Startups Anonymous: Founders suck at relationships
[This is a weekly series that brings you raw, first-hand experiences from founders and investors in the trenches. Their story submissions are anonymous, allowing them to share openly without fear of retribution. Every Wednesday, we’ll run one new story chosen by Dana Severson, who operates StartupsAnonymous, a place for startups to share, ask questions, and answer them in story-length posts, all anonymously. You can share your own story here.]
It took me almost 40 years to figure out who I was and what drove my behaviors. Why did it take so long? Because I never took the time to figure it out sooner. But, this year, there was a moment. An event. Something that forced me to look deeper at what drove my actions and brought me happiness.
I wish I had done it sooner.
Don't get me wrong, it wasn't too late. I still have plenty of time left (I think), I just wish I had known that figuring myself out wasn't as daunting as it seemed.
If you're a founder like me, we probably have a lot in common. Relationships are hard for us, but not for the reasons you might think. You might suspect it's because we put in long hours. Or, because we never shut down. Those things are at play, but it's deeper than that.
Do you know why Mark Zuckerberg wears the same outfit each day? He does it to reduce the amount of decisions he needs to make each day outside of Facebook. To you and me, that sounds smart. Almost inspiring to a degree. To someone that doesn't understand how we think, it sounds fucking nuts. I mean, think about it.
A few months ago, while on my computer, my wife overheard me swearing at myself. Of course she wondered what was wrong. I explained to her that I had a to respond to every customer within ten minutes no matter the day or time. I was swearing at myself because it took me eleven minutes. I shit you not. She got upset. Not because I missed my goal, but because I would have the nerve to give my customers such respect without giving her the same.
My initial reaction was that she didn't understand. How could she expect me to do both?
But, she was right. She deserved the same respect. I would often go weeks without responding to her requests.
What I've come to realize is that, like Zuckerberg, I've also been minimizing my responsibilities and decisions at home to optimize my performance as a founder. However, until I took the time to 'figure myself out', I had no idea I was doing it.
Entrepreneurs are independent. We don't like others to instruct our behaviors or make decisions on our behalf. We need to be in control of our own actions. We're all a bit narcissistic and believe that, without conviction, we're the next big thing. We set lofty goals and allow ourselves to dream big — really big.
Rational people think we're crazy for the things we do and the things we believe. Rational people set rational goals for fear of disappointment. Not us. We're irrational. There is no end in sight for us. We don't retire. If we don't hit our goal by next year, we keep trying up until the day we die.
Founders are hard to be with. I'm hard to be with. This is the truth that I discovered this year. Because of all the things that make me an entrepreneur, I have to work twice as hard at being a good husband and father.
[Image courtesy wackystuff]