go crazy? Then make exercise a priority. Do you want to have fulfilling friendships? What’s it going to take? Choose to spend time with friends if that’s important to you. Do you want to commit all of your time to your startup? Great! You can make that choice as well and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you know that it’s a choice you’ve made.
Make your choices, live the life you want and stop complaining.