Week 4: Fear of Failure Prevents Minimal, but Necessary Time Off

This post is the fourth in a series titled “The Chronicles of 500: Weekly Essays on What I Learned from 500 Startups.”  Andy is currently the CEO at LaunchGram.

When I sit down to write a blog post, I usually write down five or ten titles and then run with what strikes me. Today, I ended up with two conflicting titles: “Personal Life, What’s That?” and “Why Weekends are Important.” Contradictory titles? Yes. Accurate? Also yes.

How is that possible? Well, there’s an unspoken tension in early-stage startup land I’d like to talk about.

The first half of this tension comes from the fact that we’re all terrified that if we don’t work hard enough, our companies will die. I actually just saw a tweet from Chris Dumler today agreeing with something Sarah Lacy from PandoDaily recently said: “I wake up excited and terrified every day.“

The other half of the tension comes from our very real and human need to turn off and relax. I’m not talking “go on a three week vacation” kind of relaxing, though. I’m talking about the “take a weekend for yourself” kind of relaxing.

But we’re afraid to take a weekend for ourselves. I know I personally feel guilty on Sunday nights after I spent my Saturday with friends and my Sunday with a good book.

We’re afraid because if we fail, it will be because we weren’t working on that weekend and we’ll blame ourselves forever. So we end up working a good amount of weekends.

What if the opposite is true, though?  

Relaxing is valuable. People come up with ideas in the shower because our brains need to turn off to process life.  What if our unwillingness to take time to reflect, relax a bit, and take a step back from our company leads us to failure?

This is a back and forth issue. Some people think entrepreneurs don’t work hard enough, some people think they work too hard. Should we sacrifice our personal lives, and if so, for how long?

Finding a balance is obviously up to each entrepreneur. I’d love to hear from others, from all stages, in the comments section below.

Discuss below using the DISQUS comments, or comment on Hacker News here.

Also relative to this article: People Claiming to Work More Than 70 Hours a Week Are Totally Lying, Probably